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  • Author or Editor: Vladimir Gel’man x
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A number of policy reforms in post-Soviet Russia have been conducted within the framework of the technocratic model. Policy proposals have been developed and to some extent implemented by certain teams of professionals appointed by legitimate political leaders. The leaders, in turn, have tended to monopolize policy adoption and evaluation and to insulate the substance of reforms from public opinion. This article is devoted to a critical reassessment of the technocratic model of policy-making in the context of changes of the 1990s–2010s. The main focus of the analysis is on the political and institutional constraints of policy-making resulting from the influence of interest groups and mechanisms of governance within the state apparatus. Poor quality of governance and rent-seeking aspirations of major actors create significant barriers for reforms, while insulation of policy-making, although beneficial for technocratic reformers themselves, has resulted in an increase to the social costs of reforms and distorted their substantive outcomes. In the conclusion, possible alternatives to the technocratic model are discussed.

In: Russian Politics

This article attempts to analyze the mechanisms of political control used by the Kremlin vis-à-vis its rivals. Russian authorities had opted the politics of fear, which include overt intimidation and public discrediting of the regime’s critics, and selective persecution and open harassment of opposition activists and/or supporters. This approach to political control to some degree reproduced similar mechanisms that had enabled regime survival in the late Soviet period, and fit general trends of repressive policies in a number of contemporary authoritarian regimes. The article discusses causes and mechanisms of the politics of fear in contemporary Russia, its roots in comparative and historical contexts, and strengths and weaknesses of repressive policy in Russia from the viewpoints of the regime, the opposition, and Russian society.

In: Russian Politics

Abstract

The constitutional crisis of 1993 was one of the major turning points in the failed democratization of Russia and subsequent turn of the country towards personalist authoritarianism. The October 1993 conflict, as the crisis is commonly called in Russia, was driven by a strategic choice of priorities by Russia’s political leadership during the post-Communist “triple transition”. After the overthrow of the Communist regime in August 1991, Russian elites prioritized market reforms and sacrificed further democratization of the country for the sake of preserving the new political status quo. This choice, made at the expense of building new democratic institutions, greatly contributed to the clash between the plebiscitary legitimacy of President Boris Yeltsin and unconstrained legality of the parliament, which was resolved in a violent zero-sum game in October 1993. The new Russian constitution sought to drastically reduce institutional constraints to presidential power. Its approval paved the way to authoritarian regime building and served as a role model for other post-Soviet countries.

In: Russian History

Abstract

Among many arguments for constitutional changes presented in the wake of the 2020 campaign for the popular vote in Russia, there was the idea that “cementing” Russia’s political landscape for the sake of the regime’s durability would serve as a tool for improvement of quality of governance. This argument, in a way, followed the essential point of Mancur Olson describing many autocrats across the globe as “roving bandits” with their short-term time horizons and incentives for predatory behavior. To what extent may the constitutional extension of the time horizon of Russia’s authoritarian regime contribute to conversion of Russia’s state officials and top managers from the “roving” to the “stationary” model, in Olson’s terms? On the basis of previous research, I argue that the nature of Russia’s political regime—electoral authoritarianism under personalist rule—prevents such a trajectory of further evolution. Indeed, the set of constitutional changes adopted in Russia in July 2020 is likely to preserve bad governance as a mechanism of maintenance of politico-economic order, as intentionally built and developed during the post-Soviet period. While certain technocratic solutions for Russia’s governance, aimed at “fool-proofing”, may avert the risks of major disasters, under conditions of durable authoritarianism the use of these devices will not result in major advancements in the quality of governance. Rather, they may contribute to further decay and aggravation of the numerous vices of bad governance.

In: Russian Politics