This article attempts to classify Russian parties by various criteria and with the help of various methods. Cluster analysis shows that only 10 of the 75 parties registered by the Ministry of Justice can be considered as actual political actors. They can be broken into three clusters: 1) United Russia; 2) parliamentary opposition – cprf, ldpr and A Just Russia; 3) six parties with a various degree of participation in national political debates and rare regional and municipal deputies. Factor analysis enables us to build a 2D-map of the policy space where parties participating actively in national debates form a kind of triangle: the first vertex consists of six parties including cprf, ldpr and jr, the second one is represented by United Russia alone, the third – by liberals (Yabloko and parnas). From the organizational point of view, United Russia and cprf try to look like mass parties, other resemble cadre parties (most of them), business firms (ldpr), associations of soul-mate clubs (Yabloko).
The article analyzes the weak points of the Manifesto Project’s methodology, such as its emphasis on issue salience, instead of issue positions; bringing the content of manifestos under too broad categories formulated at the beginning of the project; not quite the appropriate technique of factor analysis etc. An alternative methodology is proposed that focuses on party positions on issues which generate the largest polarization in the political space. It also enriches the empirical base of the studies and adjusts the technique of factor analysis. In order to reveal political cleavages inside these dimensions, the so called electoral cleavages (factors of territorial differences in voting for various parties) are taken as a starting point: factor loadings of parties in the electoral and political spaces are compared through correlation and regression analyses. The proposed methodology is applied to an analysis of election results in Russia (2016) and Germany (2017).