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About this book

A fully updated second edition of this innovative text that takes full account of the consequences of Putin's controversial return to the presidency in 2012. Clear factual coverage is enhanced by a range of learning aids that encourage students to develop critical thinking about key issues and theories.

Table of Contents

Russia: Continuity and Change

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Studying Russian Government and Politics

Abstract
The Russian Federation is a major global power with vast natural resources, large nuclear arsenals, an educated population, and significant economic capacities. A country with a rich history and traditions, Russia is now defining its new role in the 21st century. Its journey to potential prosperity and stability has been difficult and contradictory.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 2. The Roots: The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union

Abstract
History is often a wise teacher because its students can learn their lessons themselves. History is also and often an unappreciated teacher: its lessons are not always obvious and its students tend to have a very short memory. Yet in the history of Russia we can identify a range of issues and developments that have had an obvious and memorable influence on today’s state of affairs. The influence is not necessarily direct, and different events have had different impacts. There are at least two major types of impact of history on the events of today.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 3. The Soviet Transformation, 1985–91

Abstract
“Who lives well in Russia?” A celebrated Russian poet and critic, Nikolai Nekrasov (1821–78), posed this illustrious question in his unfinished poem, studied in every school of the Soviet Union. The school curriculum required all Russian literature teachers not only to analyze Nekrasov’s beautiful rhyme and metaphor, but also to remind eighth-graders about the injustices of tsarist Russia, where everybody had to endure a miserable, unhappy life. Socialism was supposed to be different, better. According to official textbooks, newspapers, and posters, life in the Soviet Union was great. Most people, however, were ultimately unhappy with the situation in the country.
Eric Shiraev

Institutions and Elections

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. The Executive Branch

Abstract
Article 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that the only source of power in Russia is its people. The printed words are clear and simple: no person or group may usurp power in Russia. The Constitution also says that people exercise their power directly or through the state and local government institutions. How close are these official declarations to reality? Who has most power in Russia, and who makes most important executive decisions there today?
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 5. The Legislative Branch

Abstract
Article 10 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees a separation of powers. The article states that the power of the state in Russia is divided among three independent branches: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The highest legislative body of the Russian Federation, according to the Constitution, is a parliament called the Federal Assembly. It consists of two chambers, the Federation Council and the State Duma. To understand better how the legislative system works, we will first examine several important developments in the short history of the contemporary Russian legislative branch. These developments have shaped the current state of Russia’s legislative process and its relations with the executive branch. Then we take a look at the structure and functioning of the State Duma and the Federation Council. A review of the Russian legislative branch will, as usual, conclude the chapter.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 6. The Judicial Branch and Justice Administration

Abstract
The judiciary branch has been affected by the same course of important events as the executive and legislative branches since the inception of the Russian Federation as an independent state, including several legislative elections, especially in 1993, and presidential elections. Overall, the judiciary branch in Russia has not experienced dramatic changes or significant turnarounds over this period. Together with the system of justice administration, it is going through a steady, evolutionary development. However, despite gradual changes that have taken place in the judiciary since the 1990s, it has not achieved full independence from the executive branch. The justice system—Russia’s leaders talk about this openly—suffers from inefficiency, bureaucratic delays, and corruption.
Eric Shiraev

Political Behavior, Participation, and Communication

Frontmatter

Chapter 7. Political Parties

Abstract
Some things change. For more than 70 years, the Communist Party had a monopoly on political power in the Soviet Union. The party played a crucial role in all spheres of Russian life. Any person attempting to form another party or even publicly discuss the possibilities of a multi-party system in Russia could have faced criminal charges. The transformation started in the late 1980s, and by the time of the Soviet Union’s implosion, numerous political parties already existed in Russia. Today’s federal laws regulate the functioning of political parties. In theory, anyone can form a party and recruit members. However, the Russian multi-party system is different from those existing in most democratic countries. Political parties in Russia have failed to develop in the way they developed in other post-communist countries moving from authoritarianism to democracy. Many observers agree that Russian parties play only a small role in Russia’s political life. Moreover, the executive branch has been able to create its own mass political party, a centralized network for unconditional support of the existing government and its policies. Some things change. Others remain the same. The centralization and consolidation of political power remains the signature style of Russian politics—at least for now.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 8. Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

Abstract
Russia now has a new generation of voters born after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Unlike their parents and grandparents back in the days of the communist state, the young can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections and use ballots with multiple names printed on them. How did this new system develop? Which elements of the past did it inherit? Is the current system of elections democratic?
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 9. Political Communications and Mobilization

Abstract
Flipping through Russian television channels during primetime, you might find a historic documentary, the latest BBC international news updates, episodes of The Simpsons with a Russian soundtrack, a Russian gangster thriller, or a recent National Basketball Association game. Browse the web and you find a great variety of sites and blogs very critical of the government. Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees every person freedom of “thought and speech.” The basic law also guarantees Russian citizens the right to express their opinions and beliefs by lawful means. The Constitution declares the freedom of the press. It explicitly prohibits censorship. How are these important constitutional guarantees implemented in Russia? Where do Russian people get information related to government and politics, and how do they use it? How do they organize their political actions?
Eric Shiraev

Russian Policies

Frontmatter

Chapter 10. Economic and Business Policies

Abstract
In 1992 Russia was free, independent, and broke. Its economy was in disarray. It retained almost all the characteristics of the old Soviet economy. Major industries were under state control. Although they were free from obligations to fulfill government plans (such plans no longer existed), they had serious problems in finding resources and customers. The major task for the Yeltsin administration was to put aside the legacy of the Soviet-style economy and implement reforms. But what kind of reforms did Russia need? The discussions about the most appropriate economic policies for Russia in the post-communist era were heating up. They continue today. Russia, like every country on the planet, is constantly searching for the optimal way to manage its economy, finances, natural resources, and employment.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 11. Social Policies: Health, Education, and Housing

Abstract
Democratic countries tend to develop their social policies gradually, as a result of comprehensive political debate. Russia is debating too. Which type of social policy should the country choose? Current priorities and specific problems can change the course of the debates rapidly. However, certain tendencies and trends in Russia’s social policies have already appeared.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 12. Foreign Policy

Abstract
On a typically chilly October morning in 1991, the edition of the major Soviet daily newspaper, Izvestia, that appeared in the news kiosks included an interview given by Andrei Kozyrev, the energetic young Russian foreign minister. In response to a question about Russia’s future relationship with the West, and the United States in particular, Kozyrev predicted a strong, lasting alliance (Kozyrev, 1991). Seventeen years later, another Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, speaking before a college audience in Moscow, blasted the United States for its foreign policy, and warned Washington and the West not to make a “historic mistake” in their unjustifiably tough approach toward Russia (Lavrov, 2008).
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 13. Defense and Security Policies

Abstract
Do western countries have reasons to be afraid of Russia? Many Russian people genuinely believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies attempting to harm their country, steal its secrets, buy the country’s domestic political opposition, lie about the Kremlin leaders, weaken the military, and reduce birth rates (Dubin, 2012). Early in the 2000s, the Russian government began a new campaign of boosting national security and creating an impression that Russia was under constant threat.
Eric Shiraev

Chapter 14. Summary and Conclusion

Abstract
From a historical viewpoint, the period from the early 1990s to the early 2010s was incredibly short. Yet these years were filled with remarkable and dramatic events that have few parallels in Russian or even world history (Kotkin, 2008). These were years of change and confusion, great hopes, and growing worries about the future.
Eric Shiraev
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