Russia is clearly not a democracy. But Russian politics does not easily reduce to the alternative concepts Westerners most frequently use to describe it. Terms like dictatorship or kleptocracy all capture some element of the system, but miss the logic that actually drives its behaviour. For example, much like calling Putin a new ‘tsar,’ simply branding Russia ‘authoritarian’ puts too much emphasis on Putin’s own role. He is clearly the most powerful figure in Russia today, but he cannot just do as he pleases. Studying his personality alone will yield only a poor guide to Russia’s behaviour. Similarly, concepts like ‘kleptocracy’ or ‘mafia state’ do satisfy an urge to condemn bad practices while highlighting some consequential behaviours. But there is just too much going on that cannot adequately be described through the logic of stealing or criminality, such as the passage of far-reaching anti-smoking legislation and the introduction of jury trials.
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- The Continuing Evolution of Russia’s Political System
Henry E. Hale
- Macmillan Education UK
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