B.Y. Nemtsov as a Russian Parliamentarian. The Congresses of People’s Deputies, the Supreme Soviet, the Federation Council, the State Duma. 1990–2003.

B.Y. Nemtsov as a Russian Parliamentarian. The Congresses of People’s Deputies, the Supreme Soviet, the Federation Council, the State Duma. 1990–2003.

M.A. (Cantab.) in History; senior advisor, Institute of Modern Russia

Boris Nemtsov is widely known as the first governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, as deputy prime minister of Russia in the 1990s, and as one of the leaders the Russian opposition in the 2000s. His parliamentary activities have not been studied as well. Yet for a total of thirteen years – from 1990 to 1997, and again from 1999 to 2003 – he has served in Russia’s national legislative bodies: as a people’s deputy of the RSFSR; as a member of the Supreme Soviet’s legislative committee; as a member of the Federation Council and later of the State Duma, where he was deputy speaker and leader of the “Union of Rights Forces” group. The article examines the legacy of Boris Nemtsov as a Russian parliamentarian.

This article appeared in Tauride Readings 2016, an edited volume published by the Center for the History of Parliamentarianism at the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly (St. Petersburg, 2017). It is available in Russian.

 

 
P.N. Milyukov’s Visit to the U.S. in January 1908 and the Reaction in Russia

P.N. Milyukov’s Visit to the U.S. in January 1908 and the Reaction in Russia

M.A. (Cantab.) in History; senior advisor, Institute of Modern Russia

The article provides a detailed account of the visit by Pavel Milyukov, member of the Russian State Duma for St. Petersburg and leader of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party, to the United States in January 1908. The reception organized for Milyukov in Washington, D.C. and attended by fifty-seven Members of Congress, including House Speaker Joseph Cannon, was a milestone in U.S.-Russia parliamentary relations. Yet Milyukov’s planned meeting with President Roosevelt was thwarted by the Russian ambassador, and upon his return to St. Petersburg the Kadet leader was chastised in the Duma and in the conservative press for urging “foreign interference in Russia’s affairs.” Milyukov’s trip to America prompted discussions on the nature of patriotism, and on whether criticism of the government should be equated with criticism of the country.

This article appeared in Tauride Readings 2014, an edited volume published by the Center for the History of Parliamentarianism at the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly (St. Petersburg, 2015). It is available in Russian.

 

 
The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma

The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma

M.A. (Cantab.) in History; senior advisor, Institute of Modern Russia

The article recounts the attempt by the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party to form a government during the short existence of the first Russian Parliament from April to July 1906. The Kadets, who won the election and formed a majority in the State Duma, maintained that only a full-fledged parliamentary system and far-reaching political, economic, and social reforms could forestall a revolution. In its quest, the party found allies at the top levels of the Czarist regime, but their plan was disrupted by Interior Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who convinced Nicholas II to dissolve the Duma. The article, devoted to a topic rarely studied by historians, raises important questions about the political choice facing Russia in 1906 and the consequences of the monarch’s refusal to seek compromise with Parliament.

This article appeared in Tauride Readings 2013, an edited volume published by the Center for the History of Parliamentarianism at the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly (St. Petersburg, 2014). It is available in Russian.

 

 
Democracy Derailed: Are Russian Intellectuals Responsible for Ideological Rationale of Putinism?

Democracy Derailed: Are Russian Intellectuals Responsible for Ideological Rationale of Putinism?

Since the earliest forms of democracy, public intellectuals have been playing a crucial role in the state political life: constructing ideologies, advising politicians,influencing public opinion. As noted specialists in a particular field of knowledge, well-known members of academia or think tanks, the role of public intellectuals is to provide wider public with knowledge to make informed decisions on governance and to keep the authorities accountable for their activities. However, with Vladimir Putin rise in power in today’s Russia, a number of prominent Russian intellectuals have become subservient to the Kremlin, providing ideological rationale for the country’s rising authoritarianism; only few intellectuals voiced their criticisms and warned of the dangers of an undemocratic path. This paper will explore a diverse group of Russian public intellectuals (focusing on think tanks and popular political commentators—from conservatives to liberals), the ideas that they put forward and their role in the country’s democratic rollback.

 

 
 
INTRODUCTION
 
We are living in the postindustrial society, which is essentially a knowledge-based and ideas-based society. The second half of the 20th century was marked not only by a great economic transformation, but also by political transformation. In 1989, Francis Fukuyama published his essay in National Interest, in which he proclaimed the end of the Cold War and “the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
 
25 years later, the debate on whether democracy is the final form of government or not still continues, as new hybrid authoritarian regimes (Russia, Syria, Turkey, et al.) rise into power. The debate is rendered by the new authoritarian leaders who aspire to justify their modus operandi and challenge the ideas of liberal democracy. Their claims are often supported by certain groups of intellectuals in the respective countries. While the rationale behind the politicians’ stance is more or less transparent—it’s a fight for power—it remains unclear why intellectuals would take part in undermining democratic ideas.
 
The fact that intellectuals played a crucial role in the history of the mankind, including in political sphere, economy, social development, international relations, art, sciences, is hardly a point for discussion. The very term “intellectual” pertains a positive connotation. However, under a close scrutiny, it becomes clear that intellectuals are not only responsible for the most brilliant breakthroughs, but also for some of the most horrible mistakes in history.
 
25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which came, according to many researchers, as a result of the courageous efforts on behalf of the public intellectuals on both sides of the wall—Western and Eastern European—Russia, the largest country of the former Soviet bloc, remains just as far (if not farther) away from being a democracy as it was in 1989. Since intellectuals were the “dealers of ideas” and the spearheads of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union, who eventually brought the wall down, and with it—the whole Soviet system and the communist ideology in general,—the question is: why didn’t they push the matter through? Why has Russia lost its way in democratic transition? And why the critical voice of the Russian intellectuals is hardly ever heard in the public political discourse?
 
The issue of responsibility of intellectuals has been addressed and studied a lot. In his classic work titled “The Treason of Intellectual” (1927) French thinker Julien Benda argues that intellectuals abandoned their mission of speaking up for justice, liberty and the truth, becoming subservient to certain ideologies or even political classes. Almost 100 years later, many issues raised in the book are still relevant to nowadays’ political realities. This paper will examine the role that intellectuals play in the political process in Western democracies and in closed regimes, such as Russia, where the democratic rollback in recent decades has been unprecedented.
 
 
“The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money”

“The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money”

Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Russia is posing a new challenge to the Western world. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea early this year and consequent invasion of eastern Ukraine, the West has been forced to face the reality of what Russia has become under president Vladimir Putin’s rule—a revanchist and militarily revitalized country with imperial ambitions.

In less than a decade, the Kremlin has learned to use the principles of liberal democracy against the West, developing innovative propaganda techniques and eventually accomplishing what has been called the “weaponization of information.” The Kremlin has played a crucial role in Russian coverage of the Ukraine conflict: state media, fueled by millions of dollars, has spread blatant misinformation, creating a frenzied atmosphere of suspicion and hostility.

In the twenty-first century, information warfare has become the world’s primary form of warfare, and effective countermeasures have yet to be developed. The report “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money,” authored by two prominent journalists—Michael Weiss and Peter Pomerantsev—aims to help members of governments, civil society, and the media understand how the Kremlin’s propaganda machine works and the challenges it presents to the West. It also provides a set of recommendations for how best to confront these challenges.

What’s in a Name? Understanding Russian Patriotism

What’s in a Name? Understanding Russian Patriotism

This paper is based on a project of the Institute of Modern Russia (IMR) that explores the ways Russians from diverse backgrounds understand and relate to the concept of patriotism. This study primarily focuses on the “insertion” of patriotism into virtually all areas of Russian social life and its assumption as an “ideological posture shared by all parties.” In Russia today, those “who refuse to present themselves as ‘patriots’ are delegitimized and ushered off the public stage” (Laruelle, 2009). This project has been undertaken at a time when the lines between Russian patriotism and the “negative features of nationalism” are becoming increasingly blurred. Currently, as some studies indicate, among the principal ideas that consolidate different parts of Russian society are xenophobia and a general intolerance to “others.” Within this context, this project seeks to identify and illuminate the many ways in which Russian patriotism may manifest. As part of the project, IMR partnered with the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling center, to conduct a survey on patriotism in Russia.

From Economic Crisis to Political Crisis? Changing Middle-Class Political Attitudes in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 2008–2012

From Economic Crisis to Political Crisis? Changing Middle-Class Political Attitudes in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 2008–2012

This paper examines the long-term changes in political attitudes that may have contributed to the sudden emergence of middle-class protest activity in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, during the 2011–2012 electoral cycle. It analyzes three interrelated hypotheses to address this question: the impact of the global financial crisis; attitudes about liberal-democratic concerns; and views on government effectiveness. These trends are examined using data drawn from responses to the survey question “What is the most important problem for the country?” in nine surveys conducted between March 2008 and March 2012. During this period, of increasing concern to middle-class groups were the following: corruption and red tape, standard of living, housing and utilities, healthcare, and education. The factor linking these issues together may be Russians’ dissatisfaction with their quality of life or with the pervasiveness of corruption in the country. The concerns of the middle class were not significantly different from those of the general population, but the middle class, and particularly residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg, were more critical when assessing all problems. Comparison with additional data demonstrates that participants in the 2011–2012 protests in major cities shared similar concerns with the general population, but for most, participation in the protests made them significantly more interested in democracy.

Origins, Dynamics and Consequences of the Russian Protest Movement

Origins, Dynamics and Consequences of the Russian Protest Movement

Based on the extensive sociological research of the Levada Center (including nationwide polls, polls during protest rallies in Moscow, and in-depth interviews with leaders of the protest movement), this paper reveals the origins of the Russian protest movement, traces its dynamics, and explains its timing. Special attention is paid to the consequences of the protests in 2011–2012 for the Russian political system and possible political change in the country.

International Propaganda: The Russian Version

International Propaganda: The Russian Version

This paper explores a number of the key instruments used in Russia to influence foreign attitudes and improve the country’s reputation and image abroad. For decades, the battle for the hearts and minds of people around the world was fought with propaganda, which is defined by one commentator as “the engine of mental corruption” operated for manipulative purposes. This paper offers a snapshot of Soviet-era propaganda tools and brings the discussion into the context of present-day Russia. The development and deployment of the new instruments intended to “affect others” take place in an environment in which “softer” approaches play an increasingly important role. Based on the argument that modern-day Russia’s efforts show a significant degree of continuity with those of Soviet times, where soft forms of power bordered on hard power applications, the paper questions their effectiveness. Finally, it concludes that in today’s world, propaganda is either limited in effect or is counterproductive. To achieve its current goals, Russia needs to focus its attention on matching words with deeds in its policies and avoiding manipulative tactics for the sake of appearing more attractive.

Corruption of the Fourth Power: The Decline of the Russian Media

Corruption of the Fourth Power: The Decline of the Russian Media

Independent and free media are a key instrument in fighting corruption. But in today’s Russia, this instrument has itself been corrupted and misused. The Russian government has deliberately taken control over the major national media outlets, including TV channels, radio stations, print media, and Internet resources. Only a few publications remain free and are able to fulfill their duties. As competition on the world media market becomes fiercer, traditional media in all countries are looking for new ways of surviving and are becoming more susceptible to corruption. The problem is universal, but in Russia’s case it is aggravated by president Vladimir Putin’s corrupt political regime. Corruption has poisoned Russian media on both levels—institutional and individual. The objectives of this research are as follows: to investigate the main methods of corrupting the media and the journalists that the Russian government has employed; to trace the effects that such corruption can have on media content and, as a result, on public opinion; and to determine whether the few free media can contribute to overcoming this negative trend.

 

 
 

The research framework

 
Ten years ago, corruption as a subject of study was quite a small field. Today, numerous academic and media articles on the issue are being published almost daily. The research field on corruption has expanded, and this trend reflects growing public concern for the effects that corruption has on people’s lives. Another reason for the growing interest is development of the new media (mostly, internet) that allowed for better access to information and data exchange and, therefore, led to a greater awareness of the scale of the problem. Despite the fact that media made an invaluable contribution into exposing corruption, unfortunately, media themselves could not be spared from the corruption. This paper will explore the correlation between the specifics of the Russian political system and corruption practices in the Russian media.
 
 
INTRODUCTION
 
The media are often referred to as “the fourth estate”—an institution that monitors and shapes the political process. Sometimes the media are called “the fourth pillar of democracy”—an institution established to complement three other pillars, or branches of power—legislative, executive, and judicial. There is a universal consensus that the media have become an integral part of modern societies, and their impact on everyday life has only been only gaining momentum. The media exist in all types of countries—from the poorest to the richest, but they are also associated with democratic states where they serve not as tools of propaganda or mere sources of information, but also as watchdogs. In the latter capacity they play an essential role in fighting corruption.
 
Due to the wide spread of the mass media, almost every moment of people’s public and personal lives is currently being mediated through television, radio, the press, internet, social media, et al. The media help to create the public space where personal interests meet public interests, where these interests can be discussed and eventually transformed into policies [Habermas]. In a sense, a study of modern politics and political issues is a study of how these issues are presented and interpreted in the media. Political agendas are shaped and promoted through the media. In developed democracies, the media aspire for meeting the standards of information accuracy and objectivity. “A mature democracy depends on having an educated electorate, informed and connected through the parliament,” and it’s the media’s public duty to inform and educate the public [Sampson]. As a prominent political reporter Walter Lippmann once noted, “if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news,” the democracy falters.
 
In democratic countries, the media are responsible for providing information to citizens so they could participate in process of governance, “to maximize the opportunities for citizens to make political decisions and cast ballots on the basis of informed choice.” [Gunther and Mughan]. Democratic media model means that there is a significant degree of pluralism in the media; access to the media is not obstructed; the media represent a wide spectrum of views, ideas, opinions, and ideologies; and they are not controlled by the government and/or limited number of private owners in a way that limits the media’s freedom or pluralism [Becker].
 
However, under conditions of other types of political systems (authoritarian, totalitarian), the media are incorporated into the state apparatus and usually serve merely as tools of propaganda. In closed regimes, the state use the media to sustain state policies, impose influence on the public and manipulate public opinion to maintain the current order. National media need to be studied in the context of the political system in which they are compelled to operate. It would not be correct to expect North Korean Central TV to report on the faults of Kim Jong Un’s policies, or the Cubavisión (one of Cuba’s two official TV channels) to criticize Fidel Castro for his anti-­Americanism. The media of these countries are not free to choose what to report, as they are, in essence, branches of the government.
 
Russian political system is currently described as authoritarian (or hybrid authoritarian), which is characterized by “the great power” agenda, neo-­imperialism, militarism, and dominance of a personalized authority [Shevtsova]. In this context, the media cannot be considered “the fourth pillar of democracy.” But at the same time they are not under total state control. The state allows for “islands of freedom,” a.k.a. independent liberal media, to operate at the margins of the public political discourse, as long as their audience is insignificant and therefore irrelevant at the national scale. These media exist so that political opposition can channel their criticisms and frustrations and “blow off steam” without posing real treat to the regime. One of the gravest problems of the modern Russian state is corruption, and it was acknowledged by many international organizations and even by the Russian government. Transparency International ranked Russia 133rd out of 177 countries in its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index1. And according to official estimates2, in 2013 only, the country lost $312 million to corruption practices. Anti-­‐corruption campaign has been on the state’s political agenda for years, but no real effort to overcome the problem has been made yet.
 
Most scholars and observers agree that corruption in Russia penetrated every level of people’s life, and no institution has been spared, including the media. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian media have undergone substantial ideological and economic changes, but they have not developed enough to become a strong independent institution that would be able to resist pressure from the new political elites or business structures.
 
At the same time, Russian media joined the international media community and were exposed to a number of global trends—convergence, tabloidization, commercialization of content, shift from informing to entertaining (“infotainment”). This paper argues the spread of corruption in the Russian media was caused by a combination of two factors—authoritarian rollback under Vladimir Putin’s presidency and commercialization of the media content.
 
 
 
 
Export of Corrosion: How Practices from Russia Penetrate and Undermine US and UK

Export of Corrosion: How Practices from Russia Penetrate and Undermine US and UK

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States and United Kingdom governments have chosen to oppose or counteract Russia only on traditional hardcore corruption issues (arms control, espionage, outright crime, etc.) while neglecting highly questionable and ethically debatable practices and appeasing the Kremlin in exchange for its compliance on nuclear proliferation and select regional cooperation issues (e.g. Iran, Korea, Afghanistan). This report seeks to bring together all the different layers of corrosive practices in one comprehensive overview; analyze their aims, means, effective impact, and reasons for acceptance in US and UK; and provide policy suggestions for western governments to counteract them. The main argument of the report is that neglected layers of corrosion, although less harmful at first glance, are nevertheless extremely dangerous in the long run, as they undermine democratic values, institutions, and practices in US and UK and jeopardize national security by importing Russian practices to the West. New forms of corrosion export often come without the direct support of the Russian state but through corporations or powerful individuals connected to Vladimir Putin’s regime. The US and UK governments, media, and opinion-makers should be bolder in filtering and counteracting the penetration of corrosiveRussian practices in international organizations, the Internet, western media, legal and financial system, elections, lobbying, think-tanks, universities, and real estate. In conclusion, the report seeks to synthetize initial policy suggestions for each layer of corrosion in one summary table and hopes to spark a renewed frank debate about the appeasement of corrupt Russian practices in the West.

Corruption in Russia as a Business: Putin’s Palace Case Study

Corruption in Russia as a Business: Putin’s Palace Case Study

Corruption in modern Russia has reached its peak and has become a general rule of doing business at all levels of state power and in all areas, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system. According to a report of the World Bank, 48 percent of Russia’s GDP is associated with corruption. Transparency International ranked Russia 143rd out of 183 countries in its 2011 Corruption Perception Index. All attempts to fight corruption are futile, since Russian anticorruption legislation works inefficiently. In this paper, the real character of corruption in Russia, and its causes and effects on the economy are analyzed based on previous studies of the subject and statistical data. To illustrate this problem, the paper provides a deep analysis of the “Putin’s Palace” case as one of the most recent examples of corruption at the top of the Russian government system. The paper also provides a short analysis of the latest changes in Russia’s anticorruption legislation and evaluates their efficiency. The research establishes that despite all the anticorruption measures, the average number of bribes in Russia quadrupled between 2010 and 2011, and continues to grow. It establishes that the fight against corruption in Russia has brought about unexpected results: far more ordinary people who give bribes are convicted than are corrupt authorities. Moreover, Russia’s anticorruption policy usually comes down to fighting common bribes, rather than combating the overwhelming power of authorities with interests in businesses to monopolize markets via embezzlement of state property or nepotism. Finally, based on its findings, the paper discusses some feasible ways of solving the problem of corruption in Russia and proposes guidelines for further research in this area.

Corruption in Russia: Reiman’s Telecommunication Empire (a case study)

Corruption in Russia: Reiman’s Telecommunication Empire (a case study)

Corruption is a phenomenon that has become a way of life in Russia, rather than a crime. Corruption existed in Soviet Russia, but it was controlled by the state; after the collapse of the Soviet Union, though, corruption spun out of control. In modern-day Russia, almost every citizen engages in corruption activities at some point in his or her life. The higher the position one holds in Russia, the larger the bribes are. Laundered money originating from high-scale corruption cases is usually transferred across borders to foreign banks. This research paper analyzes corruption among high officials using the case study of Leonid Reiman, a former minister of telecommunications in Russia, who was reportedly involved in the large-scale offshore telecom corruption case.

Reforming Police, Policing Reforms: Democratizing Russian Law Enforcement and the Federal Law “On Police”

Reforming Police, Policing Reforms: Democratizing Russian Law Enforcement and the Federal Law “On Police”

This paper explores major issues with Russia’s 2011 federal police reform law (“Law on Police”) that call into question whether the law can be considered progress toward democratization, or whether it fortifies existing structures of corruption, further diminishing public control over the police force. The paper first explores the demand for police reform, including examining salient holdovers from the Soviet militia, and then briefly outlines the framework of democratic policing that will be used to analyze the legislation, before exploring the major flaws in the drafting process and the provisions of the law that will limit its efficacy, including issues with the drafting, financing of the reforms, staffing review, and accountability/monitoring.

Corruption in the Russian Education System

Corruption in the Russian Education System

In modern Russia, corruption has become a social norm in the relationships between citizens and government officials, and state and municipal agencies. All manifestations of corruption can be found in the Russian education system. They are determined largely by the development and implementation of the Unified State Examination (“EGE” in Russian) in secondary schools, difficulties in entering universities and hardships of teaching. Article 43 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees that a basic secondary education will be made available and free to each citizen—as well as the possibility of attending, free of charge, on a competitive basis, a state or municipal higher education institution. Overcoming corruption in the Russian education system is complicated by the fact that corruption has become the only way for many Russian families to obtain a nominally free public education. Administrations and owners of educational institutions, as well as state and municipal officials engaged in the regulation of their activity, are not interested in actively combatting bribery. The reason for this is that they receive significant benefits from such instances of graft. One of the consequences of corruption in the Russian education system is that teenagers and students learn to solve their problems through corrupt means, a habit that carries over to other areas of their lives.

This paper is only available in Russian.