As 2015 draws to a close, IMR offers you a great holiday reading—top-10 analytical pieces that were published at our website throughout this year.



1. Constitutionalism vs. the ‘Russian Matrix.’

Vladimir Pastukhov, 22 September 2015

In the West, it is taken for granted that a nation needs a constitution in order to function. But Russia, in many ways, lives more by social codes than by the country’s Constitution. Does the country even need a constitution? If so, what can be done to make it work more effectively? What are the differences between Russian and Western views of the key constitutional ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity? Political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov, who holds a doctorate in political science and is a visiting fellow at St. Antony’s College of Oxford University, takes an in-depth look at Russian constitutionalism in this two-part article (see part one and part two).


2. Russia’s $100 Billion Pension System Is a Dangerous Zombie

Ezekiel Pfeifer, 2 September 2015

According to current projections, Russia’s pension system faces annual deficits of more than $50 billion in the coming years, while the number of retirees is on the rise. The government has tinkered with the system in an attempt to fill the gap, but some experts insist that the changes have only made things worse. In part one of this story, IMR analyst Ezekiel Pfeifer examines the origins of the pension system’s acute and chronic ailments. In part two, he attempts to answer the eternal Russian question in relation to this massive problem: What is to be done?


3. Russia’s Military Is a Paper Tiger in the Baltic

Matthew Bodner, 26 August 2015

The Kremlin’s aggressive tactics in Ukraine have caused experts and Western military leaders to sound the alarm over the threat Russia poses toward the NATO member states in the Baltic region. But would Russia’s military have the upper hand in a Baltic conflict with the West? Journalist and military analyst Matthew Bodner breaks down the two sides’ assets and determines that Russia would face a tall task in confronting NATO.


4. The Right to Total Lawlessness

Ekaterina Mishina, 10 August 2015

Police reform in Russia began in 2009 and in a sense is still underway, as is the discussion of its results and achievements. The latest set of draft amendments to the federal law “On the Police” may completely undo the attempts at reform, however. In the opinion of IMR legal expert Ekaterina Mishina, the proposed amendments could lead to the total failure of police reform and the triumph of the “police state.”


5. Russia’s Currency Reserves: More than Enough or Alarmingly Low?

Ezekiel Pfeifer, 27 July 2015

Russia’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted by more than $140 billion since the beginning of 2014, but the current level of $360 billion is more than adequate to cover short-term debt payments. Because of the structure of the reserves, however, they are actually more vulnerable than appears at first glance, writes IMR analyst Ezekiel Pfeifer.


6. The Myth of Putin’s 89%

Donald N. Jensen, 25 June 2015

A recent public opinion poll said that President Vladimir Putin had attained a record-high approval rating of 89 percent, despite Russia’s massive economic slump and tense relations with the West. But according to Donald Jensen, resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, this rating masks a more complex reality when it comes to Russians’ political attitudes and Putin may be more vulnerable than it seems.


7. Weapons of Mass Deception

Vasily Gatov, 16 June 2015

The overwhelming scale and deeply destructive nature of the Kremlin’s information war has only recently drawn attention of the Western mainstream media and policymakers. In part one of his essay, prominent Russian media analyst Vasily Gatov, visiting fellow at the Center of Communication Leadership and Policy, University of Southern California, explains the origins of the Russian propaganda and Putin’s anti-Western narrative. In part two, he focuses on the twisted logic behind this narrative and the mistakes of the West, and he provides recommendations on how to counter the Kremlin’s offensive.


8. The Label of An Enemy

Denis Volkov, 28 May 2015

Less than three years ago Russia passed a law on so-called “foreign agents.” On May 23, 2015, Vladimir Putin signed another bill restricting the work of nongovernmental organizations, known as the law on “undesirable” organizations. Levada Center sociologist Denis Volkov analyzes the consequences of these repressive measures and concludes that the process of deinstitutionalization of the civil sphere has already started in Russia.


9. Is the Iran Deal a Game Changer for Russia?

Olga Khvostunova, 9 April 2015

On April 2, six world powers signed a tentative deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Should it be finalized in June, one of the outcomes of the deal will be the lifting of the oil embargo from Iran—a country that has some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves. IMR analyst and editor-in-chief of, Olga Khvostunova, discusses how the deal could affect the Russian energy sector.


10. A New Wave of Emigration: The Best Are Leaving

Ksenia Semenova, 7 April 2015

Over the first few months of 2015, the beginning of a new wave of Russian emigration has sparked debates in the Russian and Western media. But are we really witnessing a surge in emigration? In the first part of a special research project for the Institute of Modern Russia, journalist Ksenia Semenova examines the nature and extent of this trend, as well as expert opinions and the matter of registering emigrants. In the second part, she analyzes the results of a survey conducted among those who left Russia in the period from 2012 to 2014.

Our newsletter delivers a digest of analytical articles and op-eds published on our website, along with the latest updates on the IMR activities on a monthly basis.