ValiButaevComparativeGovernment/PoliticsFall2017RussianFederation RussianFederation has a long and interesting history. Many different eventsthe structure and development of the country. Nowadays, Russia playsone of the most important roles in our world. Russia is located atthe intersection of different cultures and contains multinationalpopulation and ethno-cultural diversity. Russia is an interestingcountry to discuss its issues of ethnicity and religion, try topredict the future development and economics of the country. Howdifferent country’s issues such as class distinction, equity andequality, race, religion, nationalism and other political variablesare solved or considered by the state at least.
The main goal of thiswork is to show weaknesses and struggles which Russia faces on theroad to become a democratic state and if the country can achieve it.The stability of a democratic State is quite fragile and can beundone if not properly managed and understood. Tolook at modern problems which Russia faces today, it is better to gothrough Russian history and summarize it.
After the socialistrevolution which happened in 1917 in Russia, the system of theRussian state was changed completely by new leaders who came topower. Communists and people who followed ideas of Karl Marx and theideology of the Russian revolution took over. Across the country,there was the civil war during these years from 1917 to 1922; peoplefought for the formation of the new state, which later was known asthe Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Soviet Union existedfor 70 years and contained 15 Soviet republics. Previously, most ofthese republics were parts of the Russian Empire. During Soviet timesexistence, the country has raised the social level of education byusing free education system, all people had an access for thiseducation. But, the question now is if Soviet Union was a reallycommunistic state. Inhis works, Marx described and developed several different historicalphases which difference consists in the way of ownership or controlof capital.
Each of these Marx’s period existed and exist now formany decades or centuries, it could be until the next phase replacesit by class struggle. After replaces of all these phases, transitionsand links between phases, humankind would try to reform itself andimprove itself to achieve a better world to live in for everyone. Thefirst phase which Marx described in his work was called primitive ortribal-communism when humans lived in small communities or tribes andlived a quasi-communistic existence. The main idea of that societywas to share their work and resources were.
The main decisions for atribe were made together or communally. Duringthe ancient period, the first societies, for example, the RomanEmpire, were based on ownership of land and control of labor It was ahierarchical system. Its noble classes, or we could say the class whoruled the state, used slave labor, At that time, slavery wasn’tbased on the race, prisoners of military conquests mainly or peoplewho could not pay debts became slaves mainly. This phase was calledthe slavery phase. Afterthe slavery phase, there was feudalism. It existed during medievaltimes when kings and lords ruled and owned the land. They gave someparts of their lands to their peasant farmers and let them live andtake care about it, these peasants served their lords and kings, forexample, they return their obedience, tributes and military service. Capitalismwas the next phase.
It is an industrialized system that appeared andwas developed in the 18th century after industrial revolution, it wasbased on private ownership, for example, lands and factories. Peoplewanted to make more money, so capitalists are driven by the profitmotive. In capitalism, labor is supplied by paid workers who areoften used by the heads.
Marxbelieved that socialism, which goes after capitalism, is a systemthat must replace capitalism by revolution which proletarian classshould start against their leaders. Basically, Marx believed thatsocialism should start from the creation of a leadership of theproletariat, the rule of working classes. Private capital would beseized by the state; bourgeois privileges and systems of controlwould be destroyed. Thelast step should be communism, a utopian society without classes,divisions of wealth, exploitation or suffering. Its members wouldprovide what they could and receive what they need. The instrumentsof state, for example,different government bureaucracies, policedepartments, soldiers and military would disappear because thesespheres would become unnecessary in the communist state.
Igave this introduction to all phases because it is important tounderstand that Karl Marx believed that countries should go throughall these phases if they want to achieve the last phase, communism.He said that socialist revolution could appear most likely incountries which have an advanced state of capitalism, possessing alarge and strong industrial sector and big enough mass of industrialworkers, proletarians. On the other side, Russia did not follow anyof these criteria: at that time, Russian economy was mostly agrarianand industrialization was a really recent development. At the end ofthat century, there were about three million Russian industrialworkers, in another words there were only two percent of thepopulation who were proletarians. So, Marx himself expressed doubtsabout Russia’s potential for socialism. writing in 1877 that itmust first abolish peasant communes and move towards a democraticphase.
Onthe other side, Lenin, who was the leader of Bolshevik movement inRussia, was one of the followers of Marxism, but he did not followall Marx’s ideas; Lenin wanted to adapt some of Marx’s theories andincluded his own ideas, it helped him to establish a new ideologywhich has become known as Leninist-Marxism later. One of the mostimportant differences between Marx’s and Lenin’s ideas was thatLenin believed that the capitalist-bourgeois phase in Marxism couldbe skipped and you could jump immediately into the socialist phase.In fact, it was Lenin’s plan how to destroy the bourgeoisProvisional Government in Russia which existed at that time soquickly after its rise to power. Moreover, he covered this plan byhis ideology. We can say that this could be interpreted either as anew development or branch in Marxist theory or it was just a plan tooverthought the government. At the end, all these facts were criticalto the future development of the Russia in October 1917 and followingdecades. AsI said, Marx believed that you cannot skip and of these phases thathe established in his works. Countries must go through all thesephases if they want to achieve the last step.
So, this fact played areally important role. It became a big crack and created manyproblems for future of Russian communism; moreover, it just shows andproves that Russia has not achieved real communism. Duringthe years of World War II and later the Cold War, Soviet Union haspassed the stage of industrialization, developed light and heavyindustry, metallurgy and high-tech industries in short time, thesedevelopments included space shipbuilding resulted in the first spaceexpeditions. At the same time, he country has had ideological issueswhich appeared as time passed by. Soviet Union was highly depended onthe import of carbohydrates and decline in productivity led to thedecline in the economy in the mid-1980s of the last century.
At thattime, the socialist system which existed in USSR became too old andwas in dire need of new reforms because, more and more problemsappeared in the national economy, foreign policy, cold war and humanrights abuses associated with ideological intolerance of rulingelite. In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, he changed thedirections and aims of the country. It changed the foreign policy andaffected the openness of Soviet society to the rest of the world,processes of Perestroika have changed the institutions ofgovernment, and Glasnost, which means openness, expanded freedom ofexpression and freedom of conscience in the Soviet Union.
Afterthe collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, in republics, which werethe parts of the USSR,aphase of self-formation started. Russia was the largest part, whichhad always been a foundation for Russian Empire and Soviet Union; itstarted a new program to create construction of a market economy.Russia Federation was involved in some military conflicts in EasternEurope and the Middle East, most of them were not coordinated withother countries, that is why it was criticized by many members of theUnited Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO). Afterthe fall of communism, life in the former Soviet Union did not becomebetter for bigger part of Soviet citizens, but we should say thatpersonal liberties expanded. Also, politic views and economicdevelopment was totally changed in Russia during this time, butthese changes also influenced inflation and economic collapse whichhappened in the 90s, it increased the level of unemployment, and areally big reduction of many established social services whichexisted in Soviet Union, one of them was health care. So, rebuild acountry from communistic state to capitalistic was one of the mostimportant issues which Russia faced. Thelegacy of the Soviet Union was critical for a new government enormouscommitment to the Cold War and relations with countries around theworld.
In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union devoted a quarter of itsgross economic output to the defense sector. At the time, themilitary-industrial complex employed at least one of every fiveadults in the Soviet Union. In some regions of Russia, at least halfof the workforce was employed in defense plants.
The comparable U.S.figures were roughly one-sixteenth of gross national product andabout one of every sixteen in the workforce. The end of the Cold Warand the cutback in military spending hit such plants very hard, andit was often impossible for them to quickly retool equipment, retrainworkers, and find new markets to adjust to the new post-Cold War andpost-Soviet era. In the process of conversion an enormous body ofexperience, qualified specialists and know-how has been lost, as theplants were sometimes switching from producing hi-tech militaryequipment to making kitchen utensils. Thesecond problem was connected to the distribution of workers andresources.
Roughly half of Russia ‘s cities had only one largeindustrial enterprise and three fourths had no more than four. So,the decrease in production caused really serious unemployment andunderemployment. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the economicties were severed, the production in the whole country dropped bymore than 50%.
Third,after the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Russia didestablish any functioning systems which could provide social securityand welfare. During the soviet era, all industrial firms weretraditionally responsible for a broad range of social welfarefunctions, such as building and creating housing for theirworkforces, and managing health, recreational, educational, andsimilar facilities, the towns possessing few industrial employerswere left heavily dependent on these firms, which were the mainstayof employment, for the provision of basic social services. So,economic transformation created some problems in maintaining socialwelfare because all local governments were unable to afford financialresponsibility. Moreover,there was the problem of human capital. Soviet population was reallyeducated at that time. The educational level of science, engineering,and technical specialties in the Soviet Union was one of the highestaround the world.
On the other side, the average Soviet worker wasnot well prepared to work in a new changing market economy. Thesystem suffered (the Russian system has this problem even today) withcost-effectiveness, efficiency, creativity, and improvements. Duringthe Soviet era, the need to create employment led to hugeinefficiencies and redundancies in the workforce. In USSR, obediencewas preferred more than creativity; soviet system did not like anyquestions or suggestions.
So, workers needed to change their mindsetto adapt the new competitive market. Obviously, the adaptation wasextremely difficult, and these changes needed time. Historians thinkthat period of Russian economical instability was even more difficultand more protracted than the Great Depression in the United Stateswhich paralyzed world capitalism in 1929. Russia returned to timesof the end and consequence of the First World War, the fall ofRussian Empire, and the Russian Civil War. We can see a bigdifference. In 1980, Soviet Union had had problems with supplyshortages, but in the 1990s, at the end of the USSR, when manyproducts were imported into the country, Russians could not affordmost of these products. Stores were empty during 80s, but in 90s theyhad a lot of different good which no one could afford to buy.
Oneof the biggest problem which appeared after economic reforms was theincreasing level of poverty and inequality, and it was growing toofast. Statistic shows that only 1.5 percent of Soviet citizens livedin poverty in 1988, but at the end of 1993, around 40-50 percent ofpeople was in poverty. The income had fallen from $72 to $32 percapita, but at the beginning of 2004, the average has increased from$32 to more than $100.
We should say that the biggest part isdistributed in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Russia has one of thebiggest disparity in income in the world. Theconstitution, which was established in 1993, gives too many andstrong powers to the Russian President. Sometimes, people compareRussia’s presidency with Charles de Gaulle in the French FifthRepublic Everyone knows about the authority and rights which RussianPresident has. He can issue decrees and directives that have theforce of law without legislative review, but they should notcontradict that document or other previous laws.
The President has apower to make so many appointments of key officials. The winnershould get more than 50% of the votes cast. If no one gets more than50% of all votes, two candidates who got more votes than others aregoing to face each other in a run-off election. A the beginning,presidents had only four years term and could only be re-electedonce, so they can not serve the third term.
In 2008, the newamendment was passed that made 6 years term instead of 4 years. StateDuma is the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly. It has morepower because all bills should go through the Duma first.
State Dumareminds me the House of Representatives in the United States.However, the Duma’s power to force the resignation of the Governmentis severely limited. It may express a vote of no confidence in theGovernment by a majority vote of all members of the Duma, but thePresident of Russia has a power to disregard this vote. There are 450members in Duma, they are called deputies. At the beginning, seats inthe Duma were elected half by proportional representation with atleast 5% of votes to get a seat in Duma; the other half of them waselected by single member districts. However, in 2007, the PresidentVladimir Putin passed a decree that seats should be elected byproportional representation with at least 7% of the vote to get seatsin the Duma, this percentage is one of the highest in Europe. Byaccepting this decree, Vladimir Putin separated independent partiesand made it impossible to take any seats in the Duma.
Now, deputiesare elected for a term of five years, but under the originalconstitution in 1993, elections were held every four years. So, halfof the seats are elected by proportional representation from closedparty lists with a 5% electoral threshold with the whole country as asingle constituency. The other seats are elected in single-memberconstituencies using the first-past-the-post system. Inthe Russian Federal Assembly, the upper house is the FederationCouncil. The analogy is the United States Senate. There are 170members, who are called senators, in The Council. Each of the 85federal subjects of Russia has two senators who are in the Council.One of them is elected by the provincial legislature.
The secondsenator is chosen by the provincial governor and should be confirmedby the legislature branch. Terms to the Council are determinedaccording to the regional bodies the senators represent as a resultof the territorial nature of the upper house. Thereare nineteen judges in The Constitutional Court of the RussianFederation. In The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation,there is Chairman and Deputy Chairman. The President appoints judgeswith the consent of the Federation Council. The Constitutional Courtis limited subject matter jurisdiction. The constitution gives powersto the Constitutional Court to solve disputes between the executiveand legislative branches in Russia and between the capital of Russia,Moscow, and the regional and local governments. Moreover, theConstitutional Court also has power decide violations ofconstitutional rights, to examine appeals from various bodies, and toparticipate in impeachment proceedings against the President.
According to the constitution the judiciary branch of government isindependent, but most observers and politicians believe that thecourt, the police and prosecution authorities are under control ofthe Kremlin and more specifically under control of Vladimir Putin. Putinwas the President of Russia 3 times: from 2000 to 2004, from 2004 to2008, and from 2012 to present. For three months in 1999, Putin was aprime minister of Russia. Later, in 2008, he was a prime ministeragain for 4 years, while Dmitry Medvedev was the President of thecountry. Putin has been a member of the Unity Party and the UnitedRussia party. Today, politicians and journalists call his ideologyand aims “Putinism”.
At the same time, we should say thatPutin has high domestic approval ratings in Russia, specially today.Russian politician Boris Nemtsov defined “Putinism” in Russia as”a one party system, censorship, a puppet parliament, ending ofan independent judiciary, firm centralization of power and finances,and hypertrophied role of special services and bureaucracy, inparticular in relation to business”. Middle class in Russia isnot strong nowadays if we compare it to the European middle class.In Russia, it does not show political activism under Putin’s regime.In December 2007, the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman criticized thePutin regime as “the power of bureaucratic oligarchy”; hebelieves that Russia is under the right-wing dictatorship – thedominance of state-monopoly capital in the economy, “siloviki” (this word is usedfor people who came to politics from the different security ormilitary services such KGB, FSB, etc)rule and establish the governance and stop any progress in thecountry. BorisYeltsin was elected in 1991. He became the first President of thepost-soviet Russia. At that time, Vladimir Putin was his hand-pickedsuccessor.
In May 2000, Vladimir Putin was elected for his firstterm. Later, he was elected for a second term in March 2004.According to the Russian constitution, he could not be elected forthe third term.
In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev, who was a First DeputyPrime Minister, was elected . With the approval of the Duma, aPresident can appoint someone to be a Prime Minister. The role ofPrime Minister has been very much under control of the President. Also, Prime Minister can become a President in the case of thePresident’s death or resignation. The next presidential election inRussia are going to happen in March 2018. Obviously, Putin will applyfor it, and he will definitely be elected as the President again. Russian history is difficult and powerful, it shows the rich anddiverse culture which has experience of completely different stages,such as imperialism, communism and capitalism.
Through history,Russia faced many different and difficult problems inside the countryand outside which came from its neighbors. During the early and lastyears of the USSR, Russia suffered many economical and socialinstabilities. However, at the beginning of the new century and afterthe collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian economy improved andstabilized. Russian citizens started finding new jobs and adaptingthe new market, and it helped to build a new culture. We can’t saythat Russia is a democratic state now, Russian political systemsuffers now in terms of its democratic institutions, it is drowned bycorruption, and massively affected by the power and personal cult ofthe Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
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