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A 29 Pages Term Paper on " Examining democracy in Post-Communist Russia"


        Moscow within the last decade has become the world’s most dynamic capitals from one of the world's most languid metropolis. Empty state held stores have been re-established as dazzling shopping centers and boutiques packed with products from all over the globe. Posters and political dictums have all been removed from billboards and other conspicuous places; these are now replaced by vibrantly colored advertisements. Tourism industry has been reactivated; planes coming in and departing out of Moscow now are now carrying more and more tourists. Newly constructed buildings are spread throughout the city. Garbage piles have been discarded like the abandonment of communism of Russia's Soviet past.

However, these transformations have come at high human price. The fiscal alterations that formed the new wealthy have created a vast and brand new underprivileged class. Beggars and dispossessed people are common sights in the cities, and many descent from the past Soviet white collar group. A large number of expatriates now live in Russia, some from Chechnya and others escaping to avoid wars in adjacent countries. Street offenses, abduction, killings, and even violence which was never a feature this society are now every day norms of life in Russia. The environment of the new Russia is a subject matter of discussions for all who are or were related to Russia in any way, or are otherwise interested with it. Even now, there is little concurrence on what the disintegration of the USSR means for the future of Russia and for the West.

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In retrospect, the fall of the Soviet Union may be the weightiest occurrence of the last half of the twentieth century. A nation occupying one sixth of the earth's area yielded fifteen new states almost overnight. The downfall of the USSR also entailed no confidence in the communist system its political institutions, monetary system, and communal values. Few observers were ready for the pace with which this occurred, or for the enormity of the changes that it would create.

Analysis of Democracy in Post-Communist Russia

     It is generally acknowledged that Russia is not a democratic state and will continue as such forever. But, it is also not accused of being an autocratic. The efforts are applauded in goodwill of attaining the democratization of the state.  However, no one considers that this will be done.  The impotence of Russians to build a democracy is regretted and a citizens society is expressed a hope that the political maturity will be able to attain true democracy soon. In the mid of the nineties, one of the Russian theorist wrote:  “Today, it is obvious almost for all that the Russia is undergoing the transition period, aimed at the transformation of totalitarianism with his whole set of institutions, structures and relations into the new political system. It is not clear however, which road will be chosen effectively by the Russia: authoritarianism or a liberal democracy, a fürerianism or a parliamentary, a neo-totalitarianism or republicanism?" (Gadziyev, 1994)

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     Russia is simultaneously a very old state and a new one. As much as this state is heir to both the USSR and the Russian empire, its present borders are new ones. This has complexed the assignment of building a new state and establishing a new national identity, just as the Russians attempt to carry on old customs and acquire new values. The Constitution of 1993 has shaped an official basis for the performance of various political institutions. Regrettably, the knowledge of the constitutional legal pattern doesn't signify the knowledge and understanding of how these institutions are operating in real life and what is the actual political progress in Russia. Undoubtedly, the official legal model of political life in Western countries also significantly varies from the actual route of life. Nonetheless, this dissimilarity isn't of principal nature in the West, and the political course there can be examined on the basis of and proceeding from the legal institutional pattern of society.

     However, in Russia the gap between the political structure visualized by the Constitution and the actual political system is vast, there is a basic differentiation between them. In other words, the Russian official institutional system is a masquerading the actual system of authority. On the other hand, this is not only a typical characteristic of today’s post-communist Russia; it was the same in the USSR and the undemocratic period. The events of the previous years have revealed how steady and consistent this practice is. The first Russian Constitution by Nikolai II in 1906 was repeated and continued in many respects by the new Constitution adopted in 1993. This than established historical and legal continuity of two Russia’s, the pre and post communist. At the same time, the adoption of the 1993 Constitution meant a radical collapse of the political regime of the Soviet Union.

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     Undeniably, the legal constitutional and institutional system in modern day Russia is markedly distinct from the one that dominated in the state throughout the most part of the 20th century. Yet, the 1993 Constitution based on the ideology of the rule of Law, human privileges and splitting up of power and the previous Soviet Constitution of 1977 has one amazing resemblance. And from a specific point of observation, this resemblance is much more significant than all marvelous dissimilarities amid the communist and post-communist constitutional guidelines. The fact is that the both Constitutions (of 1977 and 1993) have almost nothing to say about those government institutions that bear a crucial responsibility in the government organization.

     Leaders of Russia and general public have experienced that it is hard to increase their bearings in this fast shifting new age. The political institutions of the country have been altered. Russia is a partly shaped democracy; its citizens go to the census frequently to vote for their president, national legislators, governors, and domestic legislators. ?

     The old Soviet command of financial system has been devastated, but the changeover to a market economy has been a uneven and incomplete one. Privatization is apparently permanent, but as long as the undeveloped market economy that has been created remains stagnant, the environment and schedule of Russia's economic revival stay uncertain. The unfinished environment of Russia's political and economic revolution has convoluted the problem of producing political faithfulness, keeping alive a nationwide political argument over just whom the Russian political state is proposed to serve. The present environment works to the benefit of those who hold radical political views, be they supporters of independence or communists. Some would like to see Russia break up or disperse, while others are homesick for an imperial past. Yet more and more people are starting to become conscious that neither by approval nor by power can Russia attract other Soviet descendant states and reconstruct the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire cannot be brought around, but Russia will persist to force adjoining previous Soviet republics more than it is actually required. (Åslund, Martha)

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     Russia has turn out to be a nation in which elections are frequent and in which voter contribution is relatively high. A worrying irregularity, then again, is that these elections have fetched little substitute of the authority of privileged from the Soviet period, neither at the central nor at the local ranks. Recurrent elections have not enthused the expansion of a multi party scheme, as it is representative in other states going through the transition to democracy. Possibly most grave concern is that the elections have not turn out to be more clear and honest over the period of time. Certainly, elections in Russia were in some ways less free and fair in 1996 than they were in 1991. At the same occasion, there is a mounting propensity amid the communist time elite to take elections seriously. There are many affirmative tendencies: the election laws have become firmer and enforcement has improved; the nomination and ballot counting measures have become simpler; and the number of competitors per seat is increasing. Consequently, we can carefully conclude that a conversion of the political system has certainly taken place.

     The growth of public nationalism in Russia is complicated by persistent things of the Soviet practice of supporting political privileges not on persons but on racial assemblage. In the USSR, the salience of ethnic individuality was toughened by the allotment of certain terrains to specific racial groups based on comparatively precise historical claims. Throughout the Soviet disintegration, ethnic individuality served as a powerful public meeting tool, providing local elites gigantic influence in their fight with the center. Russia is the only post Soviet nation organized as a federation, but it even now cope with significant challenges in defining the relationship among the several constituents of that federation, and the war in Chechnya was an exceptionally atrocious display of these problems. Russia has made progress in enhancing the significance of citizenship over ethnicity, which builds some grounds for optimism that interethnic antagonisms may curtail over the period.

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     It is the general belief that the initial reforms were too radical, indicating that Russia endures not from unbridled capitalism but from unnecessary state intervention that hinders economic revival. Even though the privatization of state assets, for a lot of Russians, has come to symbolize corruption. The fortunes were not prepared on formal privatization but on government regulations and subsidies, as the first economic reformers lost out to those who sought to make money on market distortions and government subsidies. Even though the reformers made some progress, the structural modification they pioneered were never sufficient, a drawback brought home forcefully by the financial downfall of 1998. It was observed that major defects in the present economic system that the state attempts to finance more than it can afford, that it is unable to accomplish all social commitments, and that arbitrary and intrusive state regulation inhibit the market from executing as well as it could. Altogether these features are evidences of a powerless state.

     Russian military and political strategists have substantial trouble sketching out how to work with the new states that are their immediate neighbors. They suggest a number of explanations for these dilemmas, in addition to the lingering paternalism of Soviet domestic policy, the want for some forum in which Russia can exhibit its claims to be a great power, and the doubt about Russia's objectives in foreign policy. The most grave problem is the ongoing confidence of Russia's leaders that their state is or should once more become a great power, a confidence left unfulfilled by Russia's present weakness. A likelihood of military adventurism surfacing from the desire for great-power recognition still survives, but the degree of the decline of Russia's military makes this improbable. The enhanced threat is Russia's persistent preoccupation with its status and its effort to employ its relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to strengthen its own perceived picture as a great power. While Russia hangs on to its ancient insights, its neighborhood is changing rapidly and decisively. Ever more, weak CIS states; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Armenia, cling to Russia for support, but stronger neighbors, such as Uzbekistan and Ukraine, are forging new regional identities and orientations that make their standing as former Soviet states ever more extraneous. (Sherman Garnett and Dmitri Trenin)

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Creation and Role of Structural Institutions

     In 1993 the constitution was approved by a mass of voting, and most key political forces agreed to abide by its provisions. The constitution provided for a strong presidency, but with fundamentals of a parliamentary system as well. The president designated the head of government, but parliament's affirmation of the appointment was mandatory. Likewise parliament could reject the government its confidence, forcing the president to opt between naming a new government or calling new parliamentary elections. Parliament could commence impeachment proceedings but the president lacked the power to call a referendum. Nonetheless, the president had the constitutional power to plan policy in the outline of decrees without seeking parliamentary agreement, so long as these did not contradict either federal law or the constitution. A constitutional scheme with a definite presidential tilt, but by no way so one-sided as many observers believed.  The Federal Assembly, nonetheless, bestowed for two chambers with different numbers of seats, different means of election, and without a mutual leadership or executive committee. The lower or popular chamber, the State Duma, consisted of 450 seats. Half of the seats were filled in territorial single member district races by plurality vote. The other 225 were occupied by proportional representation from competitors elected on party lists, subject to the prerequisite that to obtain any seats a party must win at least 5 percent of the party-list vote.

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     The Federation Council is the upper house and the "subjects of the federation,” is composed of two representatives from each of Russia's eighty-nine territorial constituents, despite of population or territorial status. The transitional provisions governing the 1994-95 parliaments made necessary that the members of the Federation Council be elected in at-large, two-winner races in each subject of the federation. Still, a 1995 law offered that in the future the Federation Council would consist of the heads of the executive and legislative branches of each territorial unit. The conditions of office for members of the Federation Council were thus determined by their terms as elected officials in their home regions. (Steven S. Smith and Thomas F. Remington)

     In several respects the Russian constitutional system adopted in 1993 is a hybrid. As in other semi presidential systems, it coalesces presidential with parliamentary forms of executive power.  A "president parliamentary" system, is deemed intrinsically prone to stalemate and breakdown because the government must answer to both the president and the parliament. A mixed system in its electoral law, both the electoral system decreed into place by President Yeltsin in 1993 and the new law approved by the Duma in 1995 employed a mixed plurality proportional technique of electing deputies to the State Duma. To conclude, the new constitution merges unitary and federal elements. The leaders of the regions are automatically given seats in the upper house of parliament, however the constitution fall shorts to define any reserved sphere of rights for sub central jurisdictions. Russia's situation offers an almost unparalleled laboratory setting, hence, for analyzing the effects of institutional variation on the alternative of new representative structures, while political and social context can be held constant in turn to assess the force of institutionally resolved influences on actors' tactical alternatives.

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The Administration Of President

     A. Chubais is believed to be the architect of the Administration in its present form. In 1996 he created its main goals: the power over executive power bodies, regional policy, construct and maintaining an attractive image of the president and power in general. The aim, prepared by A. Chubais, was to counterbalance an amorphous and form a powerful structure competent of instantaneously reacting in critical situations. The Administration is occasionally labeled as a shadow cabinet, which is not fact. It is and has previously been noted in the second edition of the CPSU Central Committee (CC). The Administration, like of Central Committee, monitors everything but is not accountable for anything at all. As contrast to other prominent Russian institutions, the Administration has a somewhat limited and indirect access to financial sources, as well as the presidential reserve fund, that is practically in the hands of the Administration officials. On the other hand, this weakness is more than compensated by the opportunity of employing real power presidential potentialities for its objective. Deputy Head of the Administration, points out that political guidance is exercised on the government, and especially important is this body decides cadre policy in many aspects. Therefore, the Administration presents to the president nominees for vice-premiers and ministers, irrespective that Article112 of the Constitution offers this right to the Chairman of the Government. Moreover, all the official papers, issued by the government, are revised in the Administration. In this way the CC of the CPSU practice has been completely conserved. It is worth mentioning that the work on the preparation of the budget has been lately supervised by the Administration. (Yuri Pivovarov)

The Federal Assembly

     The federal assembly is the legislative organization and consists of two houses the Federation Council and Duma. During 1995, the parties to the legislative process: the State Duma, the Federation Council and the President, debated about the interpretation of this provision. The concerns were whether the Federation Council should be formed through direct elections, or through delegation of officials from government organizations or ex-officio, that is, automatically. The argument concluded with the adoption of a laconic law consisting of four articles that stipulated the "automatic" mechanism for the formation of the Upper House.

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The Federation Council

     The upper chamber of the Federal Assembly called ‘The Federation Council’ is the parliament of the Russian Federation, first elected on December 12, 1993 alongside the adoption of the new Constitution. In accordance with the Federal Law "On the Formation of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation" which came into being on December 13,1995, and the current Federation Council was formed on January 23, 1996, ex officio from the chairman of the parliament and the chief executive of each of the 89 regions of Russia. The term of the chamber as a whole is not bounded, rather, the term of each member depends on his or her individual term in local government. It has developed into a routine to suggest to the Federation Council as the "Senate", and to call its members "senators".

Powers Of Federation Council

  • Removal of the President of the Russian Federation from his post (2/3 majority required)
  • Appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Supreme Court of Arbitration, of the Russian Federation; confirmation of members of the Presidium of the Supreme Court;
  • Appointment and removal of the Procurator-General of the Russian Federation, and appointment of deputy Procurators-General;
  • Appointment of two representatives of the Federation Council to the National Banking Council;
  • Appointment and removal of the deputy chairman of the Accounts Chamber and half of its auditors;
  • Appointment of five of the 15 members of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation;
  • Appointment of representatives of the Federation Council to the Presidential Council on Questions of State Service
  • Appointment of one of the 15 members of the Collegiums of the Federal Commission on the Bonds Market.
  • Approval of changes of borders between subjects of the federation;
  • Approval of a presidential decree on the introduction of martial law;
  • Approval of a presidential decree on the declaration of a state of emergency;
  • Resolution of the question of the possibility of the use of the armed forces outside the territory of the Russian Federation;
  • Scheduling of presidential elections.
  • Articles 105 and 106 of the Constitution stipulate the role of the Federation Council in the law-making process. The Federation Council approves federal laws (adopted by the State Duma) by a simple majority vote. Laws, which have not been considered by the Federation Council within 14 days, are deemed approved automatically. However, automatic approval may not apply to any laws relating to the federal budget, federal taxes and charges; financial, currency, credit and customs regulations; money supply; ratification and denunciation of international treaties of the Russian Federation; the status and protection of the state border of the Russian Federation; and to matters of war and peace.
  • The laws, rejected by the President have to be approved by two-thirds. After adopting by two-thirds of the State Duma
  • Federal constitutional laws have to be approved by three-quarters.

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The Duma

     In the parliament of the Russian Federation, the State Duma is the lower house of the Federal Assembly. The first State Duma was nominated on December 12, 1993 simultaneously with the adoption of the new Constitution in a national referendum. Informally it was also known as the "5th State Duma”, if one counts the first four, which existed between 1906 and 1917 and the first Duma was elected for a transitional period of two years. The second State Duma was elected on December 17, 1995. The Constitution adjusts the size of the State Duma at 450 deputies and its term at four years. The President can dissolve the Duma before its term in certain cases and under procedures stipulated by the Constitution. Any citizen of the Russian Federation aged 21 or over and having the right to take part in elections may be elected a Deputy of the State Duma. A State Duma Deputy may not at the same time be a member of the Federation Council, a deputy of neither other representative bodies of federal or local government nor a public servant. He or she may not engage in any other type of activity.

Powers of Duma

  • Consenting to the President of the Russian Federation's appointment of the chairman of the government (Prime Minister) of the Russian Federation
  • Motions of confidence in the government of the Russian Federation;
  • Appointment and dismissal of the Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation;
  • Appointment and dismissal of the Chairman of the Accounting Chamber and one-half of its staff of auditors (the rest are appointed by the Federation Council);
  • Appointment and dismissal of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, acting in accordance with federal constitutional law;
  • Granting amnesties;
  • Bringing charges against the President of the Russian Federation for purposes of impeachment;
  • Appointment of five out of the 15 members of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation.
  • Appointment of the members of the Central Bank Board of Directors (12 persons for a period of four years); two representatives of the State Duma to the National Banking Council (NBC) and other NBC members (up to six persons to be submitted by the Central Bank chairman);
  • Appointment of representatives of the State Duma to the Council for Public Service presided over by the President of the Russian Federation;
  • In accordance with Article 105 of the Constitution, the State Duma adopts federal laws and federal constitutional laws into law, which become effective after they have been endorsed by the Federation Council, signed by the President and published. A simple majority adopts federal laws.
  • The Duma needs the support of two-thirds of the house, 300 votes, to overrule a veto imposed by the Federation Council or the President (for a law rejected by either side to become effective, the Duma needs the consent of both sides: two-thirds of the Duma plus two-thirds of the Federation Council, or two-thirds of the Duma plus the President).
  • Federal constitutional laws are passed by two-thirds of the Duma and three-fourths of the Federation Council.

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The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation

     The current Judicial structure of the Russian Federation was created and ever since it developed as a result of a judicial renovation carried out in Russia from the early 90s with the purpose to put together and keep hold of the judicial authority in the state apparatus as an autonomous branch of supremacy, free of political and ideological prejudice, independent in its actions from the decision-making and governmental institutions of influence.

overeign, proficient law court is an major constituent of a self-governing state supported on a rule of law. The Constitution of the Russian Federation of 1993 turns out to be the most important lawful basis for the beginning of the judicial reorganization. This was the first occasion when the Constitution consisted of a chapter named  “Judicial Power” according to which the state control in the Russian Federation should be worked out on the foundation of its division into legislative, administrative and judicial authority, and all these branches of power should be self-governing.

     The configuration of the judicial organization of the Russian Federation and the area of activities of its different parts are determined by the Constitution and federal constitutional laws (paragraph 3 Article 118 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation).

The judicial organization of the Russian Federation consists of:

- The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and constitutional courts of the republics and other subjects of the Russian Federation.

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- four-tiered system of courts of general jurisdiction. Three-tiered system of the military courts is an integral part of it . The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is the supreme judicial body of this branch;

- Three-level system of arbitration courts with the Higher Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation as a supreme judicial body capable to resolve financial arguments and other cases considered by arbitration courts, exercise judicial management over their actions according to the federal law envisaged technical forms. The system of the arbitration courts comprises: arbitration courts of the subjects of the Russian Federation; courts of arbitration districts and the Higher Arbitration Court.

     The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is the highest judicial body for social, criminal, governmental and other cases under the power of courts of broad jurisdiction, carries out judicial supervision over their activities according to the federal law envisaged procedural forms and provides clarifications on the subjects of court procedures (Article 126 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation). It heads the judicial system of general jurisdiction, on behalf of a supreme tier of this system.

     The Supreme Court of Russian Federation has the right of the lawmaking initiative. It acts as a court of first instance for cases of particular significance or special public attention when it acknowledges them for deliberation according to the legislation. The law determines a category of cases which are included in the area of activities of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation as a court of first instance.

Constitutional Court Of The Russian Federation

     The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation is the first judicial body of constitutional review in the history of Russia. The Court was created by the Fifth (extraordinary) Congress of Peoples’ Deputies of the RSFSR on 30 October 1991. The Court comprising 15 justices had been anticipated by the amendments to the 1978 Constitution and the Law “On the RSFSR Constitutional Court” adopted on the basis of the amendments to the Constitution. The Constitutional Court began its activities in December 1991.

     In its very first judgments, the Constitutional Court established the preeminence of international human rights law, which it applied to authenticate primary rights including definite legal protection of rights and freedoms, the right to be sheltered against unfairness, each individual’s right to have and dispose of private property, the right of free admission to information from the government, etc.

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     Several pronouncements have been taken with regard to the sharing of powers between the federal authorities and many others with regard to the position of the component bodies of the Russian Federation. The case on the confirmation of the constitutionality of the acts liquidating the USSR Communist Party and the RSFSR Communist Party, as well as the constitutionality of the parties themselves, has been a substance of immense community attention.

     The implementation of the present Constitution of the Russian Federation by referendum in December 1993 marked the commencement of a new phase in the progress of the constitutional proceedings. The Federal Constitutional Law “On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation” was assumed in the summer of 1994. The Law has significantly changed the Court’s authority and its procedures.

     In accordance with the standard of division of authority, the Constitutional Court, along with all the other judicial bodies, comprises the third branch of administration, which is autonomous from the other two branches lawmaking and managerial, and is no longer secondary to them. At the same time, its legal status is differentiated by a number of peculiarities: The Constitutional Court stays separate from the common court organization and does not accomplish the purpose of either the court of cassation, the court of appeal, or the court of review in relation to the courts of general jurisdiction. It decides cases exclusively on the basis of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The Court confines its contemplation to matters of law, it abstains from examination of the facts whenever such activity falls within the capability of another court or another authority. The Court does not judge political cases. The Court institutes its own Rules of Procedure for judicial proceedings.

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     The Constitutional Court judges and rules cases in plenary sessions and in sessions of chambers. The Court comprises of two chambers containing nine and ten justices respectively. The judgments of plenary sessions and sessions of chambers have equivalent legal power. The judgments are final and cannot be appealed. The requirements stated to be unconstitutional and believed to be de facto null and void, since the Constitutional Court’s decisions require no further substantiation by any other bodies.

     The Constitutional Court has developed to be the true shielding body of citizens’ rights within the Russian Federation court system. More than ten thousand petitions are filed with the Constitutional Court per annum.  The Court, in its assessment, has many times referred to the safety of the legitimate rights such as: the right to a fair trial, the right to be protected against accusation and judicial mistakes, the right to vote, the right to strike, the right for social security for elderly citizens, freedom of movement within the country and traveling abroad, the right for dual citizenship, the right to be protected against environmental disasters, holiness of a person, rights to personal property and freedom of inheritance.

     In its activities, the Constitutional Court depends on the provisions of international human rights law. This presents an opportunity to put into practice the self-governing regulations and principles acknowledged by the European and world community while deciding cases on the basis of the Constitution. Such an approach is predominantly significant in association with the recent succession of Russia to the Council of Europe, which has also given Russian citizens the chance to seek security of their legitimate rights and freedoms also in the European Court of Human Rights.

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     The status of the Constitutional Court as the judicial body of constitutional appraisal is well recognized. The persuasive evidence is the adoption of the Russian Constitutional Court as the full member of the European Conference of the Constitutional Courts in May 1996.



     Russia Transformed. The gloomy conclusion is that, regardless of political and economic liberalization and privatization, Russia has experienced no substantial growth in the sector beyond the government control. To some extent, this has been the outcome of a calculated attempt by those in authority to maintain as much control of society as possible this disturbing on two counts. First, the near symbiosis between government and business has led to the failure of most elite members to distinguish between the national interest and their own. Second, the more the government interferes, the weaker it grows as demonstrated by its inability to control crime, collect revenues, maintain public order, mount an effective military, and ensure that its authority is respected in the periphery. Although they consider these tendencies a distinct threat to the future of democracy in Russia, these developments have partly democratic roots, insofar as there are efforts by the elite to respond to the wishes of the electorate, which favors stability after a period of extreme volatility. To date both the elite and the population have been self-restraining. The people have been battered by economic losses, deteriorating public order, reduced international prestige of their state, and fear of interethnic conflict. Nonetheless, they appear to prefer the present system, whatever its faults, to uncertainty.

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Works Cited

Gadziyev, K.S., (1994), O perspektivach demokratitczeskoy gosudarstvennosti w Rossiyi Politiczeskiye issledovaniya,

Anders Åslund, Martha Brill Olcott. Russia After Communism.

Sherman Garnett, Dmitri Trenin. Russia and Its Nearest Neighbors

Steven Smith, Thomas Remington. The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma, Princeton University Press

Yuri Pivovarov. Power Institutions In Post-Communist Russia


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