RUSSIA TODAY / Vol. 76, No. 1 (Spring 2009)
Arien Mack, Editor
The article presents information on scholars who have been imprisoned for their political beliefs and actions. Political science professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn of Chulalongkorn University has been charged for defaming the throne of Thailand in his book "A Coup for the Rich: Thailand's Political Crisis," causing him to flee Thailand for Great Britain. Human rights advocate Liu Xiaobo was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power through a petition calling for political reform in China. Doctors Kamiar and Arash Alaei has been sentenced to six years in Iranian prison.
In keeping with our policy to publish recurring issues on places in the world undergoing or recently having undergone marked changes, this issue looks at current aspects of the Russian state and society during a period of many deep, systemic changes.
The article looks at the reasons for the failure of democracy and the success of market reform in Russia. Democracy and policy making in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union are compared in the context of a revolutionized market economy. The author considers the contradictory nature of having a country which is simultaneously becoming increasingly authoritarian and wealthier. Several charts are presented which compare Ukraine, Russia, and Poland from 1991 to 2007 in terms of the share of gross domestic product attributed to private businesses as well as the status of political and civil rights.
A new narrative has come to dominate visions of business-state relations in Putin's Russia. This view depicts the rise of Russia as a natural resource state bent on using its oil, gas and mineral riches to restore Russia's place in the world and to ensure high levels of economic growth for the population at large.
The article looks at the effects of the 2008 global economic crisis on Russia. The falling stock prices of Gazprom, the largest company in Russia, are mentioned. The economic growth of Russia between 1999 and 2008 is discussed, noting the influence of petroleum exports on the country's gross domestic product. The foreign direct investment in Russia during this time is reviewed in the context of globalization. The false assumption by Russian president Vladimir Putin that the country had transformed into a market economy as a result of foreign direct investment is discussed.
The article looks at patriotism in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The influence of warfare on Russia's national memory is mentioned. Conspiracy theories on traumatic events in Russia are seen as the result of citizens being unable to convincingly explain personal and collective losses. Moral presumptions necessary to justify new national decisions such as the transition to capitalist economic orders are considered. The author comments on the patriotic views of several different groups in Russia, including communists, anti globalists, and various religious groups.
The article looks at former Russian president Vladimir Putin. His time as prime minister with the newly elected president Dmitri Medvedev is discussed. The leadership behind Russia's involvement in Georgia's attack on South Ossetia is reviewed. The effects of the 2008 global financial crisis on the Russian economy and Putin's political power are reviewed. The Russian government has made several attempts to distinguish the presidencies of Boris Yeltsin and Putin. The author discusses Russia's foreign policy during Putin's presidency.
The article looks at Vladimir Putin's reign as president of Russia between 2000 and 2008. National concerns over Russia degrading into a second or third world country while under Putin's control are reviewed. The relationship and similarities between Putin and his presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev, are discussed. The author considers in which ways Putin's presidency was successful in addressing the main concerns of its citizens. Biographical background on Putin is presented, including his childhood, education at Leningrad State University, and service in the Soviet Union's KGB.
The article looks at privatization in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The expansion of the private sector in Russia is discussed. Issues regarding distributive justice in capitalist practices are reviewed. The acquisition of controlling stakes in major Russian companies by the Russian government is discussed, mentioning the petroleum company Gazprom and the influence of market conditions on oil prices. The author compares the economic conditions of Russia during the presidency of Vladimir Putin to those during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev.
The article looks at higher education in Russia as a social institution. Political, economic, and social factors influencing the development of higher education are reviewed. The relative weakness of market mechanisms in the national economy of Russia is discussed, noting the planned economy principles applied to all levels of education in the Soviet Union. Attempts by universities to achieve autonomy from state bureaucracies have been a consistent aspect of higher education in Russia since the 18th century.
The article looks at the the regional developments of Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, focusing on how territories have become fragmented. Implications for the political and economic futures of the country are considered. The center-regional dynamics and hyper-federalism of Russia during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin provides a context for the regional reform agenda of Vladimir Putin's presidency. The local government reforms and federalism of Putin are detailed. The author also comments on the implications of post-communist federal developments on Russia's social and economic cohesion.
The article looks at the modernization of Russia, focusing on the effects of informal networks. "Blat," a Russian term for the use of personal networks to obtain goods and services without going through formal channels, is discussed. The influences of corruption in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 are considered. The author comments on how blat networks are used as an informal alternative to currency where favors are exchanged. Sociological implications of blat are reviewed, noting that it is often unclear whether the practice is a function of friendship or an exploitation of it.
The article looks at the status of the Russian Orthodox Church from 2000 to 2008, focusing on its relationship with the Russian government. Social developments within the Church are discussed. The religious identification of members of the Russian Orthodox Church is reviewed, noting that many do not consider themselves to be Christians. The author reviews the hierarchical structure of the Russian Orthodox Church. The legal implementation and formalization of the concentration of property and power within the Church are discussed.
The article looks at the Muslim population of post-Soviet Russia. The two main areas within the Russian Muslim community are Tataro-Bashkir and the North Caucasus. The author notes that Muslims are a majority in seven territories of the Russian Federation, including Tatarstan, Dagestan, and Bashkortostan. The religious consciousness of Russian Muslims is discussed, presenting surveys on their feelings of belonging to Islam. The number of mosques in Russia is also reviewed, estimating that between 1,800 and 3,000 mosques have been opened in Dagestan alone.
The article looks at the Gothic society of post-Soviet Russia, focusing on the historical national memory. The influence of Soviet corruption and crimes on contemporary Russian society is discussed. Public opinion towards the legacy of Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin is reviewed, noting that Russia's Soviet heritage has not been forgotten. The author comments on the detachment of Russian democrats from the the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and its effects on the generations victimized by its economic policies.