In Current Illiberal Cycle, Being an Autocrat like Putin is Fashionable, Albats Says

Putin Descending a Staircase

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 5, 2018) During the 1970s and 1980s, much of the world was in a liberal cycle with ever more countries being democratic and free; but now, it is in an illiberal one with ever more countries become less democratic and less free, according to Yevgeniya Albats, the editor of The New […]

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Why Ekaterinburg needs a directly elected mayor; One of Russia’s biggest cities is losing the right to elect its mayor. The position may be symbolic, but so is its loss.

Yekaterinburg file photo

(opendemocracy.net – Dmitry Kolezev – April 5, 2018) Dmitry Kolezev is deputy editor of Znak.com. He lives in Ekaterinburg. [opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-kolezev/why-ekaterinburg-needs-a-directly-elected-mayor] At the beginning of this week, several thousand residents of Ekaterinburg attended a demonstration against plans to cancel elections for the position of city mayor. People held placards bearing democratic slogans. Prominent city residents spoke from the stage, including the […]

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NEWSLINK: “Direct mayoral elections are abolished in Yekaterinburg” – Meduza

Yekaterinburg file photo

“A day after a protest in the capital, legislators in the Sverdlovsk regional parliament adopted a third and final reading of a law that abolishes the direct election of Yekaterinburg’s mayor. … Instead of the popular vote, Yekaterinburg’s mayor will now be selected by city deputies from a list of candidates determined by a ‘competition committee.’ …”

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NEWSWATCH: “The Real Drama in Russia’s Election: How Many Voters Will Show Up? Putin is poised to win another term as president, and efforts to boost turnout recall Soviet-era elections” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove

Russia Regions Map

“… the challenge for the Kremlin [is] not how to assure [Putin’s] victory … but how to boost voter turnout and legitimize an uncompetitive election. … in the northern Yamal-Nenets region … residents of voting age will be able to take their pictures against an election banner at a voting booth and post it on VKontakte, one of Russia’s most […]

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Russia’s elections: the rise and fall of “dramaturgiya;” The Kremlin is used to scripting election campaigns to the minute. But the 2018 election shows how they’re losing control.

Kremlin and River

(opendemocracy.net – Andrew Wilson – March 9, 2018 – opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrew-wilson/russias-elections-the-rise-and-fall-of-dramaturgiya) Andrew Wilson is Professor in Ukrainian Studies at University College London. His most recent book Ukraine Crisis: What the West Needs to Know was published by Yale University Press in 2014. Russian elections used to be all about dramaturgiya, meaning an artificial and carefully-scripted drama. Elections may not have had […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What Another Six Years of Putin Spells for Russia’s Economy; No level of debt-fueled spending can overcome the stagnation caused by the state’s continued domination of the economy” – Eurasianet/David Szakonyi

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“… Officials are taking no chances to ensure turnout isn’t embarrassingly low, however, mobilizing students and workers, plastering the regions with pro-Putin materials, and seemingly handpicking the other candidates allowed to run. There are many consequences to holding stage-managed elections. Clearly they are a violation of basic political rights. … [and] the Russian presidential campaign offers nearly zero discussions of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Event Recap: Post-Soviet Political Theater” – NYU Jordan Center/ Ben Dalton

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

“In many post-Soviet countries, a hybrid regime has emerged that is neither full democracy nor pure authoritarianism. Sometimes called ‘competitive authoritarian regimes’ or ‘unconsolidated democracies,’ these governments adopt the trapping of democracies – elections, public debates, opposition parties – but in most cases electoral outcomes are preordained, and everyone knows where the real power lies. Perhaps the best example is […]

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Russia Lacks Basic Preconditions for Democracy, Inozemtsev Says

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 27, 2018) This week, as Russia enters yet another pseudo-electoral campaign, two Moscow newspapers, Yezhednevny zhurnal and Novyye izvestiya have taken the highly unusual step of publishing an October 2015 address by Vladislav Inozemtsev on why Russia has never been, is not and won’t likely ever become a democracy. The speech, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How to Monitor Russia’s Next Election” – Moscow Times/Grigory Melkonyants (Golos)

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

  “… The country, the composition of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) and electoral laws have all changed. … changing the rules ahead of every federal election has become something of a tradition in Russia. Golos has calculated that the authorities introduced 15 amendments to presidential election legislation between 2012 and 2017. In total, 59 out of the law’s 87 […]

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The symbolic meaning of the presidential elections for Russian liberals; The Sobchak and Navalny campaigns are two very different options for the future of Russia’s democratic movement.

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(opendemocracy.net – Alexander Kynev – February 6, 2018) Alexander Kynev is a Russian political scientist. This article originally appeared on Republic in Russian. On the pages of Vedomosti, I recently analysed the electoral options that democratically-oriented voters have under various electoral systems and various pre-electoral choice of candidates. I would now like to draw attention to the long-term strategic consequences […]

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Making The Fake Appear Real

File Photo of Pavel Grudinin in a Farm Field, adapted from wikimedia commons image attributed to user Kelatrat at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pavel_Grudinin.jpg

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – February 5, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-whitmore-fake-real-election-putin/29018912.html) Pro-Kremlin media have been attacking Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin, whose poll numbers have been rising, according to pro-Kremlin pollsters. Kremlin-appointed Electoral Commission chief Ella Pamfilova has reprimanded Kremlin chief of staff Dmitry Peskov for statements that could be interpreted […]

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NEWSWATCH: Kennan Cable No. 30: Democracy in Ukraine: Are We There Yet? [Excerpt]

Column in Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Matthew Rojansky, Mikhail Minakov – January 30, 2018) Rojansky is director of the Kennan Institute. Mikhail (Mykhailo) Minakov is the editor-in-chief of Focus Ukraine, [the] Kennan Institute’s Ukraine-focused blog. [Full text: wilsoncenter.org/publication/kennan-cable-no-30-democracy-ukraine-are-we-there-yet] Introduction More than a quarter century ago, the Ukrainian people made a historic choice in favor of independence, democracy, and the free market. […]

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How Likely Is Russian Democratization and Reform?

File Photo of the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, adapted from an image at the Wikimedia Creative Commons, attributed to John Welsh/Welshentag, with conditions on reuse, declaring "This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. You are free: to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work to remix – to adapt the work Under the following conditions: attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one."

(PONARS Eurasia – ponarseurasia.org – Henry Hale – June 5, 2017) I just got back from a great conference at the University of Helsinki and thought I’d share some of the most striking research findings presented there. Celebrating the conclusion of the fifth year of the Aleksanteri Institute’s Finland Distinguished Professorship held by Vladimir Gel’man, it focused on “Politics and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Beware: The #Russian bear is getting bolder” – Washington Post

Europe Map

… In #NATO member #Hungary, #Russian agents have been fingered for training with a #neoNazi militia; in … #Monte­negro … on the verge of joining the transatlantic alliance, #Moscow is accused of plotting a violent #coup. … In Hungary … [there was] a gunfight … between police and the leader of the National Front movement …. Police … discovered large […]

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Putin Weaponizes Democracy

Europe Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – November 14, 2016) [RFE/RL budget: $108.414 million (FY2016)] Don’t look now but Russia just picked up two more allies in Europe. Don’t look now, but pro-Moscow candidates just won the presidencies of Moldova and Bulgaria. Don’t look now, but Vladimir Putin appears to be on a roll. The Kremlin leader is no democrat. […]

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On Russian studies [and Re: “Opportunities and Constraints of Authoritarian Modernisation: Russian Policy Reforms in the 2000s”]

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

Subject: On Russian studies Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2016 From: Brian D Taylor <bdtaylor@maxwell.syr.edu> Thanks again for all you do with JRL. It’s a very valuable resource. I would like to say, though, that “real Russian studies” are not particularly rare. If you ask social scientists who study Russia, they could point you to many detailed analyses of practically every […]

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Many Fear Real Elections Will Bring Fascism to Russia But Their Absence Helps It Rise, Piontkovsky Says

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, May 21, 2016) Both before the 1917 revolution and since 1991, Russian liberals and their foreign backers have often feared that genuine elections, ones in which the outcome was not determined by those in power who supposedly were committed to reform might lead either to a return to communism or the rise […]

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Fewer Russians Think Political Opposition Exists in Russia – Poll

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 15, 2016) The share of Russians that think there is political opposition in Russia has decreased from 66 to 54 percent over the past year, the Interfax news agency reported Monday, citing a new survey by the independent Levada Center pollster. The findings come six months before parliamentary elections in Russia and reveal that […]

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Legitimized Elections: The Kremlin Plays a New Game

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Peter Hobson – March 11, 2016) There was nothing unusual about the weeks running up to the 2009 Moscow City Duma election. United Russia, the party of power, hogged airtime on television and radio. Opposition candidates were routinely barred from running. Municipal workers ripped other parties’ fliers from the city streets. Maria Zheleznova observed the […]

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Post-Soviet parliamentarian drama: a view from ‘the gods’ in Kiev

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

The political history of Russia’s neighbours can be described in terms of one long conflict between a presidential authoritarian tendency and democratic parliamentarianism. Parliaments are the key. (opendemocracy.net – Mikhail Minakov – February 22, 2016) Mikhail Minakov is Associate Professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and President of the Foundation for Good Politics, Kyiv. He is also director of the Krytyka Institute, […]

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Fukuyama: ‘Putinism,’ Radical Islam No Alternative To Liberal Democracy

Putin Descending a Staircase

(RFE/RL – January 29, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin and the extremist Islamic State group are sworn enemies that might seem to have little in common. But both are engaged in efforts at state building that U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama says share two qualities: each seeks to create a political alternative to a modern liberal democracy, and each is […]

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Moscow Times: Russians Less Keen for Democratic Transfer of Power

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 4, 2015) The number of Russians supporting regular democratic changeovers of political power is at its lowest point in recent history, a poll published Thursday showed, reflecting the popularity of President Vladimir Putin amid the patriotic fervor and increasingly strong rhetoric against foreign enemies surrounding Russian military actions in Ukraine and Syria. Forty-five percent […]

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Russian Justice Ministry Accuses Memorial Of Calling For Regime Change

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – RFE/RL’s Russian Service – November 10, 2015) Russia’s Justice Ministry has accused the prominent nongovernmental organization Memorial of “undermining the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation” and of calling for “a change of political regime” in the country. The ministry sent the Memorial Human Rights Center notification of the accusations on November 9 […]

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Inozemtsev’s Five Reasons Why Russia Unlikely to Become a Democracy Anytime Soon

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Paul Goble – Staunton, October 26, 2015) Democracy is a system which allows the population to “choose and replace their government through free and fair elections,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says. That is something that is not the case in Russia today, and there are five reasons to think it will not be the case anytime soon. In an address to the […]

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BOOK REVIEW: “We are in power; that is democracy”

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – Chris Weafer in Moscow – August 11, 2015) “Boris Yeltsin was able to have a constitution adopted in a referendum that guaranteed him broad powers and an almost complete lack of checks and balances – the first major step toward the poisoning of Russia’s political institutions and guaranteeing the transition to Vladimir Putin”. That […]

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Mokrushyna podcast [re: Ukraine]

Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Subject: Mokrushyna podcast Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2015 17:25:19 -0400 From: Pietro Shakarian <pashakarian@gmail.com> Here is the link to my latest Reconsidering Russia podcast: https://soundcloud.com/pashakarian/reconsidering-russia-podcast-04-an-interview-with-halyna-mokrushyna Guest: Halyna Mokrushyna on democracy in Ukraine today. Dr. Mokrushyna holds a PhD in linguistics and an MA in communication. She is also currently enrolled in the PhD program in sociology at the University of […]

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Interfax: Kremlin: Prohibition of NGOs’ operations in Russia does not mean restriction of access to democratic values

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Interfax – July 29, 2015) The inclusion of one or several non-governmental organizations (NGO) in a list of those whose operations on Russian territory are undesirable does not restrict access of Russian citizens to democratic values, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “It would be absolutely wrong to say that, with the prohibition of this or that organization, Russian citizens would […]

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U.S. embassy in Moscow concerned about NED’s designation as ‘undesirable organization’ in Russia

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

(Interfax – July 28, 2015) The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is concerned about the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office’s decision to designate the U.S. nonprofit organization National Endowment for Democracy (NED) an undesirable foreign organization in Russian territory. “We are deeply concerned about the effect of the so-called law on undesirable organizations,” U.S. embassy spokesperson Will Stevens told Interfax when asked […]

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U.S. National Endowment for Democracy declared unwelcome foreign organization in Russia

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Interfax – July 28, 2015) The United States’ National Endowment for Democracy has been declared an unwelcome foreign organization on Russian territory, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office announced on July 28. “Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Malinovsky signed a resolution declaring the National Endowment for Democracy an unwelcome foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) on Russian territory,” the agency said. The activity […]

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Unlike in Ukraine, a Russian Maidan Would Likely Be Violent and Destructive, Shevtsova Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 10, 2015) “Unfortunately, Russia is different from present-day Ukraine in many ways,” Lilya Shevtsova says; and consequently, if a Maidan does occur there, it is likely to be different as well, violent rather peaceful, destructive rather than constructive, and divisive rather than unifying. In the course of an interview this week […]

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Russia Is Biggest Force Against Democracy In Eurasia, Report Finds

Eurasia Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Patricia Hill and Ron Synovitz – June 23, 2015) Russia saw its biggest loss of democracy in a decade last year, while it and other authoritarian states took aggressive action to block efforts to form new democracies elsewhere in Europe and Eurasia, a new report by Freedom House finds. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves to annex […]

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‘Almost No One in Russia Wanted Real Democracy with Division of Powers,’ Gudkov Says

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 14, 2015) Vladimir Putin and his regime are a logical reflection of the fact that “almost no one [in Russia] wanted a real democracy with division of power and a vital civil society,” according to Levada Center head Lev Gudkov. Consequently, it is possible to say that “Russians have received what […]

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Putin: Russia has no relations with G7 but ready to cooperate with its members bilaterally

File Photo of G7 Leaders and other Officials Around Round Table at the Hague, with Flags

(Interfax – June 10, 2015) Russia currently does not maintain any relationship with the G7, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “We have no relations with the G7, what relations could there be?” Putin told journalists following negotiations with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on June 10. At the same time, “if our partners want it, we will be developing active […]

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TRANSCRIPT: Remarks by President Obama in Press Conference after G7 Summit (excerpts)

File Photo of G7 Leaders and other Officials Around Round Table at the Hague, with Flags

(The White House – Office of the Press Secretary – Elmau Briefing Center, Krün, Germany, June 8, 2015) PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine. We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy. […]

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Ukrainians View the People as Sovereign; Russians Think Putin Is

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 20, 2015) Ukrainians and Russians differ fundamentally in the source of sovereignty in their countries, with Ukrainians, like citizens of Western democracies, viewing the people as sovereign and with the Russians, like the subjects of autocracies of all kinds, assuming that their supreme leader is, according to a new poll. Irina […]

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Russia Cannot Become a Democracy in Its Current Borders, Walesa Says

Russia Regions Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 8, 2015) Just as the notion of a liberal Soviet Union proved to be a contradiction in terms, so too the Russian Federation in its current borders cannot become a democracy, according to Lech Walesa. It must first disintegrate and then some parts of it might be able to come back […]

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NEWSWATCH BBC: Vladimir Putin’s formative German years

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

[“Vladimir Putin’s formative German years” – BBC News – Chris Bowlby – Dresden, March 27, 2015] The BBC covers some of Vladimir Putin’s experiences earlier in life, including his first foreign posting as a KGB officer, in East Germany during the collapse of Soviet Communism in eastern Europe. They also explore speculation about the lasting impact of those experiences upon Putin’s perspective towards […]

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NEWSLINK Forbes: Russian Support For Democracy Just Hit The Lowest Level In More Than 20 Years

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

The invaluable Levada Center, Russia’s only genuinely independent polling agency, regularly conducts a survey about Russians’ attitudes towards the government, the economy, and the proper relationship between the state and its citizens. The 2015 results were just released, and it makes for rather depressing reading. Basically, right across the board, Russians have become substantially more statist and nationalist in their […]

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NEWSLINK Wall Street Journal: Bringing Ukraine Back From the Brink; An economically successful Ukraine is vital to the security of Europe and the sustainability of democratic values everywhere

Europe Map

A little more than a year ago, the Ukrainian people chose a path of fundamental change. Citizens took a stand in Kyiv’s Maidan Square for the right to live in a free, independent and prosperous European country and to put an end to endemic corruption and mismanagement. More than 100 people gave their lives during the Revolution of Dignity. Since […]

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Has Russia Abandoned the Path to Democracy?

Kremlin and Environs Aerial View

(Institute of Modern Russia – imrussia.org) On October 30, the National Endowment for Democracy held a round table discussion entitled “Is Democracy Possible in Russia?” According to participants, in light of current political developments, it appears unlikely that Russia will become a democracy anytime soon. Participants in the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) October 30th round table included Lilia Shevtsova, senior […]

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Interfax: Poll: Western-style democracy won’t work for Russia

Map of Russia

(Interfax – October 28, 2014) Russians are prone to describe the Western democratic model as unviable under the Russian conditions but exhibit an interest in the life and work in Western countries, sociologists told Interfax. Fifty-five percent of 1,630 respondents polled by the Levada Center in 134 populated localities in 46 regions in September said Russia needed a special type […]

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Russia Beyond the Headlines: What is democracy? A third of Russians don’t know

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Darya Lyubinskaya, special to RBTH – October 8, 2014) Results of a recent poll indicate a discontinuity between views on the meaning of democracy and what constitutes democratic leadership. A recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) provided new insight into how Russians feel about democracy – and what they think […]

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Interfax: Third of Russians think Russia has all the democracy it needs – poll

Map of Russia

(Interfax – Moscow, September 30, 2014) A relative majority of Russians (39 per cent) believe that democracy in the Russian Federation was [and is] at its height under the rule of Vladimir Putin: 12 per cent said that it was so during the first two terms of Putin’s presidency (2000-2008), and 27 per cent – during this term (since 2012), […]

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Moscow Times: Poll Shows Russians Divided on Democracy’s Meaning, Importance

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Allison Quinn – September 30, 2014) Democracy is important to most Russians, but they can’t seem to agree on what exactly it is, according to a survey published Monday. In the survey, conducted by the state-run pollster Public Opinion Foundation and published by the Kommersant newspaper Monday, 63 percent of respondents said it was important […]

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Interfax: Putin says Ukrainian “scenario” won’t happen in Russia

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

(Interfax – July 22, 2014) The “scenario” that has been used in Ukraine by “external” forces will not happen in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has said. He made these remarks at a meeting with the Russian Security Council, as reported by privately-owned news agency Interfax. Speaking about the so-called “colour revolutions” and in particular Ukraine, Putin said: “This is absolutely […]

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Russians polled on what democracy is

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Interfax – Moscow, April 3, 2014) About half of Russians (46 per cent) think that the country is a democracy, while last year 38 per cent thought so, sociologists from the Levada Centre have told Interfax. According to the results of their survey, 32 per cent of Russians, the same number as in 2013, think that democracy is yet to […]

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