Ruling Russia: Authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin

Princeton University Press
1

When the Soviet Union collapsed, many hoped that Russia’s centuries-long history of autocratic rule might finally end. Yet today’s Russia appears to be retreating from democracy, not progressing toward it. Ruling Russia is the only book of its kind to trace the history of modern Russian politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the presidency of Vladimir Putin. It examines the complex evolution of communist and post-Soviet leadership in light of the latest research in political science, explaining why the democratization of Russia has all but failed.

William Zimmerman argues that in the 1930s the USSR was totalitarian but gradually evolved into a normal authoritarian system, while the post-Soviet Russian Federation evolved from a competitive authoritarian to a normal authoritarian system in the first decade of the twenty-first century. He traces how the selectorate—those empowered to choose the decision makers—has changed across different regimes since the end of tsarist rule. The selectorate was limited in the period after the revolution, and contracted still further during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship, only to expand somewhat after his death. Zimmerman also assesses Russia’s political prospects in future elections. He predicts that while a return to totalitarianism in the coming decade is unlikely, so too is democracy.

Rich in historical detail, Ruling Russia is the first book to cover the entire period of the regime changes from the Bolsheviks to Putin, and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why Russia still struggles to implement lasting democratic reforms.

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About the author

William Zimmerman is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan, where he is also research professor emeritus at the Institute for Social Research. This is his fourth book with Princeton University Press, his most recent being The Russian People and Foreign Policy: Russian Elite and Mass Perspectives, 1993-2000.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 27, 2014
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Pages
344
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ISBN
9781400850181
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / Modern / 21st Century
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Fascism & Totalitarianism
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Serious debates and discussions on world politics in Russian journals and books have greatly increased since 1956, resulting in a steadily changing appraisal of the world political situation by the Russians. Professor Zimmerman studies that changing appraisal. He describes Soviet international relations perspectives during Khrushchev's years in power and the three years following. He uncovers the answers Soviet commentators implicitly or explicitly give to such questions as: Who, in the Soviet view, are the main actors in international politics, and what does identifying them suggest about the Soviet perspective? In the Soviet analysis, what is the global distribution of power? How do Soviet analysts characterize the capabilities, motives, and decision-making process of the United States?

Contents: I. Introduction. II. The Emergence of International Relations as a Discipline. III. The Actors. IV. The Hierarchy. V. The Distribution of Power. VI. United States Foreign Policy from the Soviet Perspective. VII. The Balance of Power as System and Policy. VIII. Post-Imperialism and the Transformation of Soviet Foreign Policy.

Originally published in 1969.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, many hoped that Russia's centuries-long history of autocratic rule might finally end. Yet today’s Russia appears to be retreating from democracy, not progressing toward it. Ruling Russia is the only book of its kind to trace the history of modern Russian politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the presidency of Vladimir Putin. It examines the complex evolution of communist and post-Soviet leadership in light of the latest research in political science, explaining why the democratization of Russia has all but failed.

William Zimmerman argues that in the 1930s the USSR was totalitarian but gradually evolved into a normal authoritarian system, while the post-Soviet Russian Federation evolved from a competitive authoritarian to a normal authoritarian system in the first decade of the twenty-first century. He traces how the selectorate—those empowered to choose the decision makers—has changed across different regimes since the end of tsarist rule. The selectorate was limited in the period after the revolution, and contracted still further during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship, only to expand somewhat after his death. Zimmerman also assesses Russia’s political prospects in future elections. He predicts that while a return to totalitarianism in the coming decade is unlikely, so too is democracy.

Rich in historical detail, Ruling Russia is the first book to cover the entire period of the regime changes from the Bolsheviks to Putin, and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why Russia still struggles to implement lasting democratic reforms.

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