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.