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Is Russia a “Normal” Country?

 
Highslide JS
  • a ‘riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ (Winston Churchill)
  • ‘With the mind alone, Russia cannot be understood. No ordinary yardstick spans her greatness. She stands alone, unique—In Russia one can only believe’ (Fyodor Tyutchev)
  • according to normative Western yardsticks Russia is not ‘normal’
  • but if measured by the intrinsic logic of the country’s own long-term development, Russia may be viewed as ‘normal’ (Stefan Hedlund)
 

Breaking out of the Muscovite Mould

 
  • the objective conditions determining the direction of state building amongst the early Russians were fundamentally different from those that faced other Europeans (severe threats to national security)
  • under the Mongol onslaught the Muscovites had to develop an institutional structure that was radically different
  • there is no agreement on the subsequent consequences of these early difficulties:
 
    1. Russia got off to a bad start, but subsequent developments would follow a path similar to that of the other Europeans, only with a lag
    2. the early difficulties contributed so powerfully to Russian specificity that the country would remain different from the rest of Europe well into the modern era, and perhaps even into our times
 

The ‘Lag Theory’ (Martin Malia)

 
  • Russia is in steady pursuit of Europe, being no more than 50 years behind
  • beginning with Peter the Great, and compared to the big powers in Europe, vital Russian transformations occurred with a lag of half a century
  • Soviet Russia represents both maximal divergence from European norms and the great aberration in Russia’s own development
  • now that the Soviet system is gone, Russia is finally back on track towards full integration into the West
 

Continuity Theory (Path Dependency)

 
  • this theory seeks to locate Russia’s attempted transition in the longer duration of Russian history
  • the main features of the institutional matrix that evolved in old Muscovy became path dependent
  • the imperial ‘age of reform’ introduced far reaching formal changes, but failed to achieve a transformation of supporting norms
  • the Soviet order was a reversal of those formal changes, resulting in a full return to the Muscovite matrix
  • the Yel’tsin era was as yet another ‘time of troubles’ (a short-term paralysis of the traditional matrix)
  • under Vladimir Putin the traditional Russian ‘service state’ was resurrected
  • Russian history displays a fundamental pattern of cyclical continuity
 
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The Putinite Order

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Russian Federation

The "Catching up" Cycles
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Great Leap to Capitalism
Russia's Privatization
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Coping with Transition
The Yeltsin Era
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Putin's Plan
Russian Federalism
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"Deprivatizing" the State
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Paradoxes of Russian Mentality
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The Putinite Order
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