July 16, 2006


Has Putin sapped Russian democracy? (Damian Grammaticas, 7/16/06, BBC)

"The president is at the peak of his form," [Yaroslavl's Governor Anatoliy Lisitsyn] says. "He's the one who understands what Russia needs. Nobody could do a better job."

Even here, several hundred kilometres from Moscow, the Kremlin, under Mr Putin, has reasserted its influence.

On one side of the main square is Mr Lisitsyn's office, opposite it the local parliament. Russia has all the trappings of a democracy, but delve beneath the surface and it does not function like a democracy.

The debate in Yaroslavl's parliament is impassioned. But like the national legislature, it is now packed with government supporters. It's a rubber stamp.

The local media, like the national one, is now carefully controlled. People who supported opposition candidates in the last local election have been forced out of their jobs.

Oleg Vinogradov, an opposition MP, is in no doubt about Russian democracy today.

"Nobody is sent to Siberia now," he says. "But all our democratic institutions have been destroyed, our media, our parliament, our courts.

"Our country is led by people who were trained as spies, secret agents. Their view is if you are not with us you are against us. The trouble is, ordinary people just don't care."

The reason they don't care is that Mr Putin has delivered real improvements in people's standards of living, made possible by high oil prices supporting Russia's economy.

Stability and prosperity are prerequisites of the liberal democratic freedom that it is our role to keep pushing Russia towards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2006 7:16 AM

Unfortunately oil revenues tend to have a very corrupting influence on the body politic and are generally not a good way to get a market economy started.

Posted by: Daran at July 16, 2006 8:18 AM

And I doubt that heavy-handed government control over the media and reprisals against supporters of opposition candidates contributes anything to stability or prosperity.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 16, 2006 7:26 PM

Of course it does. But stability and prosperity are only a start.

Posted by: oj at July 16, 2006 8:54 PM

Then how is it that the most stable and prosperous countries (the Anglosphere, Switzerland, etc.) do that sort of stuff the least, while somewhat less stable democracies (France, Italy, etc.) do it a bit more, and the various tyrannies and failed states do it the most?

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 16, 2006 9:58 PM

Because they got their culture right first. The rest is easy.


The more moralistic your culture the less state you need. Russia just experienced 80 years of pure secular rationalism so has no moral basis for a society.

Posted by: oj at July 16, 2006 10:11 PM

Perhaps, I just don't see cracking down on a freeish press and reprisals against peaceful political opponents as doing anything to repair or recreate a moral basis for society. Quite the contrary.

If they were in an extreme emergency, on the level of invasion or civil war, then maybe, but Chechnya etc. isn't enough on an excuse.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 17, 2006 2:04 AM

You pretty much have to live in America to think that the Russian level of lawlessness, demographic implosion, falling life expectancies, and difficulties with Islaicists on the borders aren't an existential crisis.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 6:58 AM

And exactly how does cracking down on a freeish press and reprisals against peaceful political opponents help with any of those issues?

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 17, 2006 6:42 PM

How does a press or opposition help?

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 9:52 PM

Healthy competition in politics and the realm of ideas helps prevent corruption, nepotism, and stagnation, among other things. And just as smiling can make a person feel better, a good way to become a prosperous liberal democracy is to start acting like one.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 18, 2006 1:19 PM

Sure, as long as you skip to healthy competition, but that typically only comes after the fascist interval.

Posted by: oj at July 18, 2006 1:24 PM

Damian Grammaticas. I need to get in touch with him in regard to the research I am doing. Does anyone know how to find him? E-mail?

Posted by: S. Peshkova at August 31, 2006 2:54 PM