The Role of Institutions in Russia

Russia's Political History

Russia has long garnered the attention of international political observers. For more than seven decades Russia was the core of the globe's communist regime with the international Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans, USSR which often contested the USA for global supremacy. After the fall of USSR in 1991, the country suffered a period of social, political and economic downtime. President Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000, and during his first term of leadership, the nation rebounded sharply, however, there were growing suggestions of a return to political authoritarianism. Currently, it is evident Russia is attributed with personalism coupled with centralization and authoritarian decision making as apparent in various institutions in the country. The article emphasizes the impact of long-term effects of institutions created at the critical point in history and maintains Russian Federations needs more than an institutional reform to transform its political, cultural identity.

Geography, Population, and Culture

Geographically, Russia is the most extensive nation in the globe located in both Europe and Asia. While the majority of the country's population is ethnically Russian, the country contains hundreds of other ethnic groups. Economically, Russian Federation is extensively urbanized and industrialized, and the community is highly educated. However, the last decade of the 20th century showcased an economic downtime in the country that required the first decade of the 21st to recover. On a culturally perspective, Russia has played a central role in Europe's intellectual and artistic development. However, many Russians maintain their uniqueness, essential mysticism, communalism, and idealism and claim the country can never be westernized.

Influence of Historical Institutions

Despite the paradoxical nature of the country's geography, economy, politics, and culture it is evident the contemporary Russian Federation is influenced by the distinctive institutions imposed for more centuries. The current centralization, personalist, and authoritarian decision making reflect the failure of capitalism in Russia. From the begging, the Tsars maintained strong leadership defended with force. Centralized administration is also evident in the communist era in the 20th century. As such it is unmistakable Vladimir Putin centralization aspects of leadership borrow heavily from history showcasing the depth of cultural and historical influence on Russian politics. Russian Federation has no experience with democracy and the free market. Historically, Russia has been embedded in a firm tyrannical rule from centuries of the Tsars to the autocracy of party leaders throughout the 20th century in the Soviet Union. Under the communist government, Lenin advocated for democratic centralism that emphasized on the rule of the few rather than many. Stalin supplemented the ideologies of Lenin and changed the country to totalitarianism an efficient strong-man rule.

The Transition to Democracy

The fall of the Soviet Union meant Russia was able to form the first democratic regime. When Boris Yeltsin was elected as the first president of the Russian Federation and declared the end of the Soviet rule, he advocated for democracy. However, Yeltsin was an uneven ruler who as a former member of the Soviet Politburo often reverted to authoritarian rule. The lack of strict reforms on democracy encouraged corruption and economic recession in the last decade of the 20th century. Additionally, the constitution was developed in 1993 which provided for a strong presidency whose authority is checked by the direct elections and the lower house of the legislature, the DUMA. The constitution legitimacy was tested on several occasions through intense conflicts and attempted overthrows due to disputes between Yeltsin and the DUMA.

The Putin Era

In 2000, Vladimir Putin was elected as the second president of the Russian Federation. Although the Putin era impacted economic growth and the restoration of the state, he has also overseen the erosion of many of Russia's democratic achievements and dreams. The core goals of Putin include strengthening the country, implementing aggressive international policies, solidifying his power, minimizing the impact of oligarchs and centralizing authority. These aspects point to the previous authoritarian centralized leadership. The current institutional system in Russia indicates the country is yet to transform from the Soviet rule entirely. While Russia desires to modernize and achieve democracy, history and culture continue to influence the current political actions. Indeed, whether consciously or unconsciously Putin showcases leadership style that does not uphold the principles of democracy such as civil liberties, independence of the judiciary, competitive political parties and the ultimate rule of law.

The Impact of Culture

Additionally, it is essential to acknowledge individuals against global capitalism established the political and economic institutions developed after the 1917 revolution for the Soviet Union. As such, the fact that Russia is adopting some aspects of democracy such as upholding the law and ignoring others illustrate the influence of culture. For instance, while in 2008 Vladimir followed the constitution and stepped down as president, he remained in the government as prime minister. Many observers believe in his period as Prime Minister Putin held excessive powers. Moreover, Putin ran for the presidency in the year 2012 despite Dmitri Medvedev being eligible for the second term. His involvement in policy making as a Prime minister reflected Russia's road to becoming an authoritarian state.

The Influence of Political Traditions

Besides, Russia's conflicting set of political traditions continue to impact societal, political culture. The Slavophile tradition that emphasizes the Slavic culture including the customs, language, and religion makes many resistant to change especially outside influence. Although influential leaders such as Peter the Great and Catherine the great in the late 17th and early 18th centuries embraced modernization, their activities were set in conflict, and the affection of the Slavic ways continued. Additionally, the communist era in Russia emphasized the value of equality, the Russian egalitarianism endured after the fall of the Soviet Union and many Russians resent the aspects of capitalism that perceive getting ahead as evidence of hard work. As such, the Russian culture is not conducive to capitalist change. Additionally, while Russia witnesses relatively high voter turnout, the involvement I other political activities in the country is low reflecting the uninformed civil society rooted in their culture.


The double nature of Russia as a nation and an empire, a European and Asian country with aspects of both democracy and authoritarian rule explain the extensive interest in Russian politics. It is evident while the nation upholds democratic structure such as direct elections there are little efforts made to strengthen the democratic principles. Perhaps the Russian Federation is embracing an illiberal democracy that applies some aspects of capitalism while ignoring others. In changing the political culture of Russian Federation, it is apparent Russia will need more than an institutional reform. Many Russians still maintain their uniqueness and lack of desire to ultimately "westernize." The prevailing notion indicates the need for an extensive cultural change that will influence not only the citizens but also politicians. Indeed, it is necessary for efforts for democracy and a free market to be coupled with an appreciation of principles of democracy such as civil liberties and rights and the concept of the rule of law.

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