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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Presidential government

Summary

Russia had already established a directly elected presidency during the final year of Soviet rule. But it had also elected a new parliament, and it was not until the adoption of the 1993 Constitution, after parliamentary resistance had been violently suppressed, that it became what some called a ‘superpresidency’, with the government headed by the prime minister as its executive agency. Yeltsin was succeeded in 2000 by Vladimir Putin, and then Putin, after the end of his second four-year term, by Dmitri Medvedev, with Putin remaining as prime minister. Russians themselves called this new arrangement a ‘tandem’. It did not, all the same, appear to represent a real and enduring redistribution of authority, Putin continued to be seen as the dominant figure, and it was widely expected that he would return to the presidency in 2012, when Medvedev's first term expired. Whoever held the leading positions, this was clearly a political system dominated by a powerful executive. It was less clear that there were mechanisms that would help to ensure that this dominant power was not abused by those who exercised it, and perhaps in their own interests.

The end of the Soviet period saw the establishment of an executive presidency in Russia as well as the USSR itself, although the dominance of a single leader was of much older origin.

Further reading
Aron, Leon, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (New York: St Martin's and London: HarperCollins, 2000).
Belyakov, Vladimir V., and Raymond, Walter J., eds., Constitution of the Russian Federation: With Commentaries and Interpretation (Lawrenceville, VA: Brunswick Publishing Company and Moscow: Novosti, 1994).
Cassiday, Julie A., and Johnson, Emily D., ‘Putin, Putiniana and the question of a post-Soviet cult of personality’, Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 88, no. 4 (October 2010), pp. 681–707.
Colton, Timothy J., Yeltsin: A Life (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
Colton, Timothy J., and Hale, Henry E., ‘The Putin vote: presidential electorates in a hybrid regime’, Slavic Review, vol. 68, no. 3 (Fall 2009), pp. 473–503.
Ellison, Herbert J., Boris Yeltsin and Russia's Democratic Transformation (Seattle, WA, and London: University of Washington Press, 2006).
First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, with Nataliya Gevorkyan, Natalya Timakova, and Andrei Kolsenikov, trans. Fitzpatrick, Catherine A. (London: Hutchinson and New York: Random House, 2000).
Medushevsky, Andrey N., Russian Constitutionalism: Historical and Contemporary Development, trans. Luneva, Ekaterina and Baeva, Tatiana (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).
Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri, The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism against Democracy (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2001).
Richard, Sakwa, Putin: Russia's Choice, 2nd edn (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2008).
White, Stephen and McAllister, Ian, ‘The Putin phenomenon’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, vol. 24, no. 4 (December 2008), pp. 604–28.