Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 April 1999
Previous research on elite change in Russia, the main findings of which are summarized here, has shown that well over half of post-Soviet Russia's political elite were drawn from the late-Soviet era elite. After a caveat against loose use of the nomenklatura concept, this article focuses on a far narrower sub-group, defined as the ‘top’ political elite, comprising 135 individuals in late 1988 and ninety-eight in 1996. Many of the old top elite found lower elite roles in post-Soviet Russia and most of the new top elite came from fairly senior jobs, but hardly any passed directly from the old top elite to the new. Only a minority of the top elite in 1996 were ‘natural heirs’ to their positions while others owed them primarily to connections or to their success in the new open competitive politics. In this respect (as in others) there are substantial differences between the three components of the new top elite, namely members of the government, senior office holders in the State Duma, and leading officials of the presidential administration. The Russian top elite today remains overwhelmingly male. Far more grew up in large cities than did their Soviet-era equivalents. Non-Russians are now relatively less under-represented. All are tertiary graduates, and nearly a half have postgraduate qualifications. Members of the presidential elite are far more likely than government members to be city-born and educated in the social sciences or humanities, and they average almost a decade younger. The Duma elite lies in between in all these respects.
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