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The Soviet political system is made up of three major institutions: the Communist Party, the parliament, and the government. Whereas the first two have changed dramatically under perestroika, the government has continued to function in more traditional ways. Most worrying to reformists, the government–the Soviet Union's “executive branch”–has used its broad rulemaking authority to impede the transformation of Soviet politics and society. This essay examines the role of governmental rules in the Soviet political and legal system. It concludes, following the lead of Soviet reformists, that without a fundamental restructuring of government making authority, legal, political, and economic reform in the Soviet Union cannot be institutionalized.
Students of the Soviet Union have been reassessing the rise of Stalinism in the 1930s. By shifting the focus of research from high politics to the constituent parts of the political and social system, recent scholarship has exposed the confusion and conflicts that plagued the nascent Soviet bureaucracy as it struggled to put down roots in the country and to satisfy the enormous demands placed upon it by the center and periphery. This research has brought new recognition of the extent to which the political leadership in the 1930s was bedeviled by local resistance to central directives, by poor communication and inadequate staffing in the bureaucracy, and by the low “cultural level” of those asked to implement policy.
What does a postcommunist regime do with its bureaucratic inheritance? Without a replacement bureaucracy at hand, the political leadership in Russia had no choice but to govern through state employees whose values and patterns of behavior were instilled in the Soviet era. Given this reality, one might have expected Russian reformers—and their overseas supporters— to have developed an aggressive and comprehensive policy on retraining officials of state. But instead of a coordinated effort to educate new and existing personnel in a spirit of public, rather than state, service, one finds only a gradual and haphazard reform of bureaucratic training. In this article, Eugene Huskey argues that the driving force behind such training has been the market in higher and continuing education and not a conscious and consistent policy emanating from the presidency or other central institutions of state. The major player in that market is the system of state service academies, which inherited many of their faculty and facilities from the old Higher Party Schools of the communist era. But the market, taken together with the fragmentation of state power, has consistently undermined attempts by the academies to serve as the sole purveyors of training to the bureaucracy. What is as yet unclear is whether the marketization of bureaucratic education and re-education, which discourages the emergence of a coherent national approach to remaking the bureaucracy, is facilitating or impeding the modernization and liberalization of Russian officialdom.
During its first two years of independence, Kyrgyzstan enjoyed a reputation as an oasis of democracy in the harsh political landscape of Central Asia. Under the leadership of Askar Akaev, a progressive scientist whose sources of support lay outside the Communist Party apparatus, the country began to aggressively dismantle the political and economic pillars of Soviet rule. Although political power remained highly concentrated, the state laid the foundations for a civil society by promoting a free press, private political associations, and a market economy. Akaev's reforms quickly attracted the attention and largesse of Western donors, who by the end of 1993 had pledged almost half a billion dollars to assist Kyrgyzstan in its transition toward democracy.
The Kyrgyz political miracle began to fade, however, in the mid-1990s. Faced with an economic crisis, an inefficient and corrupt state bureaucracy, and deep divisions within the country's elites and masses, the political leadership experimented with anti-democratic measures to shore up its authority. In the summer of 1994, President Akaev closed down two opposition-minded newspapers, launched a referendum to create new political institutions – in violation of the existing constitution – and conspired in a successful attempt to shut down parliament several months before its term had expired. In the parliamentary elections that followed in February 1995, fraud, corruption, and public anomie reigned. New criminal elements allied with segments of the old nomenklatura to return a legislature that promised little support for the reformist agenda advanced by the president.
Nineteen eighty-nine appeared to be an annus mirabilis in Soviet language policy; during that year, nine of fifteen Soviet republics adopted laws that championed the language of the titular nationality. Among these was Kyrgyzstan, a small Central Asian republic where Russian had increasingly marginalized the language of the Kyrgyz.
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