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It is appropriate to conclude this volume on the 1999–2000 elections by bringing together and commenting on the insights into Russian democratization that the preceding chapters provide. Of course, one can assess democracy from many angles. I find it useful to organize the multitude of competing definitions of democracy into three categories and to examine Russia from each perspective rather than from a single one. These are the minimalist standard of elite competition, the pluralist vision of elite-guided participation, and the republican view of deliberative democracy. (For another recent review of the meanings of democracy, see Huber, Rueschemeyer, and Stephens 1997.) Because the contributions to this volume cover such diverse ground, much light is shed on democracy from all three perspectives.
Thanks to analyses such as those in the preceding chapters, we now have a much clearer picture of Russia's politics – its parties, center-periphery relations, instruments of elite power, and public values – than we had a decade ago. Yet this picture draws our eye less to Russian democracy's accomplishments than to the tough road ahead of it. The actual conduct of these elections and of the campaigns preceding them bears some but far from all of the blame. Careful study of these elections, though, reveals political trends of some concern. Yes, the Russian polity in the Putin era is electorally competitive, and this situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Even so, Russia evinces little democratic dynamism.
In this volume, which was originally published in 2003, a distinguished collection of specialists analyzes the critical elections that ushered out the Boris Yeltsin era in Russia and ushered in the leadership of Vladimir Putin. These parliamentary and presidential elections were critical for the future of Russia and are highly enlightening to scholars and students of electoral politics, party development and democratization. Collectively, the expertise represented by these authors extends to all the important facets of electoral politics and party development in Russia.
Russia can only be considered an electoral democracy to the extent that its constituent parts also fit this classification. In this article, Bryon J. Moraski and William M. Reisinger assess how well competing theories drawn from the literature on democratization explain the variation across Russia's regions in their progress toward competitive electoral politics. Their analysis reveals that distinctions among the regions in their social structure, arising from developments in the decades before 1991, help explain political competition in a manner unanticipated not only by existing literature on democratization but also by existing studies of Russian democracy at the national and individual levels. Moreover, they find that the divergent experiences of the regions during the 1990s—in their economies and levels of crime, for example—and variations in party development also help us discern which regions have moved furthest along the path toward electoral democracy.
What do citizens and political leaders have in mind when they think about democracy? This article deals with the relationship between different conceptions of democracy and the level of support
for democracy among both ordinary citizens and political elites in two post-Soviet countries,
Russia and Ukraine.
Data collected through personal interviews in 1992 and 1995 reveal that the mass and elite in
these post-socialist countries hold different conceptions of democracy. The elite tend to emphasize law and order and the rule of law, whereas the citizens stress freedoms in their understanding of democracy. Involvement in politics, especially in a political party, has a significant influence on the meaning of democracy as well as on the consistency among attitudes reflecting support for democratic principles. Different conceptions of democracy are also found to affect the perceived extent to which the current regime fits with the individual's idea of what a democracy should be like.