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Monday, December 15, 2008

Putin's War on Democracy

On Saturday I mentioned that a new anti-Putin coalition was building in Russia. I ended the blog post by expressing a hope that the Kremlin won't use draconian or violent tactics against this new opposition movement. It did not take long for me to be disappointed.

Over the weekend two anti-Kremlin rallies were broken up by the police and around a hundred people were arrested. Neither BBC nor CNN reported that the rallies were violent or disruptive. BBC did report that United Russia supporters did participate in a violent protest outside the building of an opposition conference.

After I wrote my post on Saturday some people expressed concerns that perhaps some of the opposition leaders were not the most freedom loving people in the world. I admit that I do not know all the political parties or their platforms, and so I do not judge what parties are best for Russia. To enter into that sort of discussion is to miss the point.

The problem in Russia is the process. The last election was pretty universally declared dishonest. Putin has a history of using violence to oppress opposition voices in both the Duma and the press. A former University professor of mine expressed doubts that even the polling data we see in Russia is honest. The only companies that have a license to put political polls in the field are friendly with Putin and his allies.

The beauty of representative democracy is that it creates a peaceful means by which the political elite and compete for power. If that process lacks legitimacy violence becomes the only power base and peace, order, and freedom all get lost in a sea of coups and counter coups. For Russia to end its long history of suffering either bloody autocrats or chaos, they have to develop a democratic political culture.

Russia does not have a history of democratic norms. Sadly Putin has done all he can to prevent such norms from taking root.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 15, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink


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There has been democracy in Russia before WW I.
It was largely viewed as "power to the idiot" and even the idiots wanted a strong leader rather than their own opinions to be acted upon.

This is a land where even Peter the Great killed 25,000 people building St Petersburg. There is a deep love of statism in Russia.

Putin won't get any real push back just because he stifles the press and dissenting views. The majority of Russians will probably be glad to see a "Great" Russia again at any expense.

Posted by: Duder | 2008-12-15 5:11:07 PM

I wouldn't call what they had after 1905 as being anything close to democracy. Even by 19th century standards. It was like the Duma now, a rubber stamp and nothing more.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2008-12-15 5:35:26 PM

A rubber stamp where there was no liberty and a facade of "people power."

Sounds like democracy to me.

Posted by: Duder | 2008-12-15 5:42:06 PM

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