Democracy in Russia
Svetlana Levanova, gr. 512
Democracy as I See It Exercised in Russia
Life has changed entirely in Russia since the beginning of the
nineties, when democracy as the state’s policy was introduced. Not only
lifestyles, fashions and technologies were changed but also there was a
turnover in people’s mentality.
We, the generation, which was born in the 70ies – early 80ies,
witnessed a great fracture in the whole system of life. We experienced the
break in our minds, viewpoints and attitudes, but we are the generation to
build up new Russia from its cornerstone.
Russia today is a materialistic society. Sociologists say that a
materialistic society is one in which material possessions are important.
People are concerned about financial well-being and security or even
physical survival. Various hardships, first of all economic, coerced
Russians into fighting for survival, caring only about most essential
things for life. Such democratic values as, say, inalienable rights are not
relevant for discussion among those who do not have money to buy some
bread. If someone takes advantage of the right of speech and enjoys it to
the full, if this person states his or her disagreement with the boss’s
point of view on some subject, he or she will be fired immediately and join
the army of the unemployed. The unemployed in Russia differ from those in
the USA who can live off welfare and sometimes be quite satisfied with
their actual status. In Russia unemployment is synonymous with poverty and
As soon as the new state policy was introduced it began to cause a
shift in values. Not much changed in universal values such as family, work
or leisure, whereas the newly borrowed democratic ideas were somewhat
perverted. Due to the cultural factor, peculiarities of Russia’s historical
development and current economic situation people adopted democratic
principles and customized every item on the list to their needs and
One can sometimes hear an opinion that we live in a democracy so we
are free to do whatever we want, meaning that democracy entitles people to
unlimited liberties. This erroneous proposition finds its root in political
ignorance. Sovereigns have always governed the Russian people; first they
were czars then communist tyrants. Most of them were charismatic
personalities able to keep the whole country under their iron hand.
Totalitarian regime implied regimentation of every aspect of life.
Ideology, economy and even people’s everyday routine were supervised.
Russians were deprived of the opportunity to judge, make personal decisions
and express their grievances. It resulted in political passiveness and lack
of any interest in political procedures.
In early nineties census data displays a great leap of interest and
involvement among Russians. It was normal that people spent leisure time
watching TV programs about politicians or live broadcasts from rallies and
conventions. But then without tangible benefits from the new government
their enthusiasm soon ceased. Irrespective of the time spent at the TV sets
Russians didn’t grasp the principles of democracy. Having been brought up
and educated in a totalitarian society, which rejected the culture of
democracy, they only acquired the concept of freedom. Unfortunately they
were unaware of what accompanies freedom - competence and responsibility.
We may ask why Russians are discouraged from participating in
political procedures and asserting their rights as citizens of a democracy.
All plausible answers are interconnected and knitted into a seemingly
One of the most essential concepts of democracy is the idea of rights
and duties. For instance, no state, no law should impinge upon the right of
speech and the right to assemble. But in fact in Russia there are no
special mechanisms that would help its citizens form initiative groups and
alliances in order to be heard by the government. That’s where passiveness
and incompetence begins.
A diversity of all possible political parties should represent the
needs of the population, both majorities and minorities. As we plunge into
Russian reality we can find out that all the variety is a mere illusion.
Political arena in Russia reminds of a theater with a single actor who
appears on the stage under different names.
It is necessary to regulate normal functioning of democratic
institutions, but the question is what to begin with. Probably it should be
democratic culture or loyal but competitive opposition or mechanisms that
would help people stand upon their rights.
Russia is not yet ready for democracy. A country should have certain
cultural, political and economic background as prerequisites for democracy.
Culturally Russians are influenced by the doctrine of Orthodox Church and
long-term pressure of authoritarian regime. Tradition is inculcated in the
Russian mind, which makes the nation almost unsusceptible to changes.
Political and civic consciousness is not well developed. So this country
should be ruled in a different way. It doesn’t mean that Russia is behind
the time or democracy is too far ahead to be exercised in such a country.
This nation unlike any other in the world is so very special,
contradictory, so contrary to logic that we have to find very special means
to manage it.