Kremlin’s democracy: pro and contra

Kremlin’s democracy: pro and contra
Taking Sovereign Democracy Seriously
It was Ken Jowitt who wrote once that as a rule history is “protestant”, not “catholic”. The primary feature of the world history tends to be cultural, institutional, and ideological diversity. In our view we are back to “Protestantism”. The Post-Cold war Europe is now history and Russia is setting itself up as an ideological alternative to the EU, with a different approach to sovereignty, power and world order.
In this context what strikes is the lack of interests in the ideas and political thinkers that shape the intellectual and political fashions in today’s Russia. At present the analysis of Putin’s Russia were focused on institutions, historical generalizations, clan interests and personality, but there was no interest in the politics of ideas in Russia. The assumption was that the ideas do not matter in Russian politics any more. This is a wrong assumption.
The concept of “sovereign democracy” synthesized in Kremlin’s ideological laboratory (disapproved and later endorsed by Medvedev) is a manifestation of the search of ideology as a defining feature of the Putin’s second term. The trend of ideologization of Russian politics will probably escalate in the context of the emerging diarchy in the Russian political system.
This convinced us to shift our attention to the ideas and political thinkers who dominate Russian political debate today and to try to understand how their ideas will affect Russia’s domestic and foreign policies.
We proposed to some of the most interesting representatives of the main schools of thought that we met in Moscow to hold public lectures in Sofia:
- “After Putin - Putin?” – a public lecture by Irina Yassina. Ms. Yassina is an economist by education and a journalist by vocation. She is a deputy president of the Liberal Mission Fund and a program director of the Open Russia Fund (established by Mikhail Hodorkovsky) till its compulsive closing by Russian authorities in 2006. In her lecture Ms. Yassina offered her reading of Russia’s political situation one month after the presidential “elections”.

- “Russia today” – a public lecture of Rouslan Hestanov, PhD in University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and deputy editor-in-chief of “Russia Reporter” magazine. In his lecture Mr. Hestanov focused on the today’s state of democracy in Russia, seen through the history of the pro-Kremlin party “Unified Russia”/Edinnaya Rasseia” in the context of establishing of half-multiple party system in Russia.

Together with Aspen Institute Italia we organized a round table discussion
“What does Russia think? Ideologies and Strategies of Russian Transformation in XXI c.”
that was held on May 31 – June 2, 2008 in Rome, Italy.

The two day round table discussion focused on how different thinkers view the choices that Russia has to make in the next decade, on the nature of the regime, the prospects of its survival and the most likely foreign policy to follow.
The meeting gathered together some of the most influential Russian political thinkers, representing the diversity of different political positions, intellectual traditions, and generations in Russian political debate, and some outstanding thinkers from Western Europe and the US to discuss the nature of the regime and the directions for its transformation. We focused on how Russia sees the World and European orders and how this will affect the Russian foreign policy in the next decade.

Period: January 2008 - December 2009
Coordinators: Ivan Krastev, Deyan Kiuranov, Yonko Gozev, Anna Ganeva
Financing Organisations: Open Society Foundation, New York
Partners: Aspen Institute, Italia
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