Russian Government and Politics

2nd edition

by Eric Shiraev


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


A type of generally unrestrained monarchical power.

Agenda setting
The process by which the owner of information can determine what type of information becomes news at any time and what does not.

Authoritarian system
A political system that is non-democratic, has meaningless or rigged elections, tolerates or initiates attacks against political opposition, restricts civil liberties, and has a weak civil society.


Bologna Process
An international initiative to bring academic degrees to a reasonably unified standard which will be acceptable across Europe.

Members of a political wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. This name later became associated with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Boyar Duma
An advisory council serving the grand duke.

Members of the highest ranks of Russian aristocracy (in the 10th to 17th centuries) possessing military, economic (as landowners), and political power.


Groups supporting policies related to moderate actions and measures in political, economic, security, and foreign-policy fields.

Central Electoral Commission
The institution in charge of the organizing elections on the federal level. It is appointed by the president and the Federal Assembly.

Civil militarism
The strategic policy of the adoption of military goals, priorities, and values in domestic policies, and the constant glorification of the military role in domestic defense policies.

Cold War
The global state of tensions between the Soviet Union and its closest allies on the one hand, and the United States, with its allies, on the other.

Collectivization of peasants
The process of creation of collective farms in the 1930s whose members� shared property and land.

Conditionally pro-government
A type of political attitude that supports candidates for office from the government provided these individuals conduct policies guaranteeing economic security and order.

(In Russia), one who supports the government's protection of social welfare, the idea of Russia's greatness as a world power, a mixed economy with a large portion under government control, and relative tolerance of authoritarianism.

Content analysis
A research method that systematically organizes and summarizes both the manifest (what was actually said or written) and latent (the meaning of what was said and written) content of information.

Court of law
An institution to establish the legality of a certain action (the behavior of an individual, a decision of an institution, or a government decree, for example) and then pass a ruling.

Criminal Code
A set of written laws related to criminal offenses and descriptions of punishments that should be imposed on convicted offenders. The Russian Criminal Code contains the minimum and maximum limits for each punishment described, which include monetary penalties, jail terms, and suspended sentences.

Critical-liberal view of Russian history
The approach that rejects major assumptions of the imperial-moralistic tradition and suggests that a democratic path of development provides better conditions for the country, its people, and its relations with other states. The concentration of power and resources at one center is harmful to the country's economic and political development.


Democratic centralism
The official internal policy of the Communist Party prohibiting factions, opposition, and establishing the mandatory acceptance of the decisions of higher party organizations by its lower structures.

Democratic opposition
The movement led informally by Boris Yeltsin in the late 1980s. The word 'democratic' referred to the movement's largely anti-communist and pro-democratic position.

Dual power
A situation in which a country (like Russia in 1917) is run by two institutions, both exercising executive and legislative functions.


Eurasian model of Russian development
The view that Russia's true destiny lies in preserving its natural Eurasian roots and avoiding the temptation to imitate western models of government and culture.


Federal agencies
Federal institutions to provide specific federal services. For example, there are federal agencies responsible for tourism, archives, forestry, railroads, and water resources.

Federal ministries
Federal institutions responsible for the conduct of federal policy in specific areas such as foreign policy, domestic security, defense, health care, education, finance, and agriculture.

Federal services
Federal institutions to exercise and control the implementation of specific federal policies.

Federal universities
Relatively large educational and research institutions consolidated out of several universities and colleges and funded by the federal government.

Focus group methodology
A kind of survey method used in foreign policy planning, conflict resolution analysis, and commercial and academic research. The typical focus group contains between seven and ten participants who discuss a particular situation or problem, and express their opinion about this situation to the focus group moderator.

The deliberate interpretation of events and polices from a particular standpoint or in certain contexts.


Controlling access: for example, determining which information is allowed or recommended for publication and which is not.

The purposeful extermination of people based on their ethnic or social identity.

Stands for Gradual Reduction of International Tension. In other words, incremental and conciliatory steps to avoid confrontation in bilateral or international relations.


Holy Alliance
A military and political treaty of 1815 involving Russia, Austria, and Prussia to preserve the existing dynastic principles of government and prevent democratic revolutions in Europe.


Illiberal economic policies
A mixture of authoritarian methods of government coupled with acceptance, but only when it is convenient, of free-market principles.

Imperial-moralistic tradition
The view of Russian history according to which Russia's might, influence, and success were always associated with a strong, authoritarian power capable of consolidating the country.

The economic policy of the Soviet Russia. According to the communist doctrine, the strength of a state is determined by the size and quality of its heavy industries. Therefore, the prime targets of the Soviet industrialization were heavy industries and the manufacturing of machinery.

Information about the interests, intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign countries, including government officials, political parties, the functioning of their economies, the activities of nongovernmental organizations, and the behavior of private individuals.


The practical authority or specific rights given to a government institution or branch of power.


Communist and socialist parties and groups promoting a larger share for the government in the economy, the nationalization of key industries, and price control of most important products and services, including food and public transportation.

Legal state
The term used in Russia to emphasize the importance of the law in comparison with some ideological doctrines or political interests.

Legislative initiative
The ability or capacity of an individual or institution to introduce proposals so that, eventually, they may become law.

One who supports predominantly western models of government, involving a free market economy, free press, transparent government, and independent courts. A typical Russian liberal is easy to recognize because they vehemently oppose authoritarianism.


The set of attitudes and policies that revolve around the persistent aspiration to use military force in response to most foreign threats.

Military doctrine
A principal description of foreign threats against Russia and the general direction of Russia's defense policies.

Military draft
The legal and mandatory requirement to carry out military service.

Multipolar world
A global situation in which no country claims military and economic domination. Instead, several countries and international organizations form long-term peaceful alliances working for global security and economic prosperity.


A pro-Kremlin youth movement (it means 'ours') organized in 2005 to support the policies of Vladimir Putin.

National Agrarian-Industrial Complex Project
A federal project pursuing three major goals: the development of stock farms, financial and other support for small farms, and assistance in housing construction in the countryside.

National Priority Projects (NPP)
Launched in 2005 with the endorsement and support of President Putin, a range of massive federal investments and new policies in the fields of health care, education, housing, and agriculture.

National Prosperity Fund (or National Well-Being Plan)
A fund to co-finance voluntary pension saving plans for Russian citizens and stabilize the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation.

In Russia, large ethnic groups with their own language, customs, territory, and in most cases, political autonomy.

The process of taking an industry or assets into the ownership of a national government.

New Economic Policy
The economic policy in the early 1920s that halted massive and excessive confiscations of grain and stock in the countryside and established a more moderate policy of taxation and small free enterprise.

New thinking
The new foreign policy doctrine by Gorbachev based on the assumption that the world must stop ideological competition and turn to so-called universal values of peace and cooperation in international relations.


One-mandate districts
Electoral districts in which several candidates run for a seat and the one gaining the largest number of votes wins.

Under Ivan IV, the declaration of his own rule over vast areas of Russia and a significant expansion of political prosecution and terror against his political opponents and the civilian population.


Parliamentary commissions
Special groups of deputies to address particular questions related to the work of the legislature, a policy issue, or the implementation of previous decisions of the Duma or the Federation Council.

Party factions
An association of the deputies of the Duma elected according to their party list.

Party list
A list of ranked candidates that a political party submits before an election. Individual voters cast their votes for political parties. Then the counting is simple. After the election, parliamentary seats are allocated to each party in proportion to the number of votes the party receives.

A popular attitude and related policies of accepting the decisions of a central authority: a mayor, governor, or president.

Perestroika and glasnost
'Restructuring' and 'openness.' These two key words relate to the process of massive reforms undertaken in the second half of the 1980s and commonly associated with Mikhail Gorbachev, their initiator.

Political censorship
The restrictive practice of reviewing and determining, based on ideological or political considerations, what is acceptable for publication or broadcasting.

Political communication
The general ways in which information related to politics and government is distributed.

Political culture
The predominant institutions, beliefs, and ideas that have played their roles in politics and social developments.

Political mobilization
The ways to preserve or change the existing political system.

Political strategies pursuing the goal of obtaining mass support by appealing directly to most people's immediate needs.

Power vertical (or 'vertical of power')
A term frequently used in Putin's speeches and in the media after 2000. In general, it stands for a strong hierarchy in the power system, a kind of line of subordination. In the eyes of Putin's supporters, this term implies an efficient system of management from top to bottom.

Professional schools
Schools offering secondary education plus training for a particular profession.

The policy of restraining foreign trade and limiting foreign investment.



Radical economic reform
A term used in publications and official documents since 1988. The word 'radical' meant that the government suspended many existing Soviet laws and regulations related to economy and trade.

Groups focusing primarily on regaining Russia's strength as a state and as a powerful force on a global scale. The main distinguishing features of the right in Russia, however, are their nationalist attitudes, xenophobic views, and the desire to restore Russia's armed forces to the meaningful levels of the Cold War.


A self-imposed practice of censoring one's own work based on fear, deference, or other pragmatic interests.

A system of legal dependency for individuals who worked on leased lands belonging to landowners.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization
An international organization involving Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The initial purpose of the group was to eliminate border disputes, reduce the presence of the countries' militaries near state borders, and coordinate efforts related to the countries' mutual security.

Shock therapy
The economic policy in 1992. It was based on three key policies. First, the government encouraged people to privatize property previously owned by the government. Second, federal government was no longer responsible for establishing and controlling prices. Third, the government gave up its obligation to ensure employment for every person, which had been guaranteed in the Soviet Union.

Socialist entrepreneurship
The official term that appeared frequently in Soviet newspaper editorials in early stages of perestroika in the 1980s. For the Kremlin, this term meant an ideologically correct blend of socialism with elements of the free market.

Socially oriented market economy
Russia's social policy, incorporating both government regulations and free-market principles.

Elected councils. Initially, as local elected organs, they represented factory workers, soldiers, and peasants. In the Soviet Union, soviet was the term used for local, regional, and national parliaments.

Any type of special forces designated to use force in extraordinary situations such as hostage taking or similar cases.

Stabilization Fund
A portion of the Federal Budget designed to stabilize the economy in the event of potential economic or financial problems.

State capitalism
The organization of the economy under which federal government controls a large proportion of the economy and plays an important managing role as effectively the chief executive officer.

Strategic national interests
The most essential goals that need to be pursued for the sake of the country's security and the well-being of its people.

Subjects of the Russian Federation
Specially recognized territorial units within the established federal state.

Investigative methods in which large groups of people answer questions on a certain topic. Two types of surveys are most valuable: opinion polls and expert surveys.

Established by Peter the Great in 1721, an institution in charge of religious affairs. Peter eliminated the institution of Church patriarchs as heads of the church, thus liquidating the autonomy of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Time of Troubles
The term for the period between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century in Russia. It was a difficult period of political and social instability, with a struggle for power, coupled with significant economic difficulties, foreign invasions, and significant territorial losses to Lithuania, Sweden, and Poland.

Triumphalist view of the end of the Cold War
The view that the Soviet Union has lost the Cold War because of the policies of US President Ronald Reagan and his tough foreign-policy course, which aimed at the amplification of American strength and pressuring Moscow on all fronts.


Yeltsin's resignation
The famous resignation of President Yeltsin in 1999, which cleared the way for Vladimir Putin to run in the 2000 presidential elections as a likely victor.