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2018 | Book


Strategy, Policy and Administration


About this book

This book examines how Russia, the world’s most complicated country, is governed. As it resumes its place at the centre of global affairs, the book explores Russia’s overarching strategies, and how it organizes itself (or not) in policy areas ranging from foreign policy and national security to health care, education, immigration, science, sport, agriculture, the environment and criminal justice. The book also discusses the structures and institutions on which Russia relies in order to deliver its goals in these areas of national life, as well as what’s to be done, in policy terms, to improve the country’s performance in its first post-Soviet century. Edited by Irvin Studin, the book includes contributions from a tremendous list of Russia’s leading thinkers and specialists, including Alexei Kudrin, Vladimir Mau, Alexander Auzan, Simon Kordonsky, Fyodor Lukyanov, Natalia Zubarevich and Andrey Melville.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Ten Theses on Russia in the Twenty-First Century

The future of Russian governance is neither necessarily democratic nor strictly non-democratic. This choice is likely too binary for Russia’s extremely complex realities. Instead, a future Russia may well be—and perhaps should be—decidedly hybrid, drawing promiscuously on the best in twenty-first-century structures and practices from around the world.

Irvin Studin

Russian Strategy and Statecraft

Chapter 2. The Principles and Goals of the Russian State in the Twenty-First Century

The role of the Russian state is at the heart of the national debate about the future strategic, economic and social development of this huge, complex country. The traditional Russian and Soviet conception of the state holds that the state is by far the most important player in the resolution of the country’s major problems—in particular in respect of the “catching up” development that remains Russia’s central challenge at the start of the twenty-first century.

Alexei Kudrin, Vladimir Mau
Chapter 3. Russian Political Ideology

Nearly a decade ago, I participated in a research project on possible Russian futures in the year 2020. One of the scenarios on the table was that of a dystopic future—a so-called “Fortress Russia”. That scenario involved Russia finding itself in a hostile environment, surrounded by regional conflicts. Oil revenues had dropped, and the country and population were beset by economic crises. In order to respond to the external threats posited by this scenario, Russia had to mobilise—even if such national mobilisation limited political rights and freedoms. My colleagues and I conducted focus groups on this “nightmare scenario” in cities across the country, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Nearly all respondents judged this scenario to be extremely undesirable and also highly improbable.

Andrei Melville
Chapter 4. The Future of Russia’s Institutions

It is said that any new initiative inevitably goes through three phases: “what nonsense!”, followed by “there’s something to this!” and, finally, “who doesn’t know that?” At the start of the 1990s, debate over Russia’s post-Soviet institutions was at the first phase. It was thought at the time that the implementation of reforms aimed at macroeconomic stability, liberalisation and privatisation would automatically lead to market equilibrium, effective private ownership and, ultimately, national development (all independently of national institutions). When this hope was not borne out, the question of national institutions—today deemed central to national development—was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The second phase began.

Alexander Auzan
Chapter 5. Russian Federalism

Russia is not, at the time of this writing, a real federation. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the institutions that structure the relations among the country’s 85 regions and the federal centre in Moscow, and from the low degree of political and economic autonomy enjoyed by the regions. Of course, given the size of its territory and its demographic diversity—including its multinational makeup—there will always be a degree of formal and informal decentralisation in Russia. However, such decentralisation does not make the country a federation proper (see Chap. 32 on Regional and Local Government).

Irina Busygina
Chapter 6. The North Caucasus

If asymmetrical federalism remains topical in Russia, then it applies most directly to the complex North Caucasus region. (As Irina Busygina demonstrates in Chap. 5, “federalism” itself is still a work in progress in post-Soviet Russia.) The North Caucasus is distinct from other Russian regions in multiple ways—for some observers, because of its deeply archaic nature, the adherence of most of its population to Islam, its susceptibility to conflict and the prevalence of violent social practices. Of course, others might contend that there is little that is fundamentally unique about the region, as clannism, corruption, limited upward mobility and a predisposition to violent dispute resolution are present in many parts of contemporary Russia.

Irina Starodubrovskaya
Chapter 7. The Social Structure of Russia

By social structure, I mean the structure of Russia’s various social groups and the relations among them. Historically, the social structure of Russia has been described in terms of concepts and constructs provided by the state itself—through the national system of laws determining socially significant groups and, to a limited degree, the relations among these social groups. These groups typically included civil servants, military personnel, law enforcement, judges, political representatives, municipal officials and bureaucrats, and Cossacks—all of whom served the state.

Simon Kordonsky
Chapter 8. Political Parties and Parliament

Russia has a unique but exceedingly weak party system. The system is weak in terms of the political and policy influence of the parties and the general absence of “thick” organisational networks for the parties at the local or grassroots level across the country. In the majority of the country’s 85 regions, there are few active local party organisations, with the exception of the short periods during which actual election campaigning occurs. Instead, Russia’s parties are very dependent on the state. Moreover, the national and regional parliaments have little effective power.

Alexander Kynev
Chapter 9. Russian Media

Russian media are often accused of succumbing to state pressure, being an instrument of such pressure, and being excessively dependent on state funding. To this day, however, there has been precious little systematic analysis of how the Russian state, in its post-Soviet incarnation, incorporates the media into the national system of public institutions, and indeed how the state develops and implements public policy in respect of Russian media. Such analysis is, of course, complicated by the dual nature of media in Russia and in many other countries—on the one hand, as a branch of the economy and a market player among many, and on the other as a purveyor of information, interpreter of cultural codes and provider of public goods.

Ilya Kiriya
Chapter 10. Religion and the Russian Orthodox Church

Russia is a multi-confessional country. According to the Levada Centre, the national breakdown is roughly as follows: Orthodox (74 per cent), Catholicism (1 per cent), Protestantism (1 per cent), Islam (1 per cent), Judaism (1 per cent), Buddhism (less than 1 per cent) and Hinduism (less than 1 per cent). Other religions are listed at less than 1 per cent, while some 5 per cent of Russians identify themselves as atheist. Still, the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (ROC), with its many parishes, fancies itself as the core institution of Russian religiosity (41 per cent of Russian Orthodox formally associate with the ROC). Indeed, the ROC is a socioreligious institution and has significant influence on the sociocultural composition of Russian society, as well as on the Russian mentality.

Boris Knorre
Chapter 11. Russian Civil Society

We understand civil society, in the very classical sense, as referring to the sphere of human activity outside of the family, the state and the market—for all intents and purposes, the “third sector”, which is created by individual and collective actions, norms, values and social relations, to deliver a number of specific functions, including socialisation, service, articulation and mobilisation. And we argue in this chapter that the governing intellectual and policy interest in civil society in Russia today and for the foreseeable future must be based on the hypothesis that any meaningful increase over time in the negotiating power of civil society in its interactions with the state and the private sector—specifically in respect of the redistribution of benefits in favour of weak groups—will improve the quality of governance and life in Russia, not least because civil society is a key force in identifying and helping to fill gaps in the country’s economic, political and legal institutions.

Irina Mersianova

Russian Public Policy

Chapter 12. Russian Foreign and Defence Policy

The collapse of the USSR remains the dominant watershed for Russia’s elites in the early twenty-first century and, under their influence, for Russian society at large. The collapse is, as an event, not only a historical fact, but indeed a central element of today’s Russian politics—one that has conditioned the moods and interpretations of several generations of Russian thinkers and political actors. And it is these moods and interpretations that are the core of today’s contradictions between Russia and the West, which, three decades later, find themselves in a state of “hybrid confrontation”.

Fyodor Lukyanov
Chapter 13. Russia’s Arctic Strategy

Moscow has extremely important national interests in the Arctic region. These interests include access to, and exploitation of, the mineral and biological natural resources of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF). The region is the most prolific producer of Russian gas (95 per cent of total Russian production) and oil (approximately 70 per cent). Russian geologists have discovered some 200 oil and gas deposits in the AZRF. There are 22 large shelf deposits in the Barents and Kara seas, which are expected to be developed when oil and gas prices rise again. The AZRF is also abundant in other mineral resources. Its mining industries produce primary and placer diamond (99 per cent of total Russian production), platinum-group elements (98 per cent), nickel and cobalt (over 80 per cent), chromium and manganese (90 per cent), copper (60 per cent), antimony, tin, tungsten, rare metals (between 50 per cent and 90 per cent) and gold (about 40 per cent).

Alexander Sergunin, Valery Konyshev
Chapter 14. National Security

Russia’s approach to national security has changed many times over the centuries. What remains constant is that national security has been principally—even exclusively—seen as identical to the security of the Russian state. Can this default posture be updated for the country’s realities in the twenty-first century?

Dmitry Baluev
Chapter 15. International Economic Policy

The international economic policy of Russia over the last 15 years has been inconsistent and unpredictable. The country’s prolonged accession process into the World Trade Organization (WTO) first saw Moscow assume tough negotiating positions, followed by near-total official disinterest in the WTO after accession. Russia has also actively pushed for regional integration across the former Soviet space, including a full-fledged economic union for several post-Soviet states—a project that has required Moscow to overcome the distrust and apathy of these same post-Soviet states. At the same time, Russia has plainly disregarded many of its obligations vis-à-vis its trading partners in the context of the counter-sanctions regime it created in 2014 when the Ukraine crisis began.

Natalya Volchkova
Chapter 16. Fiscal and Monetary Policy

For 25 years since the start of market reforms, Russian progress in fiscal (budgetary) and monetary policy in the direction of developed countries has been significant. Russia has created a modern tax system, institutional mechanisms for administering revenues from the export of oil, an expenditure management system and a system of fiscal federalism. It has provided a high degree of independence to the central bank (the Bank of Russia), transitioning to an inflation-targeting regime and a floating exchange rate. In this chapter, we aim to explain how fiscal and monetary policy has evolved over the course of the post-Soviet history of Russia, which problems have been addressed by the Russian government by means of fiscal and monetary instruments and which ones remain and how they should be addressed. Among the remaining challenges, perhaps the most important one is the continued lack of “coordination” or, more precisely, the lack of mutual regard between fiscal and monetary policies in Russia. This has militated against macroeconomic stability and led to recurring economic crises (or otherwise complicated the economy’s exit from these crises).

Sergey Drobyshevsky, Georgiy Idrisov, Sergey Sinelnikov-Murylev, Pavel Trunin
Chapter 17. Industrial and Innovation Policy

Industrial policy has always attracted significant attention among the political class, business people and technical specialists of Russia. Much of this interest, of course, is driven by the basic redistribution of rents driven by national industrial policy, that is, the very real prospect of different economic sectors and players receiving direct material and political advantages in the near and long term.

Yuri Simachev, Mikhail Kuzyk
Chapter 18. Infrastructure and Transportation

The Russian banker, Andrey Kostin, speaking at the Sochi International Investment Forum in February 2017, argued that the key problem with the Russian transport system was that “[t]here is very little money. The state spends very little money on infrastructure—insanely little […]. [W]e still do not have a proper regulatory framework—a legislative basis for public-private partnerships. The result is that, in terms of the development of transport infrastructure, we are somewhere near the level of Gabon”1.

Mikhail Blinkin
Chapter 19. Energy and Natural Resources

Minerals and raw materials1 today play, have historically played and will continue to play in the foreseeable future, a huge role in the economy of Russia. They will also continue to structure Russian society and influence political and policy decisions on many social and economic problems, and indeed shape the country’s overall system of public administration. The central role of energy and raw materials is explained not only by their exceptional size and concentration within the geographical boundaries of a single country—oil and gas, gold, platinum, polymetallic ores, diamonds and rare earth elements—but also by the history of Russian state formation, which evolved in parallel with the exploration of new sources of raw materials in increasingly distant territories.

Valeriy Kryukov
Chapter 20. Education

In the final years of the USSR, the prevailing official and public view of Soviet higher education was that it was the best in the world. In science, in particular, the belief was that the Soviet preparation of scientific cadres allowed the USSR to see itself as the leading scientific power on the planet (see Chap. 25 on Science).

Tatiana Klyachko
Chapter 21. Health Care

Russian health care policy turns on a number of significant tensions between three vectors—all evolving at different speeds: first, the extent and nature of substantive state health care guarantees for Russian citizens; second, the extent or size of state versus non-state funding of health care; and, third, organisational challenges in the national health care system, including due to the advent of new health care technologies. Russia’s ability (or inability) to negotiate these tensions will determine the future health of the country’s population. Moreover, the country’s ability to reconcile the considerable and growing informality of its health care policies and practices with formal requirements and norms will determine the degree of public trust in the national health care system.

Sergey Shishkin
Chapter 22. Food and Agriculture

Agriculture policy has, since the fall of the Soviet Union, arguably never been as important in Russian life as it is today. Having taken the path of import substitution in 2014, Russia now faces the very complex challenge of providing food products for its population through predominantly national production. And yet the Russian agricultural sector is, notoriously, an extremely inertial part of the national economy. Successes in this sector have resulted only from gradual efforts accumulating over time. And still the fundamental problem of Russian agricultural policy remains, in the early twenty-first century as in many periods past, its inconsistency and excessive dependence on and exposure to high politics, as driven by geopolitical collisions and by transformations in Russia’s internal development model.

Svetlana Barsukova
Chapter 23. Population and Migration

At the heart of Russian immigration and demographic policy is a collision between two historical approaches to “population administration” in Russia—the first liberal, and the second conservative. The liberal approach works from the premise that Russian society is a self-organising whole, with policy-makers having to work only in support of this self-organisation by incentivising desirable trends and frustrating undesirable ones. The conservative approach, on the other hand, holds that Russian society requires strong restrictions in order to ensure its stability.

Vladimir Malakhov, Mark Simon
Chapter 24. Environment

Environmental policy has never been central to Russian politics and power. Indeed, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the implicit and explicit operating principle of Russian governance was “economy first, then environment”—a posture largely supported by the population, for which the most important problems were income, employment and the general need to increase the standard of living. (Of course, as Fyodor Lukyanov observes in Chap. 12, if in Russia the economy is prior to the environment, then politics is prior to the economy.)

Sergey Bobylev
Chapter 25. Science

Russian science has been in perpetual reform mode since the breakup of the Soviet Union. As in Soviet times, government participation in the regulation and funding of science remains very high. The federal budget today funds nearly 70 per cent of national science. However, unlike during the Soviet period, demand for Russian science is low; that is, neither Russian business nor Russian society sets particular tasks for science.

Irina Dezhina
Chapter 26. Sport

During the Soviet period, the presence of political orders from above gave rise to institutions of sport designed to carry out these orders. As Yury Vlasov wrote, “the constructed system of Soviet sport” saw itself as a bureaucratic apparatus with inherent rules of conduct and underpinned by a system of grassroots organisations, such as sports clubs.1 This “constructed system” had a general ideology of total record-getting from top to bottom and across all forms of sporting competition. The ideology spread to mass and children’s sport, which were soon viewed as de facto reserves (talent pools) for elite sport—even as the mass sport segment was resource-constrained in the system of physical education and sport.

Andrey Adelfinsky, Valery Anashvili
Chapter 27. Culture

Cultural policy has not generally been viewed as central to the activities and instruments of the modern Russian state. As such, Moscow’s sudden interest, several years ago, in culture was perceived ambivalently by many commentators. In April 2013, Vladimir Putin signed a decree on implementing Years of Culture in Russia, where 2014 was to be a Year of Culture.

Vitaly Kurennoy, Rouslan Khestanov
Chapter 28. Family Policy

Family policy in contemporary Russia has inherited many of the policy objectives and instruments of the former Soviet Union, while also preserving certain archaic aspects of pre-Soviet Russian family policy. Indeed, because Russian family policy has historically been contradictory in both its ideological underpinnings and its demographic and social consequences—often mythologising past social and demographic realities—post-Soviet family policy in Russia has no clear cementing ideology and is woven together from poorly structured and disjointed elements.

Sergei Zakharov
Chapter 29. Criminal Justice

In principle, Russia’s criminal justice system must contribute to the country’s social integrity and equilibrium as it transitions from its Soviet past and reckons with the challenges of the twenty-first century. And yet in Russia, as in most of the post-Soviet states, instead of being used as a means of producing public good, criminal justice has, in the main, become a vehicle of institutional overturn. In other words, in its overall logic, Russia’s criminal justice system to this day generally subordinates the quotidian safety and security needs of the public to the overall (implied) objective of protecting the national political system and the political-economic elite.

Leonid Kosals, Sergey Pavlenko

Russian Administration: State Institutions, Structures and Processes

Chapter 30. The Bureaucracy

The complex state apparatus and administrative practices of modern Russia were inherited from the Soviet Union. Of course, by the end of the Soviet Union, the Soviet leadership already saw state administration as a major factor in the general economic slowdown (and growing crisis), low labour productivity and the general national lag in that country’s scientific-technical progress.

Vladimir Yuzhakov, Elena Dobrolyubova
Chapter 31. The Judicial System

The judicial system of modern Russia is built on the inheritance of the Soviet system of justice. More precisely, the Russian system started with, and also borrowed from, the fin de siècle Soviet institutions (e.g. military courts and also state arbitration bodies-turned-commercial courts), adapted many of these, and added or invented new institutions—most notably the Constitutional Court—during the liberal transformation period in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the judicial system is still not fully formed or mature, and continues to serve, for all practical intents and purposes, as an integral part of the country’s power vertical.

Sergey Pashin
Chapter 32. Regional and Local Government

According to its Constitution, Russia is a federal state—one of some 30 federations around the world. The nomenclature of the Soviet period—the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR)—also characterised Russia as a federal system. In theory, federal regimes are meant to be more effective, in legal and administrative terms, for countries with large territories and high ethnic diversity; that is, federal institutional mechanisms can more flexibly broker conflicts and, more generally, manage relations among regional elites and populations. Moreover, federal constitutions enshrine in law the division of labour and resources between the levels of government in order to diminish the risk of intergovernmental conflict.

Natalia Zubarevich
Chapter 33. State Corporations

The question of the “rational” or appropriate size of the state sector in the national economy has been at the forefront of Russia’s post-Soviet policy and administrative debates over the last three decades. The question is complicated, no doubt, by the characteristic inclination of Russian public reforms towards permutations of radicalisation, dirigisme, and liberalism. In this context, for purposes of national development, the risk of going too far, as it were, in the privatisation of resources or, in the opposite case, their nationalisation, is significant.

Viktor Dementiev
Irvin Studin
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