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Ruling Russia:
Authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin
William Zimmerman

Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691161488
344 pp. | 6 x 9 | 3 line art. 12 tables. 1 map. | SHOPPING CART

eBook | ISBN: 9781400850181 |
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When the Soviet Union collapsed, many hoped that Russia’s centuries-long history of autocratic rule might finally end. Yet today’s Russia appears to be retreating from democracy, not progressing toward it. Ruling Russia is the only book of its kind to trace the history of modern Russian politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the presidency of Vladimir Putin. It examines the complex evolution of communist and post-Soviet leadership in light of the latest research in political science, explaining why the democratization of Russia has all but failed.

William Zimmerman argues that in the 1930s the USSR was totalitarian but gradually evolved into a normal authoritarian system, while the post-Soviet Russian Federation evolved from a competitive authoritarian to a normal authoritarian system in the first decade of the twenty-first century. He traces how the selectorate—those empowered to choose the decision makers—has changed across different regimes since the end of tsarist rule. The selectorate was limited in the period after the revolution, and contracted still further during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship, only to expand somewhat after his death. Zimmerman also assesses Russia’s political prospects in future elections. He predicts that while a return to totalitarianism in the coming decade is unlikely, so too is democracy.

Rich in historical detail, Ruling Russia is the first book to cover the entire period of the regime changes from the Bolsheviks to Putin, and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why Russia still struggles to implement lasting democratic reforms.

William Zimmerman is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan, where he is also research professor emeritus at the Institute for Social Research. This is his fourth book with Princeton University Press, his most recent being The Russian People and Foreign Policy: Russian Elite and Mass Perspectives, 1993-2000.


"Western democracies often view the Russian political structure as something 'abnormal.' Zimmerman peels back this Western lens and looks systematically into Russian political history from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin. He delves into how a consolidated political structure solidified with each passing generation of rulers."--Library Journal

"William Zimmerman's new book is perfectly timed to furnish a backdrop to this discussion, providing the first major overview of Russian leadership politics from 1917 to the present. . . . Ruling Russia is written in a lively style, with flashes of humour."--Lara Cook, Times Higher Education

"William Zimmerman . . . has written an important book rich in historical detail."--Survival

"This is a book for those who know a little about Soviet and Russian politics but who wish to gain a balanced and intelligent deeper understanding of the process of change that may one day end up with Russia becoming a 'normal' system."--Richard Sakwa, Russian Review

"Zimmerman's book is a major contribution, which speaks to comparativists, Russia scholars, and the broader public alike."--Inga A.-L. Saikkonen, Democratization


"Zimmerman provides specialists in comparative politics with important insights about authoritarian, totalitarian, and democratic regimes. He reveals the importance of uncertain political outcomes, the size of the selectorate, and the constraints posed by institutions in distinguishing not just between democracy and dictatorship but also among different types of authoritarian regimes. He makes the deceptively simple point that regimes do not just rise and fall--they also evolve."--Valerie Jane Bunce, Cornell University

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 From Democratic Centralism to Democratic Centralism 14
Chapter 2 Alternative Mobilization Strategies, 1917-1934 43
Chapter 3 From Narrow Selectorate to Autocracy 75
Chapter 4 The Great Purge 102
Chapter 5 From Totalitarianism to Welfare Authoritarianism 130
Chapter 6 Uncertainty and “Democratization”: The Evolution of Post-Brezhnevian Politics, 1982-1991 164
Chapter 7 Democratizing Russia, 1991-1997 196
Chapter 8 The Demise of Schumpeterian Democracy, the Return to Certainty, and Normal ("Full") Authoritarianism, 1998-2008 220
Chapter 9 The Return of Uncertainty? The 2011-2012 Electoral Cycle 267
Chapter 10 The Past and Future of Russian Authoritarianism 291
Selected Bibliography 311
Index 323

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      File created: 3/10/2015

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