Do economic sanctions turn the public against the target government or cause it to rally around the flag? How do sanctions affect attitudes toward the sanctioner? How does bad economic performance under sanctions shape support for the target government? Despite their importance, these questions have rarely been explored with survey data. Results from two surveys in Russia find that exposure to information about economic sanctions does not generate a rally around the flag, leads some groups to withdraw support from the target government, and reduces support for the sanctioner. Respondents also react more strongly to the reasons why sanctions were put in place—the annexation of Crimea—than to the sanctions themselves. These results suggest the need to reevaluate theories of the impact of economic sanctions and blame-shifting under autocracy.
How do elections and post-election protest shape political trust in a competitive autocracy? Taking advantage of largely exogenous variation in the timing of a survey conducted in Moscow in 2011, we find that an election had little systematic effect on political trust, perhaps because vote improprieties were not new information. In contrast, the unexpected protest that followed increased trust in government. We argue that when autocrats permit protest unexpectedly, citizens may update their beliefs about the trustworthiness of the government. In this case, heightened trust arises largely from opposition voters - those most likely to be surprised by permission to hold the protest - who update their beliefs. Our results suggest that citizens may cue not off the content of a protest, but off the government's decision to permit it. In addition, autocrats can increase trust in government by allowing protest when it is unexpected.
Available evidence indicates that there is considerable variation among autocracies in the extent to which subnational officials are rewarded for economic growth. Why is economic performance used as a criterion for appointment in some autocracies but not in others? We argue that in more competitive—though still autocratic—regimes, the political imperatives of maintaining an electoral machine that can win semi-competitive elections leads regime leaders to abandon cadre policies that promote economic development. Using data on turnover among high-level economic bureaucrats in Russia’s 89 regions between 2001 and 2012, we find that performance-based appointments are more frequent in less competitive regions. These findings demonstrate one way that semi-competitive elections can actually undermine economic development under autocracy
This article attempts to open up the black box of the Russian Presidential Administration (‘the Kremlin’). Borrowing from literature on ‘institutional presidencies’ and institutional approaches to authoritarianism, I argue that the administration institutionalised over the years. More stable and predictable procedures enhanced administrative presidential powers, but personalism and non-compliance with presidential orders remained. Original data on budget, staff, units, organisational structure, and presidential assignments demonstrates that presidential power should be conceptualised as a polymorphous phenomenon that varies depending on the level of analysis. Researchers should aim to depersonalise their analyses and focus on ‘institutional presidencies’ and ‘centres of government’ instead.
This article investigates the role of boards in founder-managed firms with concentrated ownership in emerging markets. The literature frequently suggests that in this type of companies, boards have little influence on the corporate decision making. The article conducts a case study of AFK Sistema—a large Russian founder-managed firm with concentrated ownership. We observe that, contrary to the expectations, in this company, the founder provided real authority to the board, at the same time focusing on recruiting independent (mainly foreign) members. Based on this case, we argue that selectively empowering boards in this type of ownership setting could be beneficial for the firm: Selective empowerment is a source of intrinsic motivationfor the independent board members, making them proactively search for new projects and assist in their implementation on behalf of the firm. As a result, the company can overcome a number of important barriers in its development.
Do businesspeople who win elected office use their positions to help their firms? Business leaders become politicians around the world, yet we know little about whether their commitment to public service trumps their own private interests. Using an original dataset of 2,703 firms in Russia, I employ a regression discontinuity design to identify the causal effect of firm directors winning seats in subnational legislatures from 2004 to 2013. First, having a connection to a winning politician increases a firm’s revenue by 60% and profitability by 15% over a term in office. I then test between different mechanisms, finding that connected firms improve their performance by gaining access to bureaucrats and not by signaling legitimacy to financiers. The value of winning a seat increases in more politically competitive regions but falls markedly when more businesspeople win office in a convocation. Politically connected firms extract fewer benefits when faced with greater competition from other rent-seekers.
Corruption has been a constant factor in Russia’s political economy. From one era to another, the multifarious forms of corruption continue to pervade Russian politics despite sincere and insincere efforts to fight it. The election of Vladimir Putin as president in 2000 brought a new effort at consolidating and organizing authority in the country. However, far from eliminating corruption, politics of the Putin era have merely changed the form of corruption, integrating corruption into the “power vertical” through which Putin governs.
In recent years, corruption has played an ever larger role in the regime’s stability. It serves as a force to co-opt and control the political elite and to replace formal institutions with something more flexible and more amenable to the needs of a consolidated authoritarian regime. Only deep changes, such as higher levels of political competition, have a chance of reducing corruption in the long run. The approaching fourth term of President Putin will continue to increase the role of informal institutions in Russian politics, in which corruption plays an increasingly large role in the Kremlin’s management of the political process.
Public procurement procedures prescribed by legislation not only enhance transparency and competition but also entail certain transaction costs for both customers and suppliers. These costs are important to the efficiency of the procurement system. However, very few previous studies have focused on estimating procurement costs. This paper proposes a methodology for public procurement cost evaluation. We show how procurement costs can be calculated using a formalized survey of public customers. This methodology was tested with a representative group of public customers operating in one region of the Russian Federation. We formulate the policy implications of our study as they relate to the improvement of public procurement regulations and argue that this methodological approach can be applied in other developing and transitioning economies.
This paper argues that understanding the business environment in Russia requires putting the government front and center. In response to economic crisis and falling oil prices, the Russian government has gone on the offensive. Through the use of targeted subsidies, protectionist policies, and procedural reforms, it has worked to stem economic collapse and prop up economic production. Some of these efforts have had a tangible impact on the way business is conducted in Russia, though the list of obstacles private firms still must maneuver is sizable.
However, the most important development over the last decade has been the state’s direct takeover of valuable economic assets and the creation of massive state-owned enterprises (SOEs). This (re)nationalization jeopardizes the economic viability of many private firms by concentrating wealth and opportunities in a small group of well-connected SOEs. Private companies have adapted to this reality by devising a set of political strategies to ensure favorable treatment from the government. From mobilizing their workers during elections to running their directors for political office, these companies understand that remaining on good terms with the government is key to survival. Urgent structural reforms are needed to unwind the government’s role in the economy. Without changes, political connections will remain paramount to generating profits in Russia.
From robocalls to vote buying to electoral intimidation scholars have identified many ways that politicians mobilize voters to the polls. We develop a simple argument about the conditions under which autocrats will use positive inducements such as vote buying and negative inducement such as employee coercion of workers. Using survey experiments and crowd-sourced electoral violation reports from the 2011-12 election cycle in Russia, we find little evidence that vote buying was practiced on a large scale in this election. This finding is consistent with arguments about the decline of vote buying in middle-income countries. Voter intimidation, however, was relatively common, especially among employed voters and in Russia’s many single company towns where employers have much leverage over employees. In these single company towns, the consequences of job loss are so grave that employer intimidation may often be sufficient to induce compliance even without direct monitoring of voter behavior. Outside of company towns where employers have less leverage, active forms of monitoring may supplement intimidation in order to encourage compliance. These results suggest that employers can be reliable vote brokers; that voter intimidation can persist in a middle-income country; and that, under some conditions intimidation may be employed without the need for active monitoring.
Historical institutionalism has demonstrated the value of close analysis of policymaking to explain institutional change. In particular, scholars have distinguished four different patterns of institutional change: drift, conversion, layering, and displacement. To date, most of this literature has been based on studies of developed democracies. This paper uses a case comparison of pension reform in the two postcommunist giants, Russia and China, to analyze the analogous processes of agenda-setting, bargaining, choice, and policy implementation in bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes. While policymaking in both countries takes place almost entirely within the state bureaucracy, in China, state political authority is much more decentralized than in Russia. I argue that this difference helps to account for the characteristic difference in the patterns of policy change that we observe in the two cases: periodic abrupt reversals in Russia vs. incrementalism and layering in China.
Around the world, governments, educators and employers have expressed growing interest in German-style methods of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). In such countries, schools and firms share responsibility for providing technical and vocational education, a model often called the ‘dual system of vocational training and education.’ The dual system means that occupational training occurs at two linked sites, educational institutions and workplaces. Dual education aims at matching the demands of a dynamically changing economy with the skill profiles of those graduating from educational institutions. To a large extent, dual education systems enable young people to acquire not simply technical and occupational skill, but broadly defined competencies that serve as the foundation for rewarding careers and social esteem. Little wonder that many countries have turned with renewed interest to the dual TVET system. However, actual implementation of the dual system outside the core Germanic countries in Europe has proven to be extremely challenging. Successful examples of institutional transplantation are rare. However, in some countries, local partnerships embracing elements of dual education have formed, uniting educational institutions, government entities and firms in partnerships to upgrade TVET. This paper discusses some of the characteristic patterns of such partnerships in the U.S.
This article considers Russian income inequality in relation to the trend toward rising inequality in the U.S. and in most parts of the world. Income and wealth inequality in Russia has been rising except in periods when the economy is in recession, and wealth inequality in Russia is now highest in the world. The analysis shows that inequality trends in Russia share some characteristics with other developed and developing economies, including technological change, increased integration in the global economy, and the capitalization of rent streams. Financialization and dependence on natural resource extraction contribute strongly to both cross-sectional and cross-regional inequality in Russia. The absence of institutions for aggregating broad competing social interests—whether corporatist or partisan—restricts the capacity of the political system to set agreed rules governing the distribution of the burdens and benefits of economic growth. As in other political systems, both democratic and authoritarian, high inequality undermines the state’s ability to provide public goods that would contribute both to inclusive economic growth and a growing middle class.
We empirically study how social capital influences individuals' preferences for redistribution to target groups using unique surveys of approximately 34,000 individuals across 68 Russian regions in 2007 and 2011. There is a positive relationship between social capital and support for government redistribution based on objective verifiable criteria. We interpret the results in terms of the perceived likelihood of cheating. Benefits to the ‘needy’ are at greater risk of being diverted to nondeserving claimants compared to benefits for which there are objective criteria, such as merit, being retired or disabled, or having many children. Our results show that when there is higher social capital in a region, there is also less tolerance for the possibility of cheating by recipients of government income transfers.
Which incentives have the strongest impact on the size of the informal economy? Is it about government’s pressure against entrepreneurs operating in this sector, or is it about the benefits of legality? The goal of this paper is to explicitly contrast the role of sticks (court repressiveness) and carrots (financial aid to small and medium-sized firms) as factors determining the size of the informal economy, using the case of the Russian taxi market. It uses a unique dataset of taxi licensing data from regional transport departments and indicators for taxi market demand and supply to estimate the extent of informal business. When controlling for market demand and supply, it finds a strong and robust positive effect of sanctions on the size of the official market, with higher repressiveness leading to a smaller informal economy. In contrast, the effect of carrots was insignificant. The results suggest that the effectiveness of carrot policies is compromised when entrepreneurs operate informally to avoid dealing with corrupt bureaucrats and have low trust in the government.
The paper examines the role of testosterone-driven aggressive behavior in politics of non-democratic regimes and, in particular, its influence on the extent of the repressiveness of these regimes. To measure testosterone exposure, we apply the facial width-to-height metric (fWHR) – a standard proxy widely used in the psychological literature - and look at a sample of Russian regional governors. We find a positive relationship between the fWHR metric and the level of repression in the region of the governor. Testosterone-related behavior is, however, more widespread among younger governors and among governors with shorter tenure in office. Thus, the paper contributes to the recent trend of integrating insights of behavioral economics into political economics research.