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.
To illustrate the role of organizations of lawyers in social changes we analyze the process of transforming legal and socio-political institutions in Russia over the past 30 years.We combine the theory of legal mobilization with the concept of violence and social orders proposed by North, Wallis and Weingast to describe the general logic of this process. Russian case shows that exogenous shocks stimulate collective action of criminal defence lawyers which, in turn, compel the government to respond. The state can promote the passivity of the legal community and stop legal mobilization by providing certain preferences for the profession. Even though in the 2000s, Russia took the path of destroying legal institutions, legal profession in certain circumstances could again act as an agent of social change. We conclude that the efficiency of collective action depends on the institutional capacity of legal association and on the position of the professional elite standing at its head.
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.
Effective systems of vocational education are crucial to economic and social development. However, coordination of labor market demand and supply of skill requires either well-functioning labor market institutions or institutionally-embedded strategic partnerships among government, labor, and employers. In particular, the transplantation of German-style dual education methods to a different environment poses significant institutional dilemmas. Russia presents a useful case for examining the conditions under which such arrangements can be established. Based on a series of interviews in six Russian regions and a set of case histories, we seek to draw testable hypotheses that can be applied to other settings.
Does decentralization affect how voters attribute blame for poor economic performance? The question of whether political centralization ties regime leaders to local economic outcomes is particularly important in authoritarian regimes, where economic performance legitimacy is a key source of regime stability. Using political and economic data from large Russian cities for the period 2003-2012, we investigate whether replacing direct mayoral elections with appointments affects the way voters attribute blame for economic outcomes. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that the ruling party is more likely to be punished for poor economic performance in cities with appointed mayors than it is in cities with elected mayors.
This article provides the first systematic analysis of the Russian media coverage of Trump’s activities during the electoral campaign and within first seven months of his presidential term. We conduct a quantitative analysis of the publications about Donald Trump in 500 Russian magazines and 250 largest federal newspapers. The database “Medialogy” served as a source of data for sentiment analysis of news reports about the American president. On its basis, the conclusion is drawn that the image of Trump was not unambiguously positive, as some foreign studies have claimed. Based on the theory of the network agenda setting we analyzed the context in which Donald Trump was mentioned one month before the election, a month after the elections and in June 2017, just before his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Based on the analysis of network agendas in the Russian federal press, it can be concluded that Trump was portrayed by the Russian media not as Russia’s favorite candidate for president, but as Hillary Clinton’s opponent and a critic of U.S. recent policies. In this context, its likely loss would allow the Russian media to strengthen the negative impression of Russians from U.S. elections. However, after the election results were announced, the Russian media changed tactics and began to write about Trump as a friend of Russia, since there was hope that the new president would lift political and economic sanctions. Trump’s policy has not lived up to the expectations of Russians and since the beginning of 2017 publications about him were mostly negative. Finally, Trump’s positive image collapsed after the start of U.S. military operations in Syria and the imposition of new sanctions against Russia.
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.
Ownership rights in Russia have not been secured since the authoritarian regime in the country brought the judicial system under its control. Entrepreneurs have developed various strategies in order to avoid losing their property. During the 1990s, they voiced their interests through business associations, whereas during the 2000s, they sought protection through international commercial and arbitration courts. In recent years, the growing self-isolation of the country - exacerbated by Western sanctions - has made it increasingly difficult to pursue this avenue. Manifestations of loyalty and gestures of submission are now almost the only option left available.