Russia as a Post-Communist Country

  • Leslie Holmes
Part of the International Council for Central and East European Studies book series (ICCEES)


In a recent comparative book on post-communism,1 I proposed a descriptive model of this new phenomenon, as one way of attempting to define and delimit it. The model comprises fourteen salient features of post-communism, the particular configuration of which distinguishes post-communist countries from other systems, including other transition societies. The first seven characteristics relate to political cultural implications of the legacy of communism, while the remainder are concerned with the comprehensiveness and salient features of their attempts at transitions, and the overall context in which such attempts are being made. In this chapter, recent developments in Russia will be tested against that model, as one way of attempting to conceptualise them. The basic argument is that Russia is in many ways less different from other post-communist states than is often claimed, even though it is from some important perspectives sui generis; of these, its own identity problems constitute perhaps the most significant. While maintaining that the qualitative differences between Russia and many other post-communist societies are fewer than is often appreciated, it is acknowledged that some of the problems are deeper, and reactions to them more extreme, than in some other countries. Given Russia’s size and strategie significance, these differences matter.


Presidential Election Former Soviet Union Organise Crime Liberal Democratic Party Grand Theory 
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  1. Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism: An Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), pp. 15–21.Google Scholar
  2. For a controversial statement of this position, see Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, ‘The Conceptual Travels of Transitologists and Consolidologists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?’, Slavic Review 53, no.l (1994), pp. 173–85.Google Scholar
  3. For survey data on public attitudes towards Gorbachev, see Yuri Levada, ‘Civic Culture’, in D. Shalin (ed.), Russian Culture at the Crossroads (Boulder, CO: West-view, 1996), especially p. 310.Google Scholar
  4. Ralf Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (London: Chatto & Windus, 1990), especially pp.24–37, contrasts various ‘systems’ with the concepts of ‘open society’ and ‘normal polities’.Google Scholar
  5. Claus Offe, ‘Capitalism by Democratic Design? Democratic Theory Facing the Triple Transition in East Central Europe’, Social Research 58, no.4 (1991), pp.865–92.Google Scholar
  6. On regionalism and federalism, see for example G. Lapidus and E. Walker, ‘Nationalism, Regionalism, and Federalism: Center-Periphery Relations in Post-Communist Russia’, in Gail Lapidus (ed.), The New Russia (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995), pp.79–113.Google Scholar
  7. V. Mikhalev, ‘Social Security in Russia under Economic Transformation’, Europe-Asia Studies 48, no.l (1966), p.8.Google Scholar
  8. Leslie Holmes, ‘Normalisation and Legitimation in Postcommunist Russia’, in Stephen White, Alex Pravda and Zvi Gitelman (eds), Developments in Russian and Post-Soviet Politics (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), pp.323–30.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Holmes

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