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Three Obstacles to the Change of Putin's Sistema


Alena Ledeneva, "Three Obstacles to the Change of Putin's Sistema", dans Fellows : La Russie de Vladimir Poutine, Paris, RFIEA, n° 27, juin 2017


Putin’s regime has been commonly referred to as neo-Soviet, competitive-authoritarian or post-modern dictatorial. I argue that Putin’s system of governance – sistema – goes deeper and far beyond the Soviet system of governance. It may function with some elements from the ‘administrative-command’ system of Brezhnev’s socialism, effective for mobilising elites, electorate and allocating resources, but is adjusted to present-day objectives and priorities. There are also significant differences: the party ideology has given place to market interests, state property to privatised assets, informal exchange of favours to monetised kickbacks, planning to the constraints of global finance, local-bound infrastructure to hi-tech technologies and overtly command methods to more subtle informal signals. Hence, although the collapse of the Soviet Union provides a starting point for assessing continuity and change in sistema, practices of informal governance at its foundation have been known and reproduced for centuries: feeding (kormlenie), joint responsibility (krugovaya poruka), and creation of formal façades (potemkinskie derevni). These patterns continue to be used and function effectively for the purposes of co-optation, control and camouflage in sistema reproduction.

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