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Russian Politics and Presidential Power

Russian Politics and Presidential Power
Transformational Leadership from Gorbachev to Putin

October 2016 | 312 pages | CQ Press
Russian Politics and Presidential Power takes an in-depth look at the Russian presidency and uses it as a key to understanding Russian politics. Donald R. Kelley looks at presidents from Gorbachev to Putin as authoritarian, transformational leaders who set out to build the future, while sometimes rejecting and reinterpreting the work of past modernizers. Placing the presidency in this context helps readers understand both the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the nature of the Russian Federation that rose in its place. And by setting the presidency within a longer historical context, Kelley shows how the future of the presidency is dependent on other features of the political system.

About the Author
Chapter 1: Executive Power in Russian Politics
What Does Executive Leadership Mean in the Russian Context?

Authoritarian Modernizers: The Prototype

Characteristics of Authoritarian Modernizers

What Can We Learn from Past “Executives”?

Earlier Authoritarian Modernizers

The Brezhnev Era: The Long Calm before the Storm

The Uncertain Interregnum: Andropov and Chernenko

Chapter 2: The Gorbachev Presidency
The Starting Point: What Gorbachev Intended

Gorbachev’s Rise to Power

From General Secretary to President

The Reform Agenda: Politics and Policy


The Economy: Perestroika

Judicial Reform

Foreign Policy

Political Reform: Democratization

Democratization of the Communist Party

The Gorbachev Presidency

The Presidency of the Russian Federation

The Battle of the Presidents

Gorbachev as an Authoritarian Modernizer

Chapter 3: The Yeltsin Presidency, 1991–1993
Yeltsin’s Path to Moscow

From Outcast to President

The President Becomes a President

A Real President Gets a Real Nation

Personal Rivalries

Economic Reforms as a Political Issue

Yeltsin’s Economic Reforms: Phase I (1991–1993)

The Reform of the Party-State

National Identity and the Union Treaty

Judicial Reform

The President and the Legislature

Foreign Policy

Yeltsin as an Authoritarian Modernizer: A Preliminary Assessment

Chapter 4: Yeltsin and Russia Reborn
The Presidency and the Legislature

Judicial Reform

The 1993 Duma Elections

The 1995 Duma Elections

The 1996 Presidential Election

The Second Term: From Victory to Resignation

Yeltsin’s Economic Reforms: Phase II (1994-1999)

Foreign Policy

The First Chechen War

The December 1999 Duma Elections

Yeltsin’s Surprise Resignation

Yeltsin as an Authoritarian Modernizer: A Final Assessment

Chapter 5: Putin I, 2000–2008
The 2000 Presidential Election

Vladimir Putin: From Spy Novels to the Kremlin

The Putin Formula

The Putin Presidency Emerges from Yeltsin’s Shadow

Outside the Garden Ring: “Managing” the New Democracy

The Presidency and the Legislature: The 2003 Duma Elections

Judicial Reform

The 2004 Presidential Election

The Rules and the Game Change

The Run-Up to the 2008 Presidential Election

The 2007 Duma Elections

Putin’s Economic Reforms

Foreign Policy

The Second Chechen War

The 2008 Presidential Election

Putin as an Authoritarian Modernizer

Chapter 6: The “Tandem”
Dmitry Medvedev: Putin’s Friend from Leningrad

Governing the Nation in Tandem

Medvedev and Putin in Tandem

Factional Realities

Medvedev and Economic Reform

Medvedev and Political Modernization

Judicial Reform

Foreign Policy

The Russian-Georgian War

Medvedev and the Legislature: The 2011 Duma Elections

The Duma Election and Voting Fraud

The 2012 Presidential Election

Election Results

Medvedev as an Authoritarian Modernizer

Chapter 7: Putin II, 2012–
The “New” Cabinet

Putin II: Old and New Realities

Maintaining the Balance within the Garden Ring

Controlling the Opposition

The Economy: Prosperity and Modernity

Foreign Policy

Crimea and Ukraine

Russian Foreign Policy and the World

The Three Arenas of Russian Politics

Inside the Garden Ring: Factional Politics in Putin II

A Note on the Siloviki

Outside the Garden Ring: Politics in the Rest of the Russian Federation

The Authoritarian Modernizer Revisited

The Legal System and the Courts

Connecting Those Inside and Outside the Garden Ring

Political Parties

Civil Society

Control of the Media

The Leadership Cult as a Connection

Putin as an Authoritarian Modernizer

Chapter 8: The Future(s) of Russian Politics
The Future of the Russian Presidency(ies)

What Will Drive Change?

Changes in the Nature of Factional Politics

Changes in the Nature of Electoral Politics at the National, Regional, and Local Levels

Politics Moves to the Street: A Color Revolution or Moscow Spring

What Is a Color Revolution?

A Russian Color Revolution?


Russian Politics and Presidential Power provides excellent insight into the Russian national character and the intellectual and emotional challenges that motivate people. The narrative is well written, , profound, and honest. The book is a very good resource for students who want to learn more about the nature of Russian politics.”

Irina Vakulenko
University of Texas Dallas

“Donald Kelley’s concept of 'modern authoritarians' as a central theme enables a reader to follow the complex personalities and course of events.  Perhaps even more valuable is the accuracy of the concept in portraying the Russian political experience. It is clear and presents the material that students need to understand.”

Richard Farkas
DePaul University

Russian Politics and Presidential Power is a fine text for undergraduate audiences and a good one for graduate students to review, too. The notion of the 'authoritarian modernizer' helps as a way to understand the Russian presidency and to get away from the tendentious arguments about Yeltsin and Putin that are so often indulged in. Kelley’s work is clearly written with well explained examinations of the turbulent eras covered.”

Gerry Hudson
The Ohio State University

“Russian Politics and Presidential Power is notable for Professor Kelley’s attention to political 'legacies' of past Russian and Soviet chief executive offices and practices.  Dr. Kelley demonstrates a number of the reasons for which Russian Federation politics have remained very fluid, and he acquaints the reader with many of the major political issues that have surfaced within the Russian political arena since before the disappearance of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

Barbara Chotiner
Professor Emerita at the University of Alabama
Key features
  • Reinterprets of the concept of authoritarian modernizer for the purposes of understanding the mindset of transformational leaders from 1985 onward.
  • Discussion of separate arenas of Russian politics demonstrates the complexity of politics in an electoral authoritarian regime.
  • Discussion of possible futures offers nuanced alternatives shaped by the nature of political institutions, strengths and weakness of major actors, and impact of tactical choices by politicians.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

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