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Call for Papers: Vestnik!

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Each month the SRAS newsletter features news and information about Russia, its politics, culture, and language!

Politics-Adat home and abroad!

Russian Politics
& US-Russia Diplomacy

Table of Contents:

  1. News
  2. NGOs
  3. Public Opinion
  4. Political Parties & Movements
  5. Youth Politics
  6. Major Faces in Politics and Diplomacy
  7. Selected Articles, Interviews, and Papers
  8. Government
  9. Russian Legal Codes
  10. Political Humor in Russia
  11. US-Russia Cooperation/Comparisons
  12. Books
  13. <<<Back to the Library

Color Code:
Red links
= only in Russian
Gray links = English available

What is "The Library?"

About this Page (from the author)

In the decade between 1991 and 2001, English-speaking reporters and policy wonks were buzzing about Russia's complex, tumultuous, and at-times concerning domestic political arena. Although the liberal reformers had an upper hand with Yeltsin in the presidency, they faced opposition from the still-powerful Communists and the rising nationalists. After 2001, with the rise of Vladimir Putin, the simplification of Russian politics in reporting and policy became increasingly the norm, boiled down to a single a man and a handful of adjectives to describe him.

Perhaps because of this history, many students on our study abroad programs to Russia can consistently name two political forces in Russia: Vladimir Putin and Yabloko (the latter hasn't been a serious political force for years). The concerning part about this situation for me personally, however, is that many of our students are aspiring wonks. They want to go on to work for the US government, helping to develop and institute policy concerning Russia.

While Vladimir Putin is undeniably the most powerful face in Russian politics today, those who want to work with Russia's political structures are going to need a far deeper and more up-to-date view of how Russian politics actually work: what systems are at play, what ideologies are dominant, who are the major players and, perhaps most importantly, what do the Russian people actually want and expect from governments? Foreign policy that is formulated with the interests of the peoples affected in mind is most often the most effective foreign policy.

This page has been developed primarily for young Americans like our students. It represents a wide look at Russia's domestic politics with some focus on its foreign policy organs and actors. We hope that this small effort will help better prepare students for not only writing college papers today, but perhaps, in writing better policy papers about Russia later and bringing about a more stable and more fruitful US-Russia relationship.

We would also like to thank our intern Elizabeth Bagot for her assistance in updating this page in early 2011. The page was originally compiled in 2007. We will continue to periodically update this resource to reflect the state of modern Russian politics.


Josh Wilson
Assistant Director
The School of Russian and Asian Studies
Editor in Chief
Vestnik, The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies 


1.  News and Analysis
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JRL is an incredibly extensive free daily newsletter of global news about Russia (please consider making a donation to it if you subscribe).

Other good English-language sources for policital news include Russia Profile, Reuters, AP, Moscow Times, Moscow News, and St. Petersburg Times.

Russian Papers
Russian composer D. Shostakovich reading a copy of Pravda
The composer Shostakovich 
Pravda. Click for more on Russian journalism and papers.
Click the ruble
for more on the


ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti, both "official" news agencies for Russia, have an English-language service focused largely on foreign relations. Interfax is similar, but available only in Russian.

Electoral Geography is an exceedingly cool site with the results of every national election in Russia from 1991 to 2008.

Russia Direct features articles, white papers and monthly memos that provide the kind of nuanced understanding required by those with a deep involvement and interest in U.S. and Russian foreign policy.

The Interpreter is an online journal dedicated primarily to translating political media from the Russian press and blogosphere into English. It is underwritten by two registered non-profit organizations: the London-based Herzen Foundation and the New York-based Institute of Modern Russia. is a 24-hour public-access Internet television station focused on communist thought and on the activities of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. 

Russia Political offers an interesting compilation of politics-related news, particularly focusing on US-Russia relations. is a news source that bills itself as representing the "Ring of Opposition" in Russia. is a reasonably popular public Internet political forum. This site can be great for those advanced speakers seeking examples of how native Russian speakers express (yes, sometimes half-baked) political thoughts.


2. NGOs         report an error          back to top
NGOs are a frequent subject in US-Russia relations. Both have accused the other of funding NGOs to advance the other's political views and agendas abroad. Russia blames the US (directly or indirectly) for formenting the Orange Revolution (Ukraine) and Rose Revolution (Georgia) through NGOs. The US has also protested that Russia regulates its NGOs too tightly, stifling the development of civil society. NGOs are complex creatures. Some are non-profit, some are not. Some are government funded, some are not. Many publish news, papers, or journals meant to advance their stated goals. Below are a few of the major NGOs active in influencing or studying Russian politics, society, or US-Russia relations. They are subdivided by country of origin and/or home office. These are not complete lists, as there are thousands of NGOs out there. For another, larger list (with no annotation), click here and scroll to near the bottom of the article from Russia Profile.

 A. American NGOs           report an error          back to top

The Council on Foreign Relations is a highly influential think tank on world politics. They publish reports (often controversial such as "Russia's Wrong Direction)." They also have a regular publication called, simply, "Foreign Affairs."

The National Endowment for Democracy s a federally-funded, American NGO that distributes millions of dollars in grants every year to fund democracy movements in the FSU. They also offer a library, a free newsletter, and announcements of conferences and events. It's funded by the US government. They also publish the Journal of Democracy.

Transnational Crime and Corruption Center is devoted to teaching, research, training and formulating policy advice in transnational crime, corruption and terrorism. Much of their work to date has centered on Russia and Eastern Europe. It is operated as part of George Mason University.

Carnegie Moscow Center is part of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Center accommodates foreign and Russian researchers collaborating with Washington staff on a variety of topical areas and policy-relevant projects related to the military, government, and economy.

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Russian Studies

The American Enterprise Institute studies politics, economics, and sociology. In addition to hosting scholars and occasional events about Russia, they publish Russian Outlook, an analytical bulletin on politics and economics.

The Kennan Institute, part of the Woodrow Wilson Center, is devoted to Russia and the surrounding areas.  See their grants page as well.

Brookings Institute analyzes public policy around the world including Russia's.

 B. NGOs - Russian           report an error          back to top

GOLOS is a watchdog for voting rights in Russia.

Memorial is an umbrella human rights organization that is also concerned with making sure that the victims of Soviet repression are not forgotten.

Center for Political Technologies is one Russia's largest and most active analytical think tanks. In addition to providing political and business consulting, they run, an analytical news site.

For Human Rights supports the development of the rule of law and civil society in Russia.

The Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) is a think-tank operating under the Russian Academy of Sciences. It provides analysis of world political and economic events for the benefit of political decision makers. 

Union of the Committees of Soldiers Mothers of Russia seeks to protect soldier's rights in Russia, where conscription is still practiced.

The Center for Economic Sociology seeks unite, systamitize, and advance its namesake field. Especially interesting is their Syllabi of Courses on economic sociology courses offered in Russia.

The Gorbachev Foundation was one of Russia's first independent think tanks. It still works to study the political situation in Russia, Russian international relations, and to build a more equitable, democratic order.

The Movement of Russia's Motorists is a surpisingly large organization that works against corruption in Russia's traffic police, for improved traffic and vehical legislation, and for the rights of motorists.

The Congress of Russian Americans works to promote and preserve Russian culture in the US and represent the interests
of Russian immigrants within the US.

The Institute for the Development of the Election System seeks to develop a "Rule by the People" by spreading information about democracy and elections. Their site is technically availabe in English, but the English side has not been updated since 2005. provides still more information about electoral legislation and a list of Regional Election Commissions across Russia.

  A Few Books
on Russian Politics

C. NGOs - Other           report an error          back to top

International Relations and Security Network is based in Zurich, Switzerland and promotes greater knowledge sharing, learning and collaboration amoung international relations and security professionals. They publish The Russian Regional Report and Russia in Global Affairs , available for free via email subscription.

The Defense Academy of the UK provides original analysis of events in Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus.

Russia House is a private coorporation based in Moscow and Washington, DC that promotes US-Russia relations with various events and conferences. Their largest effort is the World Russian Forum, held each year in DC, which draws scholars and politicians from around the world.

Rights in Russia is a UK-based organization that seeks to support the human rights movement in Russia by dispersing information in Engish.


3.  Public Opinion in Russia           report an error          back to top

The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) was originally part of the Ministry of Labor and the Council of the Trade Unions of the USSR. It's now a state-owned company with a board of directors drawn from the ministries and presidential administration. It is the largest and most active public opinion firm in Russia. Most findings are available for free only in Russian

The Levada Center is perhaps the best-respected agency in Russia for polls, analyses, and studies covering economics, sociology, and politics.

Angus-Reid offers global monitoring: short descriptions in English of various polls taken around the world. See the search function at the bottom of the home page.

Public Opinion Foundation was originally part of VTsIOM, but became an independent non-profit in 1992. It's often used by such entities as the presidential administration, the Central Bank, and Gazprom. The site is broadly organized by topic or chronology. 

ROMIR Monitoring is Gallup International's representative in Russia. Their site offers most polls for free with handy figures and graphs to boot. However, they have provided no organization other than chronology. Try Google's "search site" option on this one. 


4.  Political Parties and Movements           report an error          back to top

Since 1993, Russia has used the "party list" system: the voter votes for a party rather than an individual candidate. The party is then awarded seats proportionately to the amount of votes they received and assigns people to those seats. In 2005, reforms were passed to require that parties gain at least 7% of the vote to gain representation, to prevent parties from forming blocs to help them over this requirement, and to make legislative elections exclusively by party list (single mandate districts still exist in some city and regional elections). Political parties must also be officially registered to run, which requires them to collect two million signatures in a limited amount of time, of which no more than 5% can be judged "fake" by the Central Elections Commission in a closed-door review of the signatures. As of 2004, the governors of Russia regions have been appointed and fired by the President and approved by the regional legislature, most of which are now dominated by United Russia. The Russian Ministry of Justice offers a full list of Russia's officially registered political parties, along with official party information such as membership numbers and financial accounting. The list below is current as of November, 2010. You might also like this compilaition (in Russian) of Russian campaign commercials from 1991-2012.

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A. Registered Parties Represented in the Duma
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United Russia        Party Platform & History
United Russia is the largest political party in Russia. As the self-proclaimed “presidential party” (it supported Vladimir Putin during his presidency and also supports current president Dmitri Medvedev), this right-of-center party advocates a strong presidency, administrative reform, and higher living standards for all Russians.
Duma Representation in 2011: 70%

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF)        Party Platform & History
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is the second-largest political party in Russia, formed in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a successor party to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The party boasts as its platform a "socialism of the 21st century."
Duma Representation in 2011: 12.67%

A Just Russia        Party Platform (Partial Translation)
A Just Russia is a socialist political party claiming to represent the interests of the Russian worker and pensioner. Although it claims to oppose United Russia (the ruling party), it strongly supported Vladimir Putin and currently supports Dmitri Medvedev, who are also strongly supported by United Russia. A full Russian version of their (enormous) platform can be found here.
Duma Representation in 2011: 8.44%

The Liberal-Democrative Party of Russia (LDPR)       Party Platform & History
The Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia is a political party centered around its charismatic and controversial leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Although self-described as centrist and pro-reform, it has a reputation of ultra-nationalism and generally supports the actions of United Russia. Its self-proclaimed first order of business is the reunification of Russia and Belarus, which it would like to then follow by reassembling the Russian Empire.
Duma Representation in 2011: 8.89%

B. Registered, Unrepresented Parties           back to top

Yabloko        Party Platform
The Russian United Democratic Party, best known as "Yabloko," (the Russian word for "Apple") is a political party advocating greater freedom and civil liberties, as well as integration with the West and membership in the European Union. It opposes the rule of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev as “authoritarian” and calls for its democratic removal.
Percentage of Popular Vote in 2007: 1.6%

Right Cause       Party Platform
Right Cause is a liberal, pro-business political party advocating democracy and human rights. Its critics believe, however, that it is too close with Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev to act as a real opponent. Some insist that the party is Kremlin-controlled and some hypothesize that it will become a future political base for Medvedev. Russian Billionaire M. Prokhorov has taken over leadership of the party and is now organizing a massive reorganization and rebranding for the party.
Percentage of Popular Vote in 2007: N/A (founded 2009)

The Patriots of Russia       Party Platform
The Patriots of Russia are a left-wing socialist political party with the motto “patriotism above politics.” It advocates a redistribution of the property which it considers to have been unfairly privatized after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its platform is traditional family values, a more equitable distribution of wealth, and quality universal health care, among other policies aimed at augmenting democracy, the rule of law, and Russia’s position in the global hierarchy.
Percentage of Popular Vote in 2007: 0.9%

Party of People's Freedom         Party Platform
Founded in December 2010, this party represents a coalition between several former government offiicals (such as Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov) who now seek "deep political reforms, the people's power (narodovlastye), the fight against the criminal establishment, and the introduction of European living standards." It is popularly known as "PARNAS" and has recently merged with the Republican Party of Russia, which, while already a member of PARNAS, regained its state registration as a party. The Republicans then remerged with PARNAS to give that party a legal basis.

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C. Movements and Unregistered Parties           back to top
A "movement" in Russia, legally speaking, can be loosely understood as a political or social organization that cannot run for office. Movements, however, should, like parties, register with the Ministry of Justice. This gives them access to government grants and other administrative resources but also is required if the organization will have an office and/or accept dues or donations. The difference between an unregistered party and a registered and/or unregistered movement is generally hard to pinpoint as the labels applied by the organizations to themselves are diverse and do not always reflect their legal stats. The list below is, of course, far from exhaustive.

All-Russia People's Front        Statement of Formation
This umbrella organziation was founded by Vladimir Putin in May of 2011. It's intended purpose is to breathe new life, new names, and new ideas into the rulling party United Russia. Associations and individuals may join. While United Russia is a member of the group, it is clear that the group will have a mouthpiece to Russian politics primarily through United Russia, which has promissed to let this new group nominate up to a quarter of its candidates for the Duma elections and to have a say in the nomination of governors.

RKRP-RPK       Party Platform
Russian Communist Workers Party - Revolutionary Party of Communists (RKRP-RPK) supports "fundamental Marxism-Leninism" and seeks to reverse the "counter-revolution of 1991-1993."

Solidarity      Movement Documents
Solidarity is a Russian political movement established in 2008 with the intention of joining all democratic opposition parties into a unified whole. By acting outside of what it considers to be the unfair electoral system, Solidarity aims to counterbalance the Putin-Medvedev regime. Its most well-known leaders are Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov.

The National Bolshevik Party      Liminov's Presidential Platform
The National Bolshevik Party is banned in Russia as extremist, but continues to operate. Its leader, Eduard Liminov, is a leader of the Solidarity movement and one of Russia's most active protestors. He also accused of misogeny and meglomania by critics.

Movement Against Illegal Immigration     Movement Platform
The Movement Against Illegal Immigration was long one of Russia's leading nationalist organizations. While officially only fighting illegal immigration and fighting for the rights of Russians, the group and it members were also known for spreading racist literature and starting street fights. After the riots on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow in December of 2010, the party came under increasing pressure. It was declared illegal by a Russian court in April, 2011. Its leaders vow to find "other venues" to operate in.

The Russian Ecological Movement     Movement Documents
The Russian Ecological Movement, better known as "the Greens," is a movement supporting a more environmentally friendly Russia. It was originally formed as a political party in 1992 but has since reorganized itself as a movement after finding it impossible to gain enough votes to achieve representation. Some members joined "A Just Russia" (see above, registered political parties).

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Russia, Forward
Russia, Forward is a modernization movement established in September, 2010 by the ruling political party, United Russia. This self-proclaimed "broad social movement" is made up of scientists, engineers, professors, public figures, and business leaders, whose goal is to expedite Russia's technological development. The movement is closely linked with President Medvedev and is named for an essay Medvedev wrote (sometimes rendered "Go, Russia!"). Interestingly, shortly after the essay appeared, members of The Fair Russia Party announced that they would form a movement of the same name and for the same purposes. At the time, many predicted that the movement could become a political party that might absorb the business-leaning Right Cause Party and draw signifcant membership from the Fair Russia Party and even United Russia, creating a second powerful party in the country. However, United Russia registered the name first and representatives of the Fair Russia Party have since shelved their plans.

Commitee for The Workers' International      Party Platform
This unregistered party advances the interests of international socialism and blames capitalism for most of society's ills. They are unique, however, in that they have been quite active in environmental causes as well as campaigning for LBGT rights.

Pirate Party     Party Platform
Russia's Pirate Party is an offshoot of the Sweeden's Pirate Party and is focused on doing away with copyright law and making all information freely available for non-commercial purposes.

The Independent Democratic Party of Russia (NDPR)
The NDPR is a still-forming political party lead by Mikhael Gorbachaev, the last General Secretary of the Communist Party, and Alexandr Lebedev, a former FSB agent. Both now espouse democratic and reformist principles. The party currently has no manifesto or platform, but espouses "the ideals of personal freedom and social justice."

The Union of Social Democrats      Movement Documents
The Union was founded in 2007 by Mikhael Gorbachaev on the basis of the then-collapsing Social Democratic Party. It is officially a polical movement rather than a party, but is expected to merge with NDPR (above) if and when that becomes a registered party.

>Forward>>       Movement Documents
>Forward>> is a socialist movement. Their site has lots of information in Russian about Marxism and similar movements across the FSU.

Institute for Collective Action
This is an umbrella organization with participants from leftist, labor, environmental, and youth movements. They seek "economic development in the interests of the entire population, real political participation, and social and labor rights." They seek to obtain this through "critical thinking, information, and collective action." This particular organization might be better classed as an NGO - but given their level of direct, activist activities, we have chosen to list them here.

Autonomous Action      Movement Documents
Autonomous Action is a revolutionary anarchist federation founded in January 2002. AD is composed of anarcho-communists, syndicalists, autonomist-marxists, and radical ecologists.


5.  Youth Politics           report an error          back to top

The National Youth Congress of Russia is an umbrella organization which gives young people the opportunity to hold "mock congresses," discuss youth issues with legislators, and disseminate information between their organizations. List of member organizations.

Every regional structure also has an official office for youth politics. See for example the sites of those for MoscowSt. Petersburg, and Irkutsk.

A. Not Connected to a Registered Party

Nashi is Russia's largest political youth group. Their main goals are opposing fascism and supporting the president and government with patriotic and optimistic rallies and rhetoric. Since 2008, the group seems to have mellowed signifantly and now increasingly turns its attention to more mundane subjects such as campaigns to support parking regulations and food saftey rather than "fighting the enemies of Russia." However, they still do that have been thought to have been guilty in the harrasment of on journalist and possibly complicit in the severe beating of another.

Young Russia is another pro-Kremlin conservative youth group. Although their original focus was fighting "Western expansion, terrorism, and corruption," in early 2009, the group shifted to combating scientology and the illegal sale of alcohol to minors. According to Young Russia's leadership, "after [the US] presidential elections ... The United States of America will no longer try to use 'Orange revolution technologies' to interfere in the internal affairs of our country. We need to prepare for a peaceful life and refocus our resources."

Defense is a non-partisan civic youth movement in Russia. It opposes what it considers to be Vladimir Putin’s designs on creating a police state in Russia. Defense espouses non-violent resistance to authoritarianism.

The Vangaurd of Communist Youth (AKM) are young, ardent, militant communists. Many describe them as Stalinist. Their official publication is known as "Controlled Shot."

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B. Connected to a Registered Party

The Young Guard is United Russia's official political youth movement. Its main goals are to draw young people into politics, oppose fascism, and help preserve the current government order.

Komsomol is the Communist Youth League that has existed since Soviet times. Its website states that the organization seeks to "found a government in which the idea of social justice will dominate. Where there will not be need to think about how to make ends meet and where there will always be money for education. Where every young person can realize his/her full potential and serve society."

The Young Socialists of Russia is a youth movement affiliated with the political party A Just Russia. They advocate "New Socialism" which they say should be based on a strong civil society to control the government, fight corruption, and encourage public initiatives. At the same time, they believe that the government must provide strong social services and a solid social saftey net for the population.

The National Youth Center of the Liberal-Democratic Party is the youth branch of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. It primarily focuses on assisting students in applying to universities, helping young people enter the work force, and fighting for student rights.

Youth Yabloko is the youth branch of the political party Yabloko. Its goals are to foster youth participation in civil society, defend labor and human rights for youth, and provide a voice for youth in politics.


6. Ten Major Faces of Russian Politics and Diplomacy           report an error          back to top

Vladimir Putin was named Time's Person of the Year
in 2007.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President

The undisputed leader in Russian politics, Vladimir Putin is a former KGB agent who entered politics in St. Petersburg under the tutelage of reformist mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Putin later moved to Moscow, rising through several federal posts, including one which saw him overseeing the transfer of vast amounts of property from the Communist Party to the Russian Federation.

Shortly after being named prime minister by then-President Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin resigned and Putin became acting president. He then won the next year's elections.

His current popularity is based on his cool and reasoned but ultimately tough persona, which many Russians find admirable. The fact that he has presided over a decade of growth and stability after years of turmoil and stagnation has also helped his ratings, despite claims that he has presided over anti-democratic reforms, has been complicit in Russia's growing corruption, and may have himself amassed a vast, secret fortune.

He stepped down as president when Russia's term limits forced him to and became prime minister after his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev won the 2008 presidential elections. Under Putin, the premiership was legislatively changed into a powerful office overseeing Russia's domestic affairs.

Putin is also recognized as the founder of United Russia (read the party platform in English) and led that party from 2008-2012. He has since, however, distanced himself from United Russia, although that party is still Russia's most powerful, and become the leader of The All-Russia People's Front, a conservative alliance of organizations and individuals that, while not a political party itself, does place some Duma members via an official arrangement with United Russia.

Putin returned to presidency in 2012 (Russia's term limit laws refer only to maximum consecutive terms) on an economically populist and socially conservative platform.

Dmitri Medvedev is a fan of the Internet. He runs a LiveJournal blog, a Twitter account, and his own photography site
Dmitri Anatolovich Medvedev, Prime Minister

Dmitri Medvedev is a former law professor from St. Petersburg. He served with Vladimir Putin in the city administration of Anatoly Sobchak and later served as Putin's campaign manager in his 2000 presidential bid. He went on to work at and later head Gazprom, the giant Russian natural gas concern, until he was tapped by Putin to become Russia's next president. He had also, by that time, served as First Deputy Prime Minister for nearly three years. During his presidency, Medvedev has built an image of himself of a strong reformer and a champion of modernization and innovation. He has seen his political capital and approval ratings rise considerably since his election. This, coupled with several public "splits" with Putin on various issues, has prompted speculation that he might challenge Putin in the 2012 Presidential elections, should Putin chose to run again. Medvedev is not a member of any political party, although he was supported in his presidential campaign by United Russia, A Just Russia, and The Agrarian Party (which merged with United Russia after the elections).

 Sechin Igor Ivanovich Sechin, Deputy Prime Minister

Igor Sechin, while not a very public face in Russian politics, is rumored to be one of the most powerful. A deputy to Prime Minister Putin, he is most often cited as the "leader" of the Kremlin's Siloviki faction – a group of former FSB/KGB agents that have used their connections to build political power and/or successful businesses. Putin is often cited as another of the group's members. Sechin has been a key actor in several major international deals, including BP's investments in Russia, Russia's recent long-term energy contract with China, Russia's sale of nuclear technology to Venezuela, and Russia's purchase of Mistral war ships from France. Sechin also served as chairman of the board for Rosneft, a giant state-owned oil company, until he was asked to step down as part of President Medevedev's drive to create greater trust and transparency in state-owned firms. It was announced several days after his departure that he would remain at least as influential within the company by using his role as a government official overseeing the state-owned company more effectively.

 225px-Boris_Grizlov_(1) Boris Vyacheslavovich GryzlovState Duma Chairman

Boris Gryzlov is a radio engineer who got his start in politics when he became the head of St. Petersburg branch of Sergei Shoygu's Unity Party. He was elected to the Duma soon after and elected the head of the Unity Party's duma faction soon after that. When Unity merged to become United Russia, he became chairman of the new party. In 2008, he moved to the position of "chairman of the supreme council," placing him in charge of many of the party's day-to-day actions, after Putin became Chairman of the party. However, as a politician, he holds little public trust, having often put his foot in his mouth with statements such as "parliament isn't a place for political discussions," and for his moves to attempt to gain millions in federal funding that a pay a company he owns to manufacture "nano water filters," (the effectiveness of which are questioned by the Russian Academy of Sciences) as part of Russia's Clean Water Program.


Alexei Leonidovich Kudrin, Former Finance Minister

Alexei Kudrin began his career in politics in St. Petersburg under Mayor Anatoly Sobchak after earning graduate degrees in finance and economics. He moved to Moscow to join the federal government under President Yeltsin the same year that Putin did. Putin appointed him Minister of Finance in 2000, a post he continued to hold until 2011 in spite of strong criticism against his highly conservative fiscal policies. He was eventually dismissed by then-president Medvedev in 2011 after he publically resisted Medvedev's plans to spend billions of dollars over several years to refurbish and upgrade Russia's military.

Putin, however, has consistently praised Kudrin as the creator of the Stabilization Fund (which later became the Reserve Fund and the National Welfare Fund) essentially a massive savings and investment account that has helped Russia weather the financial crisis. After leaving the Finance Ministry, Kudrin has remained a very public figure and appears often on Russian TV news. He has also remained close to Putin and returned to government work in 2013 as a member of Putin's Presidential Economic Council. 

Kudrin's main work is currently his Civil Initiatives Committee, an NGO that seeks to fund various efforts to develop civil society, human rights, and transparency in Russia. He has been consistently praised in the West as a critic of Russia's conservative politics, which he says are holding back economic development.

Gennady Zyuganov also helped form and now leads the "Union of Communist Parties - Communist Party of the Soviet Union," which unites communists across the former Soviet Union.
Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov, Communist Leader

Gennady Zyuganov holds degrees in physics and sociology and was originally a teacher in the USSR. He became a Communist Party member in 1966 and rose to national prominence as a major critic of Mikhail Gorbachev. After the Communist Party was banned following the 1991 coup attempt, Zyuganov was instrumental in forming the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), which he now heads. A tall, thickly-built man with a deep and resonant voice, he is by far Russia's leading opposition politician, although his power has fallen considerably since the 1990s. Zyuganov was Yeltsin's main challenger in the presidential elections of 1996, where he gained 40% of the vote to Yeltsin's 54% in the final runoff. In 2008, he received only 18% of all votes to Medvedev's 70%, although this still put Zyuganov solidly in second place. The KPRF holds some 12% of Russia's State Duma seats. Much of his support has come from effectively campaigning to the elderly, to scientists, and some groups of laborers that have seen a significant drop in their standard of living since the fall of the Soviet Union. Zyuganov has also effectively incorporated nationalism into communist doctrine, co-opting part of the nationalist movement. He has called for a "re-Stalinization" of Russia.

 Lavrov Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sergei Lavrov is a career diplomat who has never been directly involved in domestic politics. Immediately after graduating from MGIMO, the main school for training future diplomats in the USSR (and now in Russia), he worked his way through posts in USSR's embassy in Sri Lanka, mission in the United Nations, and various posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. In 1994, he was sent as Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, where he served until being recalled by Putin in 2004 to serve as Russia's Foreign Minister, a post he has held ever since. Fluent and confident in English, French, Russian, and Senegalese, he has been known as a tough negotiator who has pushed a largely pragmatic vision of foreign policy for Russia. He is also now the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for MGIMO.

Dmitry Rogozin studied journalism at Moscow State University and economics at the University of Marxism-Leninism. He speaks English, Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian.
Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin, Ambassador to NATO

Dmitry Rogozin got his start in politics in Moscow with the Congress of Russian Communities, a nationalist party led by General Alexander Lebed, a Chechen war hero who campaigned for improving conditions in Russia's rapidly deteriorating army. After Lebed died in a helicopter crash, Rogozin became joint leader of the party, which became known as "Rodina" (Motherland). First elected to the Duma in 1993, he was appointed Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in 1999, a move that many saw as ironic, given Rogozin's sharp nationalist rhetoric. In 2003, he attempted to move his political party into the then-newly-formed United Russia, but left when he was denied a position on the new party's leadership council. Campaigning separately, Rodina won nearly 10% of the vote in the 2003 and was expected to do even better in coming years. Then, a 2005 Rodina campaign ad featured Rogozin looking at a group of littering migrants and saying "It's time to take out the trash!" In another twist of irony, Russia's other nationalist leader, Vladimir Zhironovsky (see below), took Rodina to court, for "inciting racial hatred." The court ruled against Rodina and disqualified it from the elections. Rogozin was eventually forced to resign as party chairman and Rodina was eventually merged with other parties to form A Just Russia. Rogozin then helped found and lead the nationalist social movement "Russian March," and attempted to attempted to found a new political party called "Great Russia" with the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (now banned as extremist and violent). However, the party was denied registration. He is still a member of A Just Russia and maintains close contacts with that party, although he has gone on to become, in another twist of irony, Russia's ambassador to NATO. In perhaps a final twist, he has been seen as an effective ambassador and has  presided over some of the best relations and closest cooperation ever experienced between NATO and Russia. He is rumored to be contemplating a return to domestic politics.

 081126_zhiri Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, Leader, LDPR
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is know for many things, including bombast, charisma, and starting fights on live televised programs. His party, The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), was founded in 1990 as the only official opposition party in the USSR. While this is said to have been a KGB experiment, Zhirinovsky's sharp rhetoric and strong nationalism gained him much genuine support, allowing him to place third in the 1991 presidential elections with nearly 8% of the vote. In 2008, he placed third again with nearly 10%. For more on his sprawling political ideas and platform, click here.

Sergei Sobyanin is known as an effective bureaucrat and manager.
Sergei Semenovich Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow
Sergei Sobyanin was trained as a machinist before being elected mayor of a small town in Tyumen. He went on to become a federal senator from Tyumen and was later elected its governor. In 2005, when a new law abolished future elections for governors in favor of nomination by the president and approval by regional parliaments, Sobyanin voluntarily resigned and asked to be nominated back to his post by then-President Putin. Putin did so and soon after invited Sobyanin to Moscow to serve in the Presidential Administration and, later, as a deputy prime minister after Putin moved to the premiership. From here, he was nominated by President Dmitry Medvedev to be mayor of Moscow, replacing long-time Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who was dismissed by Medvedev after a "loss of confidence" that most attribute to his rampant corruption and difficulty to control from the Kremlin. Sobyanin was immediately charged with fixing Moscow's traffic problems and reducing corruption. As of April, 2011, most of Sobyanin's work has consisted of planning – reconsidering all new construction projects within the city, drawing up plans for a massive expansion of the Moscow metro, a massive privatization of city assets (such as Bank of Moscow), and plans to institute a "smart" system of traffic control based on satellite technology. So far, tangible improvements have not been seen, but Sobyanin's poll numbers have remained relatively high since taking office.

(And a few more!)

Sergey Naryshkin: head of the Presidential Administration. Rumored to have been on Putin's short list to run for president in 2008. Serves on the boards of Rosneft and SovComFlot.

Sergei Mironov: Head of A Just Russia. Chairman of the Federation Council. Long served as Russia's representative in the CIS.

Valentina Matviyenko: Long-serving governor of St. Petersburg. Said to be Russia's most powerful woman. Son is highly placed in VTB.

Sergei Shoygu: Russia's Minister of Emergency Situations. Founded the Unity Party, now part of United Russia. Russia's fourth most-respected politician (according a 2011 poll).

Sergei Ivanov: Current Deputy Prime Minister, former Defense Minister. Rumored to have been on Putin's short list to run for president in 2008. His two sons have been placed in high-ranking positions in Gazprombank and VEB.

Arkady Dvorkovich: Presidential Advisor, Economist. Rumored to be driving many of the Kremlin's current policy decisions. Chess champion.

Boris Vyacheslavovich Gryzlovformer State Duma Chairman, current head of Supreme Council of United Russia. Boris Gryzlov is a radio engineer who got his start in politics when he became the head of St. Petersburg branch of Sergei Shoygu's Unity Party. He was elected to the Duma soon after and elected the head of the Unity Party's duma faction soon after that. When Unity merged with other parties to become United Russia, he became chairman of the new party. In 2008, he moved to the position of "chairman of the supreme council," placing him in charge of many of the party's day-to-day actions, after Putin became Chairman of the party. However, as a politician, he holds little public trust, having often put his foot in his mouth with statements such as "parliament isn't a place for political discussions," and for his moves to attempt to gain millions in federal funding that a pay a company he owns to manufacture "nano water filters," (the effectiveness of which are questioned by the Russian Academy of Sciences) as part of Russia's Clean Water Program. While Gryzlov was a public face oft-seen as State Duma Chairman, his star seems to have fallen considerably since losing this position.


7.  Selected Material            report an error          back to top

Selections from Vestink, The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies:
Vestnik is a student publication sponsored by The School of Russian and Asian Studies that publishes outstanding student research on any subject of relation to Russia and Eurasia. Contribute today! 

Selected Articles from the SRAS Newsletter:
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Selected Interviews from the SRAS Newsletter:
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Selected Resources from Politics in Translation:
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 8. Government Agencies and Structure           report an error           back to top

Renaissance Capital offers easy to understand, interactive maps and charts descriping the political structure of Russia. has links to information about nearly every government structure and office subject to the federal government. 

Federal Structures:
Presidential Administration - President Mevedev's official site.
Prime Minister - Prime Minister Putin's official site.
The Russian Ministries - Russian ministers are basically equivalent to US secretaries.
State Duma - Russia's Congress.
The Federation Council - Russia's Senate.
Public Chamber - A unique structure intended to represent the public interest, advise the government on legislation, and oversee its implementation.
The Constitutional Court - Russia's Supreme Court.

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Russian Far East

The Central Election Commission provides information about itself and Russia's election laws in English.

The Council to the President for the Realization of National Projects also recently opened a website.  The National Projects are: Health, Education, Housing, and Agriculture.  They are intended to raise living standards, but are criticized as being poorly planned and implemented.   

The SRAS Encyclopedia of Russian Government Institutions a small supplemental resource.

Moscow City Government holds special status within the Russian Federation as a "Federal City." It runs its own website with public forums, daily legal briefs, etc. St. Petersburg also has a similar, though far less extensive site, and is Russia's other "Federal City."


9. Law            report an error           back to top

Russian Law Online has an enyclopedia of law concepts and application in Russia and publishes articles on Russian legal matters.

The following links offer full English translations of Russian legal codes. The translations are not always the most readable and are all quite dated (from 2005) - but they are helpful in understanding the legislation. The project is sponsored by an organization called "Open Russia," which should not be confused with Khodorovsky's organization. This Open Russia seems to be a dealer of safety equipment.


10. Political Humor in Russia         report an error          back to top features subdued storytelling which places Vladimir Putin in the position of the "every-Russian."

Mult Lichnosti (which can translate to "animated characters" and multiple "personalities") airs periodically on Russia's state-controled Pervyi Kanal and pokes gentle fun at celebraties and political figures.

Fairy Tales from Putin is a regular feature on Comedy Club, a program that airs on national Russian TV. It features a Putin impersonator giving humorous retellings of famous fairy tales.

ProjectorParisHilton is a talk show featuring a panel of four of Russia's best-known comedians. It airs on state-owned Pervyi Kanal and offers humorous commentary on society, politics, international events, and more. 

"Super Putin"  is a tounge-in-cheek Internet comic about Putin and "Nano-person" Medevdev. There is now an English translation on the same website as well!

FogNews is, essentially, a heavily-political Russian version of The Onion, presenting "news" that is basically absurdities they've made up.


11. US-Russia Cooperation/Comparisons       report an error          back to top  

Russian/American Cultural Contrasts gives a brief, concise, bulleted list of the contrasts between American and Russian culture. Like all such lists, it is debatable how accurate, mythologized, or simplified it might be - but it is interesting.

Meeting of Frontiers is a bilingual, multimedia English-Russian digital library that tells the stories of American and Russian Expansion, that would eventually meet at the Bering Strait.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has launched a site with resources for students and scholars plus showcases events designed to mark two centuries of competition and cooperation in the arts, science, sports, space, education, trade and world affairs.


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