Policy Memos

Institutional Trap in Russian Politics: Still No Way Out?

Policy Memo:


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In the 2000s, Russia’s political structure demonstrated a trajectory of decay across major institutions of state, politics, and governance. Despite the fact that numerous negative assessments of Russia’s institutional development have highlighted tendencies of authoritarianism, poor quality of governance, and lack of rule of law, an analysis of the continued downward trajectories of Russian governing institutions remains a neglected part of the research agenda. This memo reconsiders the politics of institutional decay in contemporary Russia. It applies the notion that the self-interest of ruling elites revolves around eliminating domestic challenges to their political dominance through the pursuit and maintenance of inefficient institutional equilibriums. This type of stasis is known as an “institutional trap.” As long as the costs to Russia’s political elite of institutional decay do not exceed its benefits, this equilibrium could survive over time, at least for the medium-term. [...]

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About the author

Distinguished Professor, Political Sciences and Sociology
European University at St. Petersburg; University of Helsinki