In the classic 1966 volume Political Oppositions in Western Democracies by Robert A. Dahl, the chapter on France in the early years of the Fifth Republic is titled “France: Nothing but Opposition.” In contrast with the French Fifth Republic of the mid-1960s, a similar chapter about Russia in the mid-2000s would have to be called “Russia: Anything but Opposition.” After Vladimir Putin’s first term in office and the 2003 to 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections, those political actors who claimed to form an opposition are about to disappear or, at minimum, lose all influence. According to a recent survey by the Levada Center (Russia’s best-known opinion pollsters) the percentage of Russians believing political opposition exists in the country declined from 53 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2004. At the same time, the number of Russians who believe that political opposition is necessary dramatically increased.
Why is the role of the political opposition in Russia in the mid-2000s so drastically diminished in comparison with the previous 10 to 15 years? In the 1990s, political opposition had a decisive impact on supply and demand in Russia’s emerging political market. Russian political opposition has not merely been replaced in the process of political evolution; it has virtually disappeared without successors in the manner of a dying species. […]