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It appears, however, that the real problem is not the challenge of making democracy and market work in an allegedly unsuitable environment, such as Russia, but the uncritical application of these concepts to the distinctly “un-Western” sociocultural, historical, and economic realities. 

 

Russia’s current and past reform efforts demonstrate that the powerful inertia of its political and social traditions is capable of withstanding the biggest “bangs” of reform and resisting institutional changes even when these are administered in “shock therapy” doses.

In “classic” democracies, political and socioeconomic systems have been formed in the course of a long-term natural historical development and their congruence with these countries’ social, political, and cultural characteristics is natural and “organic.” By contrast, many of Russia’s new political and economic institutions were copied from Western originals in a basic and mechanical manner. In the 1990s, under the banner of “joining the rest of the civilized world,” the democratically minded part of the Russian political elite attempted to force this imitation democracy on a post-authoritarian society. The Russian reformist government in charge of implementing institutional changes was itself under the intense ideological (and sometimes political and economic) pressure that was exerted on it by the “international democratic community.”

It seems obvious now that the success of democratisation and marketization is measured not by how accurately Western models have been replicated but by how well they have been selected and adapted to reflect the conditions of a given society. The choice of a particular pattern – whether it concerns the system of government (presidential or parliamentary), the type of representation, or the kind of electoral system – is not made in a social vacuum. Such choices should be determined not by what works best in Western societies, but whether the pattern fits the country’s social and cultural background.

In short, the reformist government needs to show resourcefulness and innovation in promoting and developing those forms of democracy and capitalism that correspond to the country’s conditions. Only in this way will it be able to shape a set of institutions and a sociopolitical system that will be stable and successful. 

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