A number of
explanations exist of the causes of party weakness in Russia. A
legacy approach emphasizes the Soviet legacy. Seventy years of
Communist Party rule created a strong negative reaction within
Russian society for “party” politics. Because Soviet society was
hyper-organized and “over-partyized,” post-Soviet Russian leaders
and citizens have had an allergic reaction to parties.
the Communist Party in 1990, Yeltsin vowed never to join another
party again, and many in Russia sympathized
with his decision. If other East European countries were able to
revive old parties from the pre-communist past, Russia had only a
splash of experience with competitive party politics before the
Bolshevik revolution, so there was no party culture to resurrect.
The Soviet system
did produce large quantities of social and organizational capital.
In fact, organizations and networks that were formed in the Soviet
era – be they Party cells or trade union organizations – continue to
form the basis of the largest organizations in the post-communist
era, including first and foremost the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation. Yet, this inheritance may serve more as a barrier to the
growth of grassroots party development and less as a base from which
to develop new party organizations.
After all, these
organizations served to control people, atomize society, and
discourage participation in real politics. Although formally
resembling parties and party-affiliated groups, these Soviet
organizations have little in common with Western-style parties and
interest aggregation observed in Western democracies. Only after
these old organizations have faded and only after Russians have
recovered from their Soviet-inflicted traumas regarding politics
will they begin to recognize the importance of parties for
approach is a variation of the legacy interpretation that goes back
even further to argue that Russian history and culture, not just the
Soviet period, is the main impediment to party development This
school explains weak party development as part of a more general
phenomenon of the lack of democratic development.
Russians have not
built strong parties, because Russians are not democratic. Instead,
Russians prefer strong, paternalistic leaders who develop a direct
relationship with the people that is not mediated or distorted
through parties. Russia’s hundreds of years of autocratic rule is
cited as evidence for this approach.