Even though democratization in Russia is going through a lockdown phase at present, a University of California-Los Angeles scholar says there is still reason to dream that a civil society could someday emerge there.
Daniel Treisman, a UCLA professor of political science, asserted that the Kremlin's political shifts since the Soviet collapse in 1991 have been primarily connected to "the rise and fall in the popularity of the country's leaders," which in turn has been strongly influenced by the health of the economy. For example, economic problems doomed the administrations of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. But Russia's current paramount leader, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has greatly benefited from the country's economic prosperity during much of the 21st century, a development created by the surge in global energy prices. Over the short-term, Treisman believes this energy-export-dependent prosperity will bolster Russia's authoritarian trend. But over the longer term, a future leader might feel secure enough to move a relatively prosperous Russia in a democratic direction.
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Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.