Dimensions and Challenges of Russian Liberalism

Liberalism in Russia is one of the most complex, multifaced and, indeed, controversial phenomena in the history of political thought. Values and practices traditionally associated with Western liberalism—such as individual freedom, property rights, or the rule of law—have often emerged ambiguously in the Russian historical experience through different dimensions and combinations. Economic and political liberalism have often appeared disjointed, and liberal projects have been shaped by local circumstances, evolved in response to secular challenges and developed within often rapidly-changing institutional and international settings.

This third volume of the Reset DOC “Russia Workshop” collects a selection of the Dimensions and Challenges of Russian Liberalism conference proceedings, providing a broad set of insights into the Russian liberal experience through a dialogue between past and present, and intellectual and empirical contextualization, involving historians, jurists, political scientists, and theorists.

The first part focuses on the Imperial period, analyzing the political philosophy and peculiarities of pre-revolutionary Russian liberalism, its relations with the rule of law (Pravovoe Gosudarstvo), and its institutionalization within the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets). The second part focuses on Soviet times when liberal undercurrents emerged under the surface of the official Marxist-Leninist ideology. After Stalin’s death, the “thaw intelligentsia” of Soviet dissidents and human rights defenders represented a new liberal dimension in late Soviet history, while the reforms of Gorbachev’s “New Thinking” became a substitute for liberalism in the final decade of the USSR.
The third part focuses on the “time of troubles” under the Yeltsin presidency, and assesses the impact of liberal values and ethics, the bureaucratic difficulties in adapting to change, and the paradoxes of liberal reforms during the transition to post-Soviet Russia. Despite Russian liberals having begun to draw lessons from previous failures, their project was severely challenged by the rise of Vladimir Putin. Hence, the fourth part focuses on the 2000s, when the liberal alternative in Russian politics confronted the ascendance of Putin, surviving in parts of Russian culture and in the mindset of technocrats and “system liberals”. Today, however, the Russian liberal project faces the limits of reform cycles of public administration, suffers from a lack of federalist attitude in politics and is externally challenged from an illiberal world order. All this asks us to consider: what is the likelihood of a “reboot” of Russian liberalism?

 

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Giancarlo Bosetti
Introduction: The Many Dimensions of Russian Liberalism
Riccardo Mario Cucciolla
Part I Pre-revolutionary Liberalism and the Challenges of Modernity
1 The Political Philosophy of Russian Liberalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Alexey Kara-Murza and Olga Zhukova
2 Russian Liberalism and the Rule of Law: Notes from
Underground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Gianmaria Ajani
3 Wither Russian Liberalism? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Alexander Semyonov
Part II Liberal Undercurrents in Soviet Times
4 Intelligentsia as a Liberal Concept in Soviet
History, 1945–1991 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Vladislav Zubok
5 Human Rights Defenders Within Soviet Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Benjamin Nathans
6 Gorbachev’s “New Thinking”: A Proto-Liberal Program
for the Soviet Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Svetlana Savranskaya
7 Autocratic Ideology as an Obstacle to Liberal Democratic
Thought in Post-Soviet Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Mark KramerPart III The “Time of Troubles”
8 Paradoxes and By-Products of Liberal Reforms in Russia . . . . . . . . . 109
Victor Sheynis
9 Ethical Liberal Values vs. the Soviet Political
and Administrative Heritage from the 1980s to the Present . . . . . . . . 123
Alexander V. Obolonsky
10 The Lessons from Perestroika and the Evolution
of Russian Liberalism (1995–2005) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Guillaume Sauvé
Part IV Liberalism Under Pressure in Contemporary Russia
11 Liberals or Technocrats? Liberal Ideas and Values
in the Mindset of the Russian Political Elite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Valeriy Solovey
12 Why Reforms of Public Service of Russia Are Cyclic:
An Institutional Explanation from a Liberal Perspective . . . . . . . . . . 165
Alexey Barabashev and Vadim Prokofiev
13 Liberalism and Federalism in Russian
State-Building, 1992–2017 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Ildar Zulkarnay
14 The Illiberal World Order and Russian Liberals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205
Andrei Melville
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22