Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Public Affairs/International Relations

First Advisor

Edmund Beard

Second Advisor

Robert Weiner

Third Advisor

Connie Chan


When the Soviet Union dissolved nearly twenty years ago, the West not only watched closely, but actively participated in pushing the region's formerly communist countries toward liberal-democratic systems that resembled their own. Today, the result in the region is a scattered group of successes and failures. This paper examines how much ground democracy has gained over the past twenty years in the center of the former Soviet Empire, Russia.

Because many critics, both Western and Russian, state that Russian democracy appeared to blossom suddenly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, only to suffer a dramatic decline during Vladimir Putin's presidency - and because Putin has dominated post-Soviet Russia to date - the main sections of the paper examine why certain selected decisions and actions of that period were taken and what the actual consequences have been.

However, before undertaking any examination of these issues, and what they demonstrate about Russian democracy, it is necessary first to answer the question, "What is democracy?" Thus the paper opens by reviewing definitions of the term both in the academic literature and by observers of recent efforts at "democracy building."


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