News / Europe

Russia Seeks Democracy After Soviet Collapse

James Brooke

In the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has made enormous economic progress. Incomes have increased 10 times.  But bookending these changes are demonstrations - in 1991 against communism, and today to revive Russia's deferred dream of democracy.

20 years after fall of communism, Russians are demonstrating again
This time not for capitalist revolution, but for democratic reform.

Masha Lipman, who marched in the 1991 protests, is now an analyst at Carnegie Moscow Center;

"It's very symbolic that we are having this public activism on the rise exactly 20 years after the collapse of the USSR," noted Lipman.

In 1991, the first priority was economic.  Vladimir Ryzhkov, at the time, was trying to run a provincial city.

"The economy was destroyed," recalled Ryzhkov.  "Nothing worked. I remember we had meetings every day to discuss very simple questions: Where could we get coal? Where could we get kerosene? We even had a meeting to figure out how to assure the supply of bread and milk for the city."

In the 20 years since the Soviet collapse, Russians' real incomes have jumped.  But democratic institutions have not kept pace.

Lilia Shibanova, runs an election observer group called Golos.

"As for the democratic reforms themselves, they ended very quickly," said Shibanova.  "It was too short a time that they tried in this country to have them. I mean, real representative government, real elections, real, open debates. These were all shut down very quickly."

Pollster Lev Gudkov says basic institutions did not evolve alongside Russia's new consumerism.

"Government is still vertical, it is not controlled by the society and in essence, despite all the changes, is built the same way it was built in the Soviet Union. And its base is mainly political police, criminal police, there is no independent court, prosecution and system of education," Gudkov said.

Now, a decade of stability and an explosion in internet connectivity widen the gulf between Russians and their authoritarian government.

Igor Yurgens runs a think tank here.  He says 90 percent of Moscow's adults are now online, while government bureaucrats remain "feudal."


"I am hearing retired people, not very well dressed, who are on the internet saying to each other that 'I found a new hearing device,'  It is a change of existential order," Yurgens said.  "Feudalism versus modernization all in one basket which is not healthy which will find its resolution. Either evolutionary, for which I have a lot hope, or revolutionary, which I hope we avoid we have had our share."

A big test may be the turnout for a big democracy rally planned for Saturday - ironically, almost 20 years to the day since Mikhail Gorbachev announced the end of the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid