Is Democracy Possible in Russia?

October 30, 2014
09:30 am - 11:00 am



Lilia Shevtsova
Carnegie Moscow Center

Leon Aron
American Enterprise Institute

Denis Volkov
Levada Center

with comments by

Leonid Gozman
Union of Right Forces

Miriam Lanskoy
National Endowment for Democracy

moderated by

Carl Gershman
National Endowment for Democracy

When and Where

Thursday, October 30, 2014
9:30–11:00 a.m.

National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F. Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004

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About the Event

Vladimir Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, facing mass opposition protests and weak economic growth. His response was a sharp turn toward authoritarianism, a trend that began with criminal charges against dozens of protesters on Bolotnaya Square and has accelerated with Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine. Political repression and anti-Western propaganda have reached levels previously unseen in post-Soviet Russia, with political opposition and participation and most independent media eliminated. At the same time, economic sanctions have pushed an already stagnant economy toward recession.

These developments have created the need to reconfigure the sources of the Putin regime’s legitimacy. Whereas the implicit accord of Putin’s first two terms was to offer Russia’s citizens stable economic growth in exchange for their political disengagement; in his third term Putin seeks to compensate for declining standards of living with an artificial vision of Russia reborn as a great power.

In the short term, this strategy appears successful. Putin’s approval ratings have been at record highs for several months. However, an in-depth examination of Russia’s social, political, and economic trends suggests that the current political strategy may not be sustainable. Panelists Lilia Shevtsova, Leon Aron and Denis Volkov discussed the factors that will shape political developments in Russia and the opportunities those developments might provide for reform. Leonid Gozman provided comments.

About the Speakers

Leon Aron is resident scholar and director of the Russian Studies Program at the American Enterprise Institute. He received a PhD from Columbia University and has taught at Georgetown University. He is the author of over 300 articles and essays and three books, most recently Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideals and Ideas in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).

Leonid Gozman is president of the Union of Right Forces and former co-chairman of the Right Cause Party (2008–2011). An active participant in Russia’s democratic movement who has served as political advisor to Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, he is also the author of eight books and is a lecturer at Moscow State University.

Miriam Lanskoy is the director of Russia and Eurasia programs at the National Endowment for Democracy. She has published articles in the Journal of Democracy, The SAIS Review of International Affairs, and The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and has appeared at numerous conferences and appeared on the PBS Newshour to discuss developments in the region. She has also testified in Congress. Her book, The Chechen Struggle: Independence Won and Lost, co-authored with Ilyas Akhmadov was published in 2010.

Lilia Shevtsova chairs the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center and will be moving to the Brookings Institution in November 2014 as a nonresident Senior Fellow. Her most recent book is Crisis: Russia and the West in the Time of Troubles (with David Kramer, 2013).

Denis Volkov is a researcher and head of the Development Department at the Levada Center, Russia’s best-known independent pollster and think-tank, where he has worked since 2007. Volkov holds degrees from the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and Manchester University, is the author of several analytical reports on Russian civil society, activism, and media, and frequently contributes articles to the Russian press on sociopolitical trends in the country.