Exploring Varieties of Governance in Russia: In Search of Theoretical Frameworks

Another article of the special issue Good and Bad Governance in Russia: Actors and Institutions (2021, vol.73, N6), edited by Margarita Zavadskaya and Vladimir Gel’man, was published today. Zavadskaya and Gel’man wrote together an introduction “Exploring Varieties of Governance in Russia: In Search of Theoretical Frameworks” to the Europe-Asia Studies special issue.

It is a given that the quality of governance makes a difference. It determines the developmental trajectories of states and it influences the everyday lives of their citizens. Why are some countries governed worse than others? In particular, why is contemporary Russia governed so much worse than one would expect, judging by its degree of socio-economic development? In comparative perspective, Russia is an example of a high-capacity authoritarian state, which exhibits the major features of bad governance, such as lack and/or perversion of the rule of law, rent-seeking, corruption, poor quality of state regulation, widespread public funds abuse, and overall ineffectiveness of government (Gel’man 2017, p. 498). These features have been demonstrated in numerous recent assessments of Russia vis-à-vis other countries, conducted by various agencies. For example, Russia ranked as 137th out of 180 countries in the 2019 Corruption Perception Index.1 In 2020, the composite evaluation of the rule of law index by the World Justice Project ranked Russia as 94th out of 128 countries.2 In the period 1996–2015, the average indicator of corruption control in Russia, according to the World Bank, was −0.86 on a scale from −2.5 (lowest possible grade) tо +2.5 (highest possible grade).3 This is why the overall picture of patterns of governance in Russia remains rather gloomy even vis-à-vis some of its post-Soviet neighbours (Zaostrovtsev 2017) and the BRICS countries (Taylor 2018, pp. 159–60). However, one should go beyond these statistics and address two more basic questions: what are the sources and mechanisms of governance in Russia? Is bad governance doomed to persist endlessly, or can the quality of governance be improved over time by certain policies?

To find answers to these questions, read the full article online.