Subjects obey. Citizens choose. Transitional Citizens looks at the newly empowered citizens of Russia's protodemocracy facing choices at the ballot box that just a few years ago, under dictatorial rule, they could not have dreamt of.
The stakes in post-Soviet elections are extraordinary. While in the West politicians argue over refinements to social systems in basically good working order, in the Russian Federation they address graver concerns--dysfunctional institutions, individual freedom, nationhood, property rights, provision of the basic necessities of life in an unparalleled economic downswing. The idiom of Russian campaigns is that of apocalypse and mutual demonization. This might give an impression of political chaos. However, as Timothy Colton finds, voting in transitional Russia is highly patterned. Despite their unfamiliarity with democracy, subjects-turned-citizens learn about their electoral options from peers and the mass media and make choices that manifest a purposiveness that will surprise many readers.
Colton reveals that post-Communist voting is not driven by a single explanatory factor such as ethnicity, charismatic leadership, or financial concerns, but rather by multiple causes interacting in complex ways. He gives us the most sophisticated and insightful account yet of the citizens of the new Russia.
Transitional Citizens is a very important study, executed with exemplary thoroughness and consistency. There is no doubt that it will be a major and lasting contribution, important for the study of Russian politics and democratic transitions more generally.
Colton and an impressive group of collaborators offer a technically excellent addition to the growing body of literature on Russian electoral behavior. The researchers studied voter attitudes related to the 1995 Duma and 1996 presidential elections. A rather large sample and repeated interviews give the study an appearance of authenticity. Colton examines possible variables involved in voters' choices, including socioeconomic characteristics, partisanship, perceptions of leadership, and issues.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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