Volume 68 Number 3 Abstracts

The Putin Vote: Presidential Electorates in a Hybrid Regime

Timothy J. Colton and Henry E. Hale

What leads people to vote for incumbent presidents in hybrid regimes-political systems that allow at least some real opposition to compete in elections but that greatly advantage the authorities? Here, the case of Russia is analyzed through survey research conducted as part of the Russian Election Studies (RES) series. The RES has queried nationally representative samples of Russia’s population both before and shortly after every post-Soviet presidential election there to date, those in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. Since Vladimir Putin himself ran as head of the United Russia slate in the 2007 parliamentary election, voting in that election is also considered. The analysis reveals that Putin has consistently won votes based on personal appeal, opposition to socialism, and a guardedly pro-western foreign policy orientation, among other things. Economic considerations are also very important, though they operate in a way that is more complex than sometimes assumed. President Dmitrii Medvedev generally benefited from these same factors in his election to the presidency.

Managing Opposition in a Hybrid Regime: Just Russia and Parastatal Opposition

Luke March

In this article Luke March explores the Russian authorities’ efforts to “manage democracy” through the creation of “parties of power.” It focuses on the quasi-leftist party Just Russia, one of four parties currently represented in the Russian Duma and the only one that represents a “parastatal” opposition (opposition owned and controlled by the state). The history of Just Russia tells us much about the dynamics of what Andrew Wilson has described as Russia’s “virtual politics”: the regime must continually organize manageable quasi-opposition parties in order to bolster its democratic credentials and channel real social discontent, yet whenever it does so effectively, it quickly creates a potential political threat that must be neutralized. Just Russia has parallels in other authoritarian party systems, such as Mexico under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) or Nigeria under Abacha and Babangida; the main difference in contemporary Russia lies in the remarkable skill with which Russian state actors conjure up and promote ersatz parties. Nevertheless, even in Russia, virtual politics may become real politics in the longer term.

Managing Society: Protest, Civil Society, and Regime in Putin’s Russia

Graeme B. Robertson

Postcommunist Russia has become a paradigmatic case of contemporary authoritarianism in which elections coexist with autocratic rule. In this paper, Graeme B. Robertson argues that it is vital for the stability of such hybrid regimes for incumbents to maintain an image of political invincibility. This means intensively managing challenges both during elections and in the streets. To do this, Vladimir Putin’s regime has built on the Soviet repertoire of channeling and inhibiting protest, creating a new system for licensing civil society and crafting ersatz social movements that rally support for the state. This contemporary style of repression has become a model for authoritarian regimes in the post-Soviet space and elsewhere.

Moral Panic and the Prostitute in Partitioned Poland: Middle-Class Respectability in Defense of the Modern Nation

Keely Stauter-Halsted

In the early twentieth century, police-regulated prostitution experienced a burst of attention fromá Polish-language news media. In this article, Keely Stauter-Halsted considers the extended moment of “moral panic” that unfolded when a series of public exposÚs revealed the scope and potential dangers of sex trafficking. Taking into account the ways “respectable” urban audiences absorbed revelations of illicit commercial transactions on city streets and increased “white slavery” activity beyond the Polish lands, Stauter-Halsted stresses the image of the prostitute as a threat to the embattled nation. The figure of the impoverished, morally compromised streetwalker encroaching on bourgeois social spaces and invading the bourgeois home challenged the sense of middle-class respectability so crucial to Polish national regeneration. By exposing innocent members of the community to sexually dangerous behavior, the prostitute came to represent decay, degeneration, and venereal disease attacking the national body, a conclusion used by social purity activists in their proto-eugenics campaigns.

Feuilletons Don’t Burn: Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and the Imagined “Soviet Reader”

Maria Kisel

Maria Kisel argues that Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita can be read as a persuasive novel, intended to educate Soviet readers who, like the character Ivan Bezdomnyi, are ignorant of history and culture beyond their insulated Soviet reality. Kisel demonstrates how Bulgakov’s novel co-opts the form and themes of the Soviet satirical feuilleton to explain the virtues of the prerevolutionary cultural realm rooted in the western European intellectual tradition. To render his own cultural perspective accessible, Bulgakov revisits his early feuilletons written for the newspaper Gudok, a category of writings he claimed to disdain. The Master and Margarita demonstrates a complex relationship with the imagined “Soviet reader,” who is both an object of ridicule and a desired interlocutor. Examining the connection between the Master and Ivan as analogous to the teacher and disciple dynamic between Bulgakov and his own “Soviet readers,” this article offers a new interpretation of this well-loved and much-discussed masterpiece.

A Hall of Mirrors: Sovietizing Culture under Stalinism

Malte Rolf

This article explores how culture in the USSR became “Soviet.” Malte Rolf describes how different fields of communication and cultural production generated criteria that could be used to attach the label “Soviet” to all features of culture. Sovietizing culture was a work in progress, and various institutions, agencies, and experts actively participated in defining an adequate “Soviet style.” Focusing on this interplay of agencies and taking mass festivals as an example, Rolf portrays the dynamics of a growing self-referentiality within Soviet culture in the 1930s in such cultural spheres as architecture, city planning, and mass celebrations. Under Stalinism, canonized “Soviet” standards also set the agenda for everyday communications. By reproducing an officially privileged agenda, participants in these daily communications encouraged a cultural inner Sovietization during the prewar decade. This article explores how and why the cultural canon of a closed system of “Soviet” references made its way so smoothly into the microstructures of society.

Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied: Magical Historicism in Contemporary Russian Fiction

Alexander Etkind

Combining ideas from cultural studies, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism, this essay proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the emerging field of post-Soviet memory studies. Sociological polls demonstrate that approximately one-fourth of Russians remember that their relatives were victims of terror, yet the existing monuments, museums, and rituals are inadequate to commemorate these losses. In this economy of memory, ghosts and monsters become a prominent subject of post-Soviet culture. The incomplete work of mourning turns the unburied dead into the undead. Analyzing Russian novels and films of the last decade, Alexander Etkind emphasizes the radical distortions of history, semihuman creatures, fantastic cults, manipulations of the body, and circular time that occur in these fictional works. To account for these phenomena, Etkind coins the concept “magical historicism” and discusses its relation to the magical realism of postcolonial literatures. The memorial culture of magical historicism is not so much postmodern as it is, precisely, post-Soviet.