Date of Submission


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in National Security


National Security


Howard Stoffer, Ph.D.


Electoral Authoritarianism, Russia Federation, Informal Governance Networks (Sistema), Vladimir Putin


Authoritarianism, Russia (Federation)--Politics and government, Politics, Practical, Diplomatic and consular service, Russian


In time, all things must end, even the presidency of Vladimir Putin. One way or another, Putin will eventually by succeeded by a new Russian leader. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the unique instance of electoral authoritarianism that has developed in Russia over the past three decades and attempt to explain how this system will likely react when the long-serving president leaves office. Specifically, it seeks to answer a deceptively simple question: Will electoral authoritarianism in Russia survive a leadership transition? This case study of the Russian political system has been based on qualitative secondary research, which utilized existing literature on the theory of electoral authoritarianism (EA) and works by a range of experts on post-Soviet Russian politics in order to identify the specific characteristics that contribute to the stability of EA in the country. While the intense personalism of Putin’s rule and the gradual erosion of formal governing institutions are sure to leave the government weakened upon succession, evidence indicates that electoral authoritarianism is almost certain to survive. Various elements of systemic stability provide the necessary resilience for the regime to adjust to changing conditions. Most notably, EA in Russia is stabilized by the flexibility of informal governance networks (referred to as sistema), the support of powerful security services (collectively known as the siloviki), the vertical integration of the ruling party at the subnational level, and the complete government control of the voting process. These factors are almost certain to allow the electoral authoritarian status quo to survive beyond Putin by enabling the system to readily adapt to changing circumstances, overcome opposition by force when necessary, and maintain tight control of the carefully rigged but nominally democratic process that is the basis of this form of government.

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