Myths about Russian Political Culture and the Study of Russian History

  • Alexander Lukin
  • Pavel Lukin
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


A belief in the dominance of authoritarianism in Russian history is widely held by political scientists. Scholarly proponents of this view — Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Remington, Stephen White, Archie Brown and others — share the opinion that ‘there is no getting away from the predominantly authoritarian nature of Soviet and Russian political experience’ (Brown, 1989, p. 18; see also White, 1979, p. 22; Barghoorn and Remington, 1986, p. 5; Brzezinski, 1976, pp. 69–70) which, in their view, to a great extent determined or at least significantly influenced the country’s development in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, impeding the emergence of the Western-style institutions. Brzezinski formulated this proposition in a concentrated form:

The central and significant reality of Russian politics has been its predominantly autocratic character. Unlike its western European neighbours, Russia had not experienced a prolonged feudal phase. The overthrow of the Tartar yoke gave rise to an increasingly assertive and dominant autocracy. Property and people were the possessions of the state, personalised by the Autocrat (designed as such explicitly and proudly). The obligation of well-nigh complete subordination of any individual to the personalised symbol of the state was expressly asserted. Control over society — including the church by the state — among other means, through a census mechanism adopted centuries ahead of any corresponding European device, was reminiscent of Oriental despotisms and, in fact, was derived directly from that historical experience.


Political Culture Twelfth Century Russian State Russian Culture Russian History 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Alexander Lukin
  • Pavel Lukin

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