“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.”
Walter H. Judd
Walter H. Judd was an American politician, a Representative from Minnesota, elected as a Republican to the seventy-eighth and to the ninth succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1943-January 3, 1963). His words refer to the American problem of „democracy”. But his thoughts on democracy are, in my opinion, relevant for the Russian Federation today.
The Russian Federation is a very „specific” actor in the international arena of our days. Why? The answer can be found by looking at the history of the Russian Federation and at how the political regime was created. This also forms the basis of my choice of the subject and explains the situation today in Russia.
The specificity of Russia consists in a process of „politicization of history” or „politics of memory”. What is „politicization of history”?
In his article, Alexei Miller emphasizes that politicization of history is an inevitable process and it starts at the individual level: any historian doing research finds himself conditioned – to a greater or lesser extent – by the contemporary situation, his own political views, and national, religious and social identification. Politicization of history is more than just an impact of the political environment on professional historians. It is also seen in the public’s habit to look for historians’ opinions on current issues in history readings. Some history authors seem eager to indulge the readers on this account, even though this does not bode well for their reputation. This process is also manifest in the use of “historical” arguments by politicians in their attempts to sound convincing – a practice that is persistent and is unlikely to ever be eradicated..
History politics manifestations have become typical for almost all East-European countries in the past decade, especially in Russia, although its supporters are not ready to admit they are acting in this vein. Essentially, history politics is characteristic of post-Communist societies, like the Russian Federation or Ukraine, that freed themselves of the rigid forms of authoritarian ideological control. In the Soviet-type authoritarian regimes, the state’s interference in historical studies and politics of memory stemmed from the official presumption of ideological monopoly, censorship and administrative control over professional historiography.
History politics showed the first serious signs in Russia several years ago, when a team of “historians” published the so-called Filippov’s history book, which is actually a set of textbooks on the 20th century history.
The first product in the series – a teacher’s book on Russia’s newest history was released in 2007; it was followed by History of Russia, 1945-2007, and a guide on 1900-1945 events. The textbook on this period is due to come out shortly. The authors of the textbook state that the main task of teaching history is bringing up true patriots. In actual fact, Filippov and his co-authors promote the brand of patriotism which is understood as loyalty not so much to the nation, as to the authorities whose faults are largely explained by a hostile international environment and the necessity of mobilization. Essentially, it is the discourse of today’s ruling elite, which addresses the past and is remarkably similar to the Soviet post-Stalin narrative, with the exclusion of Communist rhetoric. The last chapter in Filippov’s textbook is devoted to sovereign democracy. This notion is presented not as an element of ideology of the Russian ruling political party, but is used as an objective description of the incumbent political regime which, as the textbook claims, ensured the country’s successful development in the past decade.
In the past two to three years, Russia has shown the tendency for regulating issues of history by means of legislation, which is very characteristic of history politics. For example, in the summer of 2009, the public learned (accidentally, it seems) about a directive by academician Valery Tishkov, deputy academician-secretary of the history and philology department of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The document offered the directors of RAS institutes to compile a list of historical/cultural falsifications with the names of “the individuals and organizations responsible for disseminating them.” The information was to be supplied within three days. It is not difficult to imagine what Pandora’s Box this directive has opened, and what practice of snitching and squaring it can revive.
Lists of examples of politicization of history can be continued, but the essential part of this process I described on the ranks of the above. This is how history and politics works in Russia.
On the other hand, we can see how powerful Russia is on the scene of world politics. Resources of oil and gas are one of the essential parts of foreign policy making of the Russian Federation.
But, I would like to focus the attention on the internal games of Russian politics, on how “democracy” works in Russia today and whether one can speak about “democracy” in Russia.
First of all, I would like to define the concepts of “managed” and “controlled” democracy, because these are the basic concepts for describing “modern political thinking” in Russia. What is “managed democracy”? One the one hand, according to Robert A. Heinlein: “A managed democracy is a wonderful thing… for the managers… and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible’”. This is a more literary definition, but the political fundament is present.
The modern Russian definition of this concept is problematic and the problem consist in Surkov`s definition of this concept.
According to Vladislav Surkov, “by managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centers of global influence – and I am not going to mention specific countries – by force and deception”. His definition of “managed democracy” is a direct reference to America’s view that the only democracy is American democracy or at least the only viable democracy is one that conforms to American interests. Surkov thinks that “managed democracy” is given to states that are under the American neo-imperial umbrella. So Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Iraq are democracies, while Russia is not. “They [the West],” charged Surkov in specific reference to American attempts to dominate the globes energy resources, “talk about democracy but they’re thinking about our natural resources”. Surkov’s philosophy is that there is no real freedom in the world, and that all democracies are managed democracies, so the key to success is to influence people, to give them the illusion that they are free, whereas in fact they are managed. In his view, the only freedom is “artistic freedom.
In contrast, western critics use the term “managed democracy” to describe Russia as “backsliding” into authoritarianism.
But what is the academic definition of “managed democracy”? According to Nikolai Petrov, senior consultant at the Carnegie Moscow Center, managed democracy controls society while providing the appearance of democracy. Its main characteristics are as follows:
1. A strong presidency and weak institutions
2. State control of the media
3. Control over elections allows elites to legitimize their decisions
4. Visible short-term effectiveness and long-term inefficiency
The result is an “unstable stability” based on the president’s personality. He is actually a hostage of the system. It is a system that preserves competitive elections while doing everything possible to predetermine the outcome. In other words, managed democracy is where the authorities arrange the elections and the result.
de: Dimitrishyna Reghina
 Alexei Miller: Russia: Politics and History, Russia in Global Affairs published with the participation Foreign Affairs, 7 july 2010, http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/number/Russia:_Politics_and_History-14896, accessed 17.01.2013, h 9:04.
 Shulga Taras, Russia and its XXth century history in schoolbooks: Kakaya istoriya nujna sovremennoy Rosyi?, Russkii Vopros, http://www.russkiivopros.com/index.php?pag=one&id=279&kat=6&csl=42, accessed 17.01.2013, h 09:37.
Alexei Miller, Op. cit.
 Aleksei Miller, Op.cit.
 Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Cppyright, 1996.
Richard Sakwa, Surkov: dark prince of the Kremlin, oDRussia, 7 April 2011, http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/richard-sakwa/surkov-dark-prince-of-kremlin, accessed 17.01.2013, h 10:31.
 Nikolay Petrov, Michael McFaul, The Essence of Putin’s Managed Democracy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 18 2005, http://carnegieendowment.org/2005/10/18/essence-of-putin-s-managed-democracy/2a3, accessed 17.01.2013, 10:42.