Russia's Influence on Democratization in Post-Communist Europe and Eurasia
33 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 10 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
In the years since the demise of the Soviet Union, the process of democratization never started or, if it did, stalled and went into reverse in most of the non-Baltic post-Soviet states. While a good deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to the impact of transnational and international actors and forces on the democratization of the non-Soviet post-Communist countries, surprisingly little attention has been devoted to the impact of such actors and forces on the failed or still-incomplete processes of democratization in most of the non-Baltic post-Soviet countries. In particular, little attention has been devoted to examining the extent to which Russia – by far the largest, whether measured by geography, population, economy, or military, and certainly the most influential internationally – has influenced the process of democratization in the other non-Baltic post-Soviet countries.
This paper takes a first step in addressing that question. Using annual data reported by Freedom House as surrogate measures of the extent of democracy over the past two decades, it suggests that with one notable exception – Ukraine – the extent of democratization has either not progressed at all or has receded over the past decade in all of the non-Baltic post-Soviet countries. While there are no doubt many forms and modes of influence that a large and powerful state can deploy to influence a neighbor, the paper considers the extent to which, if at all, Russia may have made use of economic, political, and geopolitical modes of influence to slow or reverse the process of democratization in the other non-Baltic post-Soviet countries. The discussion suggests that, while Russia deployed all three modes of influence from time to time, geopolitics may have been especially important in determining both the extent to which it sought to influence the process of democratization and the means by which it did so.
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