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Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin / Edition 1

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Overview

For centuries, dictators ruled Russia. Tsars and Communist Party chiefs were in charge for so long some analysts claimed Russians had a cultural predisposition for authoritarian leaders. Yet, as a result of reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, new political institutions have emerged that now require election of political leaders and rule by constitutional procedures. Michael McFaul traces Russia's tumultuous political history from Gorbachev's rise to power in 1985 through the 1999 resignation of Boris Yeltsin in favor of Vladimir Putin.

McFaul divides his account of the post-Soviet country into three periods: the Gorbachev era (1985-1991), the First Russian Republic (1991-1993), and the Second Russian Republic (1993-present). The first two were, he believes, failures -- failed institutional emergence or failed transitions to democracy. By contrast, new democratic institutions did emerge in the third era, though not the institutions of a liberal democracy. McFaul contends that any explanation for Russia's successes in shifting to democracy must also account for its failures. The Russian/Soviet case, he says, reveals the importance of forging social pacts; the efforts of Russian elites to form alliances failed, leading to two violent confrontations and a protracted transition from communism to democracy.

McFaul spent a great deal of time in Moscow in the 1990s and witnessed firsthand many of the events he describes. His experience, combined with frequent visits since and unparalleled access to senior Russian policy-makers and politicians, has resulted in an astonishingly well-informed account. Russia's Unfinished Revolution is a comprehensive history of Russia during this crucial period.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McFaul was a U.S. student in Moscow during the eventful years that saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the birth of its Russian successor, a process that he describes, rather surprisingly, as "a social revolution on the scale of other great revolutions of the modern era." His book retraces the political history of those daysand the subsequent decade of what he terms the First and Second Russian Republics, divided by Boris Yeltsin's October 1993 assault on the Russian White House. He has done an immense amount of research, and his narrative is dense and solidly anchored in a detailed bibliography. He perhaps underestimates the Russian proclivity for authoritarian state leadership, but he is unambiguously clear about President Putin's antidemocratic tastes. His book complements Steven Fish's Democracy from Scratch (Princeton Univ., 1994) and carries the often discouraging tale of Russia's quest for democracy forward to the new century. For academic libraries and political science specialists. Robert Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ont. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"McFaul has done an immense amount of research, and his narrative is dense and solidly anchored in a detailed bibliography. . . . This book carries the often discouraging tale of Russia's quest for democracy forward to the new century."—Library Journal

"McFaul gives an erudite and well-documented history of the last fifteen years, from Gorbachev to Putin. . . . He brings striking firsthand experience to bear: The access he managed to obtain, and the time he spent with the revolution's various political players, brings fresh material and keen insight to the story."—Washington Monthly

"McFaul, in an elaborately researched volume, asks why the effort to create new and stable political institutions initially failed—first under Gorbachev and then during Boris Yeltsin's first term—only to succeed under the 'Second Russian Republic'. . . McFaul's book is especially noteworthy for its rich detail, greatly enhanced by interviews with almost all the key players."—Foreign Affairs

"The author is one of the most distinguished and engaged commentators on Russian politics. . . . He has produced a highly sophisticated, balanced and informative analysis of the emergence of Russian democracy that leaves open the question of whether it will become a consolidated democracy."—International Affairs

"Michael McFaul's book on Russia's transition from communism is likely to prove one of the most lasting and authoritative studies in its field. Particularly valuable is the framework it offers for comprehending the changes that have occurred. . . . Quite apart from the value of the theoretical argument, however, the book is likely to become the authoritative study of the period for its sweep, balance, and clarity."—Journal of Democracy

"In the worldwide cabal of Russia-watchers, Mike McFaul is held in high esteem as an insightful commentator and sharp analyst of current political puzzles in Moscow. This book is his claim for a deeper understanding of Russia'a transition. . . . This very rich and dense book deserves many hours of attentive reading."—Journal of Peace Research

"Both a path-breaking study of Russian politics and a major work on institutional change, Russia's Unfinished Revolution provides the best analytic and theoretical account I have seen of how and why a broad range of actors may come to accept an ambiguous and flawed regime. The access that Michael McFaul has won and the understanding that he has mobilized are nothing short of breathtaking. This is a deeply informative, fascinating, and at times gripping history."—Larry Diamond, coeditor of the Journal of Democracy

"Even those whose opinions differ from Michael McFaul's interpretations of transformative change in Russian politics since the second half of the 1980s will find this book both stimulating and exceptionally well-informed. McFaul combines theoretical grounding with readability—a far from common achievement."—Archie Brown, University of Oxford

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801488146
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael McFaul is the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he co-directs the Iran Democracy Project, as well as Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
1. The Revolutionary Transition from Communism to Democracy: A Model 1
Part 1. The Gorbachev Era, 1985-1991
2. Gorbachev's Design for Reforming Soviet Political Institutions 33
3. The End of the Soviet Union 61
Part 2. The First Russian Republic, 1991-1993
4. Institutional Design in the First Russian Republic 121
5. The Failure of the First Russian Republic 161
Part 3. The Emergence of the Second Russian Republic, 1993-1996
6. Designing the Political Institutions of the Second Republic 207
7. Transitional Constitutionalism 228
8. Transitional Electoralism 265
Part 4. The Future of Russian Democracy
9. The Quality of Russian Democracy 309
10. The Stability of Partial Democracy 338
Index 373
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin

    The subtitle title of the book, 'political change from Gorbachev to Putin', defines what you expect to find between it's pages. Only that's not what's covered. McFaul covers the Gorbechev years, as well as Yeltsen's presidency -- but only until 1996. There is virtually nothing after 1996. I would expect that Putin's coverage would be light, given a publication date of 2001, but to skip over Yeltsen's final years is simply neglegent. <P> By giving only a few sentances to the 'Shares for Rubles' program, he skips over the criminal neglegance and fraud that occured. This behavior had strong impacts on the Russian economy, which directly caused the crash of their economy in 1998. This crash is skipped over completely -- possibly because at the time, as a reporter, McFaul was cheering Anatoly Chubais the mastermind and archetect behind the economic reforms. (If Chubais attempted to do what he did in the US, he would be spending a lot of time behind bars.) In short, it looks like McFaul is skipping over the time period when his journalism was (effectively) cheering on the corruption. <P> The complete failure of the economy (which -- to reiterate -- was skipped over completely), combined with the treatment of the oligarchs (also skipped over) directly led shaped the Russian perception of democracy and the free market. These factors also directly effected the conclusions at the end of his book, but he presents no explination as to why the results are so bad -- probably because the explination would involve covering the ground he choose to skip over. To skip over these major milestones is unforgivable for an author who is attempting to track the political and economic reforms in Russia. <P> He also skips over such minor events as the civil war in Serbia and the Second Chechan War (also a civil war, this one against Russia!). <P> On the positive side, he does give a lot of good information, and there are a lot of references to look up additional data. I would recommend this book for someone researching Russia up to, but not after, Yeltsen's re-election. And even then, it helps to have an idea of the issues he doesn't talk about.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin

    The subtitle title of the book, 'political change from Gorbachev to Putin', defines what you expect to find between it's pages. Only that's not what's covered. McFaul covers the Gorbechev years, as well as Yeltsen's presidency -- but only until 1996. There is virtually nothing after 1996. I would expect that Putin's coverage would be light, given a publication date of 2001, but to skip over Yeltsen's final years is simply neglegent. <P> By giving only a few sentances to the 'Shares for Rubles' program, he skips over the criminal neglegance and fraud that occured. This behavior had strong impacts on the Russian economy, which directly caused the crash of their economy in 1998. This crash is skipped over completely -- possibly because at the time, as a reporter, McFaul was cheering Anatoly Chubais the mastermind and archetect behind the economic reforms. (If Chubais attempted to do what he did in the US, he would be spending a lot of time behind bars.) In short, it looks like McFaul is skipping over the time period when his journalism was (effectively) cheering on the corruption. <P> The complete failure of the economy (which -- to reiterate -- was skipped over completely), combined with the treatment of the oligarchs (also skipped over) directly led shaped the Russian perception of democracy and the free market. These factors also directly effected the conclusions at the end of his book, but he presents no explination as to why the results are so bad -- probably because the explination would involve covering the ground he choose to skip over. To skip over these major milestones is unforgivable for an author who is attempting to track the political and economic reforms in Russia. <P> On the positive side, he does give a lot of good information, and there are a lot of references to look up additional data. I would recommend this book for someone researching Russia up to, but not after, Yeltsen's re-election. And even then, it helps to have an idea of the issues he doesn't talk about.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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