Contributor Perspectives

In Russia, a Social Contract Built on Bravado

Ksenia Semenova
Board of Contributors
Nov 6, 2017 | 15:01 GMT
A supporter of Russia's Communist Party brandishes a poster bearing infamous Soviet leader Josef Stalin's likeness during a May Day celebration.

Russia's social contract has endured one experiment after another over the past century as the Russian Revolution, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet system transformed the country. The system has undergone so many permutations that today it is all but obsolete, and no rule is too fundamental to break.

(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The understanding of the social contract seems to be shifting around the world. But for Russia, at least, the phenomenon is nothing new. The country has tried any number of variations on the social contract over the more than 1,000 years of its history. Leaders traditionally have resorted to autocratic rule to keep the unwieldy nation together, periodically introducing institutions, such as the secret police forces of Ivan the Terrible and Czar Alexander III, or reforms -- like Alexander II's measure to emancipate the serfs -- to maintain order. Over the past century, Russia's social contract has endured one experiment after another as the Russian Revolution, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet system transformed the country. The system has undergone so many permutations that today it is all but obsolete, and no rule is too fundamental to break....

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