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469 WŁODZIMIERZ MARCINIAK TRANSFORMATION PROCESSES IN POLAND AND RUSSIA THE POST-1989 POLITICAL experiences of Poland and Russia are comparable to some extent, since both countries dealt with changes in the political regime during conditions of deep economic and social crisis. Furthermore , in both instances, we witnessed the dismantling of a system of Communist Party rule. Poland, however, developed a political system based on checks and balances, the political involvement of its citizens, interparty competition, and alternating governments. Russia, however, has not been consistent in separating the branches of government, and political competition is played out not between parties but within a hierarchical power structure . There has been no change of government since 1991, and society has been effectively depoliticized. If, in the case of Poland, one might speak of a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, in the case of Russia we have seen a transition from authoritarian mobilization to oligarchic competition. The new regime might be considered a kind of elitist government in which the sham character of the democratic institutions prevents genuine control over the people in power. The tumultuous developments of 1989 in Eastern Europe set in motion deep political, economic, and social changes, the scope of which roughly overlapped with the geopolitical structure of the Soviet Empire. However, the political process followed a different course in the heart of the empire, that is, Russia, than on its periphery in Central and Eastern Europe. Systems in which the parties in power changed evolved only to the west of the Soviet Union’s pre-1939 border. The eleven states that were part of the Soviet Union before World War II now have presidential systems. The parties in them are very weak, and the opposition has seldom managed to win the presidency through elections. Within that group of countries, only Ukraine conducted political reforms, establishing a more balanced political system. 470 WŁODZIMIERZ MARCINIAK The Soviet Empire and Its Ideological Mutations The Soviet Union was not an ordinary territorial state with national interests, a political system, and bureaucratic mechanisms for decision making. First and foremost, it was an ideocracy and an exterritorial state-party. The teleology of that structure and the types of strategic and tactical decisions made were rooted in its archetype. In fact, decisions were not so much made as they were interpreted by the hierarchy of competent organs in a process of ceremonial rites (arcana imperii). The Communist Party in its various versions had always been a homogenous and centralized organization, international with regard to its goals and functions and constituting merely a part—though the victorious part—of a greater global entity. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics never consisted of just its fifteen member republics. Rather, it resembled a geopolitical system comprising several concentric circles. At its center was the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), where the Communist Party ruled directly, without having to establish branches in the republics. The second and third circles consisted of the union’s republics and socialist countries, with increasingly complicated systems of government . The system also had its exterritorial peripheries, in the form of legal and illicit organizations that “had not yet” assumed power. As Alexei Salmin points out, the ideological “mutation” of policy constituted an exceptionally rare phenomenon in the communist world system and involved a fundamental renewal of the ruling elite, including the replacement of the leadership of the ruling party and the physical—or merely political—liquidation of a part of the previous elite. During the period of Soviet rule, only two such “mutations ” occurred: in the mid-1920s, when the ideology of building socialism in one state was adopted, and in the late 1950s, when the concept of the peaceful coexistence of different socioeconomic systems was formulated. In each instance, the ideological “mutations” were accompanied by certain alterations in the practice of government. In the 1930s, it was decided that a formal distinction between the legislative branch (Supreme Soviet) and the executive branch (Council of People’s Commissars; from 1946, the Council of Ministers) would be introduced. The first elections to the Supreme Soviet were preceded by a self-criticism campaign and a purge, generally referred to as perestroika, the goal of which was to awaken the criticism of the masses. That is why Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms might be interpreted as the third—this time, unsuccessful—attempt at the ideological “mutation” of Soviet communism through a renewal of the way of thinking and of the elite, or part of it. The...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822980957
Related ISBN
9780822944409
MARC Record
OCLC
914230098
Pages
704
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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