Explaining Party Emergence and Non-Emergence in Post-Communist Russia: Institutions, Agents, and Chance

A decade after the collapse of communism, Russia still lacks a robust party system. Most institutions of the state are immune from party influence. However parties play a central role in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma. Why? Why have parties been successful in organizing and influencing the work of the State Duma but enjoyed only very limited success elsewhere? This article argues that parties in Russia are weak in general because the most powerful politicians in Russia have made choices to make them weak. Cultural, historical, and socioeconomic factors play a role in impeding party emergence, but individual decisions--especially decisions about institutional design--are the more proximate and more salient causes of poor party development. The privileged position of parties in the State Duma also resulted from individual choices, but those choices had unintended consequences that did not represent the preferences of the most powerful.