Political Transitions: Democracy and the Former Soviet Union

The defeat of the Aug 1991 coup attempt in Moscow marked one of the most euphoric moments in Russian history. Emboldened by liberalization under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian society organized to resist this use of force by Kremlin dictators. The end of the Soviet dictatorship, however, did not lead immediately or smoothly to the creation of democracy in either Russia or in most of the other newly independent states that emerged after the USSR'S collapse. Of the many countries undergoing democratization in Latin America and southern Europe in the two decades before the Soviet collapse, the most successful cases were "pacted" transitions. In 2001, a decade after the Soviet Union's collapse, three clear regime types had emerged -- democracies, autocracies, and semi-autocratic, semi-democratic regimes in the reminder of the post-Soviet countries. After a decade of revolution and anarchy, Russians yearned for more stability.