In this article the author analyzes the intricate combination of repression and cooptation policies conducted by Russia’s ruling elites in their relations with the opposition on the regional level. As the study shows the structural features of electoral authoritarianism not only ensure the victories of “approved” candidates but also make the rare oppositional winners to adapt to the existing regime and change the political affiliation. If the regime gets more authoritarian the oppositional party can still be a tool to win a local election. But after being elected, the winner finds himself in another political environment of existing patron-client relations, and has no other choice than to become a dependent member, or an agent (according to principal-agent theory) in higher-level clientele. As a result, oppositional party has become useless in the recruitment of influential executive power elite. However, while blocking unwanted “invasion” of opposition into the executive power the regime allows opposition to be presented in the leadership of regional legislative power. This policy reflects the necessity to make an opposition more loyal and included into the system of power relations in most safe and efficient for the ruling elite way.
This article looks into the debate on public attitudes in Russia towards the EU and Europe. The relevance of Europe and of the perception of belonging to Europe for Russian national identity is evaluated. To what extent do the Russians see themselves as European and what criteria fit this notion today after the two post-Soviet decades have drawn to a close? The existing image of the EU is analysed in the context of asserting and consolidating the Russian political nation. Elite and expert group opinions are considered, having in mind their influence on the wider public views on national identity. Historic notions of the West in Russian intellectual discourse are evocated as a valid context for the current debate, and the relevance of the traditional cleavage between westernizers and traditionalists for present day identity politics is evaluated. An important point in this discussion is the Russian and the Western perception of the ‘values gap’. The paper draws upon three groups of sources: public opinion survey data, public political discourse and its media coverage, and academic and expert literature.