The article is devoted to the experience of the functioning in Russia of public expert seminars on the problems of the socio-political life of the country as a platform for interaction between the authorities and the expert community, as well as within the community itself. The first section briefly describes the history of the emergence of a prototype of such seminars in the late USSR, which is interpreted by the author as the birth of a private-public sphere under the conditions of a strict party control over the public sphere. The second section discusses the development of public-political clubs of the perestroika period and their role in expanding the public sphere and recruiting future political and public figures. The third section covers the 1990s. The author shows that at the beginning of that decade the Russian authorities were open to interaction with the expert community more than ever. He proposes a hypothesis that such openness can be explained (at least partly) by the arrival of a new team in the government that included many people from the academic world. The last section presents a comparative analysis of the three expert seminars that were most active in the first half of the 2000s — the seminars of the clubs “Civil Debates” and “Open Forum”, as well as the seminar “Politeia”. One of the most important tasks set by their initiators was the formation of an open expert environment, accumulating the expert potential scattered in the bureaucratic, business and public structures, and overcoming the split of the national elite into micro-communities that hardly contact with each other. However, it was not possible to solve these tasks, and the activities of the seminars gradually came to naught.
The article is devoted to the analysis of the hypothesis proposed V.Gel'man, according to which the post-Soviet Russia should be viewed as an "crucial case" of electoral authoritarianism that sheds light jn the origins of the strength and weakness of this model in a comparative perspective. Having thoroughly analyzed Gel'man's arguments in the context of the Russian political history of the last two and a half decades, author faild to find convincing evidence of either this hypothesis or even justification of classifying the country's political regime into the category of "electoral authoritarianism" per se. The research conducted by the author rather demonstrates the uniqueness of the Russian "authoritarianism" and that the conventional methods of description within the modern Western comparative politics fail to capture its specificity.
The past several years there has been a stable interest of non-democracies towards the institute of electronic participation. The article addresses the possible reasons of the concept’s popularity and factors of its successful implementation. It is argued that e-participation allows solving internal problems of Internet - control and legitimacy, as well as boosting up international socialization and economic competitiveness. Hence functions of e-participation are quite similar to those performed by other “democratic institutions”. On the basis of the dictator’s digital dilemma and results of empirical analysis it is concluded that e-participation is better developed in countries with higher foreign incentives and lower political risks and economic costs.