Richard Sakwa‘s new book, The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism, and the Medvedev Succession (Cambridge University Press, 2011), comes at a moment in Russian political history when uncertainty is once again in the headlines and on the lips of experts and journalists. While Sakwa’s book is principally about how Dmitri Medvedev became Russia’s third President, The Crisis of Russian Democracy is more importantly an analysis of the institutions and dynamics that animate Russian politics today.
Rejecting the typologies of “democracy with adjectives,” as Sakwa calls it (like semi-authoritarian democracy or sovereign democracy or transitional democracy), he identifies competing institutions in Russia (“the dual state”), and studies them dynamically in order to document the interaction of various social and political forces. Sakwa’s concept of the dual state describes the permanent struggle and imbalance between Russia’s administrative regime and its constitutional state apparatus. Rooted firmly in the nitty gritty details of Kremlinology and intrigue, Sakwa’s methodology also allows him to explore the role that ideological norms play in Moscow high politics. The result is a fascinating medley of perspective — one that any scholar of Russia cannot help but find appealing.