Recent Posts

Biculturalism and the Apollo-Soyuz Mission


The final two short audio pieces from the Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia. “A Brief Conversation on Biculturalism” by Alexandra Diouk and “Remembering the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Mission: 45 years of US-Russian Space Cooperation” by Lisa Becker.

Trash Protests and Leninopad


Two short audio pieces from the Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia. “The Great Russian Trash Crisis” by Seth Farkas and  “An Empty Pedestal: Ukraine after Leninopad” by Sabrina Beaver.

Russia as a Rhizome State

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on reddit

putinvertu

My review of Alena Ledeneva’s Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks, and Informal Governance for Russia Direct, “Sistema: How power works in modern Russia,”

In June, Stanislav Belkovsky wrote that Putin “never created a power vertical.” Instead, the Putinist system is a “rhizome” state, a horizontal network “composed of innumerable multiplicities of power centers.”

Putin stands at the core but is isolated. He is the last to know or is simply left in the dark. In the network, each node, which is a merger of money and administrative resources, is really where the Russian state “is born, lives, and from time to time dies.” The implication that Russia as a rhizome state is clear: We must abandon the vertical for the horizontal if we really want to know how Russia is ruled.

I was reminded of Belkovsky’s provocative revision as I read Alena Ledeneva’s excellent and informative Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks, and Informal Governance. This book is a sequel to her Russia’s Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange (1998) and her exploration of post-Soviet informal practices in How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business (2006).

Can Russia Modernize? is not so much a sequel as it is the outer crust to these previous subterranean explorations. While the first two texts focused on the societal workings of informal networks, the new book illuminates their presence in the innards of the Russian state.

Like Belkovsky, Ledeneva also sees Russia as a network state, a vast web of money and power linked through informal practices, clans, personal relations governed by unwritten rules and codes. This complex circuitry forms the sistema, or system, of Russia that Putin lords over – and of which he is just as much a prisoner.

Read on . . .