Baku, the center of the Russian and then Soviet oil industry, represented the raw economic potential of early Soviet industry. At the head of the industry was Alexandr Serebrovskiĭ, head of Azneft, the largest Soviet oil trust, and a pivotal figure in reviving Soviet oil production across the 1920s. His trip to the United States in 1924 and his subsequent plan to restore Baku’s productive capacity via American technology and methodology would not only improve the industry’s output but allow Azneft to directly compete with American oil companies on the international stage, thus demonstrating the latent potential of the Soviet Union for exportation. However, while this project seemed initially successful, it created a difficult fiscal legacy as Azneft became increasingly financially insolvent across the 1920s.
The historiography of sixteenth-century Church parties may have arisen from historians’ misinterpreting the use of the terms “band of Josephian monks” (cheti Osiflianskikh mnikhov) and the “non-possessor way of life” (nestiazhatel’noe zhitel’stvo) by the author of The History of the Grand Prince of Moscow. But he does not juxtapose these terms against each other. Those monks who live the non-possessor way of life are, instead, directly contrasted with those who love possession (liubostiazhatel’nye), but neither they nor the Josephians are described as a Church party, let alone one that had an “ideology”. The monks in The History who loved possessions are not identified with the Josephians, nor are the monks who follow the non-possessor way of life identified with the Trans-Volga elders. Another attempt to find the antecedent of the Church parties model were historians who cite the use by Zinovii Otenskii of the term nestiazhatel’ in relation to Vassian Patrikeev, but he too was not using the term in the sense of a Church party. These attempts are examples of “thick interpretation”; that is, imposing on the source testimony an outside construct that is not contained within it.
Among many arguments for constitutional changes presented in the wake of the 2020 campaign for the popular vote in Russia, there was the idea that “cementing” Russia’s political landscape for the sake of the regime’s durability would serve as a tool for improvement of quality of governance. This argument, in a way, followed the essential point of Mancur Olson describing many autocrats across the globe as “roving bandits” with their short-term time horizons and incentives for predatory behavior. To what extent may the constitutional extension of the time horizon of Russia’s authoritarian regime contribute to conversion of Russia’s state officials and top managers from the “roving” to the “stationary” model, in Olson’s terms? On the basis of previous research, I argue that the nature of Russia’s political regime—electoral authoritarianism under personalist rule—prevents such a trajectory of further evolution. Indeed, the set of constitutional changes adopted in Russia in July 2020 is likely to preserve bad governance as a mechanism of maintenance of politico-economic order, as intentionally built and developed during the post-Soviet period. While certain technocratic solutions for Russia’s governance, aimed at “fool-proofing”, may avert the risks of major disasters, under conditions of durable authoritarianism the use of these devices will not result in major advancements in the quality of governance. Rather, they may contribute to further decay and aggravation of the numerous vices of bad governance.
Viewed through the lens of social policy, Russia’s 2020 constitutional reform codifies existing priorities without addressing the issues that have fragmented the meaning of social citizenship. Placing these changes in theoretical and historical context, we identify the core causes of inequity in the social welfare system, the sustained gap between state promises, and Russians’ lived experience. Our case studies highlight the sources of shared social grievances and the obstacles to national collective action that maintain stability in the facing of increased localized protest actions. We conclude by emphasizing the importance of observing the opposing forces of continuity and change in Russian politics as they define and redefine the meaning of social citizenship.
The dominant construct to explain early sixteenth-century internal Russian Church relations was for over a hundred years one of conflict between two parties – the Possessors (a.k.a. Josephians) and the Non-Possessors (a.k.a. Trans-Volga Elders). Source-based research challenged that conflict model by demonstrating that Iosif Volotskii, the presumed leader of the Possessors, and Nil Sorskii, the presumed leader of the Non-Possessors, and their disciples and followers were not antagonists but collaborators with each other. Nonetheless, the Church parties model has continued being used to explain Russian Church relations for the mid-sixteenth-century. Yet, it is just as faulty to explain the evidence of mid-century as it is for earlier. Evidence, instead of being analyzed, is shoehorned to fit the model. The Church parties-in-conflict model is a historiographical construct that obstructs rather than informs understanding the source testimony. That testimony is far more complex and nuanced than the simplistic Church parties model allows for.
This scholar’s work on Nil Sorskii and Iosif Volotskii progressed unevenly from adhering to Ia.S. Lur’e’s modification of the traditional Nil vs. Iosif paradigm to a strident assertion of their collaborative alliance promoting monasticism and resolutely opposing dissidence, with a mixture of intersection and compatible differences of emphasis in their original writings. But one must concede the possibility that Nil’s collaboration did not include support of Iosif’s enthusiastic endorsement of monasterial riches, the commemoration culture that bolstered it, and the harshest measures against convicted heretics. And while in in no way provable, one cannot know for certain that Nil did not speak up in some way against monasterial riches at a Moscow synod in 1503.
Although 4 July 2020 saw the coming into force of constitutional changes in Russia, this was far from the end of the story. Most clearly, these changes to the 1993 constitution required implementation, including through amendments to, and the writing of new pieces of, federal legislation. In part, this process was the mundane work of legal bureaucrats, tweaking and creating many pieces of legislation to reflect the new constitutional text. But the implementation process also reveals much more about the broader constitutional reform project. This article reviews the implementation process, discussing its complexity, the improvisation shown when fleshing out certain new constitutional details, its relationship with other political developments, and the chasm laid bare between Putin’s promise of the rebalancing of power in his 15 January 2020 Address to the Federal Assembly versus the reality of reform in practice.