The articles in this issue explore the longer-term implications of Russia’s 2020 Constitutional Reform process. Assessing constitutional change from different theoretical and empirical approaches, these authors find that the constitution largely codified the status-quo as it had evolved over the past decade. The resulting institutional changes solidified the personalist political system that concentrates power in one leader. These reforms also created new mechanisms to preclude elite defection and generate societal quiescence. At the same time, the three-staged reform process that included formal adoption, national vote, and legal reconciliation, introduced new political risk by raising societal expectations, reinforcing cleavages through patriotic legitimization strategies, introducing new rigid structures, and relying on personalism and networks over institutional governance. These risks do not predict state failure but they suggest new challenges that will continue to shape Russian political development.
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.