On 29 June 2015 Vladimir Gel'man presented his new book "Authoritarian Russia" in Perm.
Russia today represents one of the major examples of the phenomenon of "electoral authoritarianism", characterized by adopting the trappings of democratic institutions (such as elections, political parties, and a legislature) and enlisting the service of the country’s essentially authoritarian rulers. Why and how has the electoral authoritarian regime been consolidated in Russia? What are the mechanisms of its maintenance, and what is its likely future course? The author’s book attempts to answer these basic questions.
With this book, Vladimir Gel’man brings together his deep knowledge of the dynamics of the Russian regime and his serious grounding in political science to provide an interpretation of the evolution of the regime since 1991. "Authoritarian Russia" is an allusion to another book called "The authoritarian Brazil" which was published in 1973. Contributors to that book had a very skeptical image about Brazil’s future. However, one year later the Brazilian political system showed significant political changes, and 16 years later, another book about the political regime in Brazil titled "Democratizing Brazil" was published.
Vladimir Gel’man opens the book with his personal story about new elites in Russia at the beginning of the 1990’s. He describes his meeting with the new mayor of Saint Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. This appointment had a crucial effect on Gel’man’s image of authority’s nature because of Sobchak’s phrase: „We’ve got the power in our hands, so that means democracy“. Describing the political authority in Russia, Gel’man emphasizes its connection with normative political theory and political power maximization.
Gel’man began his presentation with the description of the authoritarian regimes’ nature through the prism of a medical approach. The lecturer presented three explanations for the authoritarian regime’s existence. The first model describes authoritarian regimes as a kind of "genetic heritage". With this image, the lecturer refers to the historical background of the country, which inevitably leads to authoritarianism. The second one Gel’man calls "birth injuries", meaning a strong external influence on the regime. The last image is "poisoning", explaining authoritarianism as a temporary phenomenon, like a toxic which gets into the healthy body of the state. Russia in his opinion belongs to the countries whose structural conditions (the level of socio-economic development, the level of social inequality, ethnic homogeneity) contain the opportunity to achieve democracy. As a result, Vladimir Gel’man puts forward four scenarios for the Russian future regime: the "decay", "hard turn" with mass and non-selective repressions, the "collapse" and "creeping democratization".