Russian Language Blog

Russian Politics 101 Posted by on Jul 22, 2010 in Russian life

Our next guest blogger, Natalie, is a university student studying history and the Russian language.  She writes the blog birdbrain and can be found on Twitter at @natalie_.  Her interest in the Russian language was sparked by Russian history and a Russian course at university and she’s been hooked ever since.

When learning about a new country, learning about its culture is an inevitable occurrence, along with politics.  Politics is an integral part of culture and extremely important, even for those who wish to remain apolitical.

During the Communist era, the USSR was a one-party state.  Parties other than «Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза» [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] were outlawed.  Luckily, with the fall of the Soviet Union, this has changed.  Today, Russia has quite a variety of political parties led by very colorful politicians.  «Давайте познакомимся!» [Let’s get acquainted!]

The party that has the majority in the Russian parliament, «Дума» [Duma], is called «Единая Россия» [United Russia].  «Лидер партии «Единая Россия»–Владимир Владимирович Путин» [The leader of United Russia is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin].  «Единая Россия» was founded on December 1, 2001 and is very popular: 315 of the 450 representatives in the «Дума» are members of «Единая Россия».

The ideology of the party has been broadly described as «центризм» [centrism] and «социальный консерватизм» [social conservatism]. «Владимир Путин» has led the party since May 7, 2008 (he could not lead it before because he was president and the president of the Russian Federation cannot be a member of a political party). «Путин» is now «Председатель Правительства Российской Федерации» [Prime Minister of the Russian Federation–literally, it means “Chair of the Government of the Russian Federation”].

«Коммунистическая партия Российской Федерации» [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] is the second-most powerful party in the «Дума»–it holds 57 of the 450 seats.  It is the successor to «Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза» [Communist Party of the Soviet Union].  It has been led by «Геннадий Андреевич Зюганов» [Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov] since 2001. «Зюганов» is a very educated man: «он занимался физикой и математикой в институте» [he studied physics and mathematics at an institute].  «Зюганов» is also «доктор философских наук» [doctor of philosophy], which is a degree one level higher than an American Ph.D.  He also ran for president in the past and had this election poster in 1996.

«Либерально-демократическая партия России» [Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia] holds 40 out of the 450 seats in the «Дума».  Some of its philosophies are «национализм и популизм» [nationalism and populism].  Its leader, «Владимир Вольфович Жириновский» [Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky] is one of Russia’s most colorful politicians and is famous for saying outrageous things.  For example, during the bird flu scare, he said that Russians should shoot migrating birds.  Even his past is not very typical: he’s the only politician mentioned in this post who was not born in Russia. «Он родился в столице Казахстана» [He was born in the capital of Kazakhstan].  He has made anti-Semitic remarks on many occasions and engaged in physical fights with political opponents.

The last party that has seats in the «Дума» is «Справедливая Россия» [A Just Russia].  It holds the remaining 38 seats.  Its philosophy is «социал-демократия» [social democracy].  Its leader is «Сергей Михайлович Миронов» [Sergey Mikhailovich Mironov].  «Справедливая Россия» is probably the most typical and tame of the parties, but perhaps it just seems that way in comparison to the colorful and controversial «Либерально-демократическая партия России».

Though these are the only parties currently in the parliament, there are other political parties.  My favorite is «Российская объединённая демократическая партия «ЯБЛОКО»» [Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko].  Why, you may be thinking, is this party one of my favorites?  I simply like the name of it: «яблоко» means “apple” in Russian, and I think it’s very funny to have a political party named after a fruit.

A discussion of Russian politics would not be complete without mention of «Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев, президент Российской Федерации» [Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation].  «Медведев родился в Ленинграде, так же, как и Путин» [Medvedev was born in Leningrad, like Putin].  «Он учился в Ленинградском Государственном Университете на юридическом факультете» [He studied law at Leningrad State University].  He worked as a lawyer and then worked in the Russian government.  In the elections in 2008, he received crucial support from Putin, as can be seen by the political poster below:

Like his predecessor «Путин», «Медведев» has retained relatively high ratings from the Russian population.

«Верьте или не верьте» [Believe it or not], we have only scratched the surface of Russian politics, an extremely complicated and complex topic.  Hopefully I will have the opportunity to write a follow-up post in which we’ll explore some of the less well-known political parties and developments in Russia.

Note from Yelena: I also believe «Яблоко» is one of the most creatively-named parties. But do you know that the first three letters of the name – Я, Б, Л – are the first letters of the last names of the three founding fathers of this party – Явлинский, БолдыревиЛукин.

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  1. Mike:

    Thank you Natalie and Russian Blog for this interesting post.

    I gather that the above political poster with Zyuganov is an attempt to break from the perception of his party being primarily popular with the older population.

  2. Julia:

    I have liked the party Яблоко since the first time I found out about them in 2000. Thank you for a very fun and refreshing post.

  3. shaker:

    it is really an interesting topic, im looking forward to reading that follow-up post soon.

  4. G.:

    thanks for this post! I’m really interested in the russian government. in the next one it’d be great if you can talk more about the election process and how the government works in general. 🙂

  5. Natalie:

    Thanks, everyone. I’m glad you liked it.

  6. Chris/blindside70:

    Zyuganov enrolled in 1978 and got his doctor nauk in 1980? Sounds questionable whether he’s really as educated as he supporters seem to claim.

    I was under the impression that kandidat to doktor takes something like 6-10 years, sounds like he had some classic ‘party’ help…

  7. Chris/blindside70:

    I’m having trouble finding information on it in English, but I only can find about 6 years of study. Maybe there’s a better source in Russian?

  8. M:

    I’m sorry, but this was one of the most numb posts I’ve ever read. Listing political parties, as if political parties had anything to say in Russia… Either the author of this posts knows nothing of russian politics and life in Russia, or she’s trying to fool us. I don’t know what is worse. Shape up Transparent!

    • yelena:

      @M M (what’s with the anonymity anyway? we don’t bite or hunt down the dissenters and critics), it was not the scope of this post to get into discussions of the state of Russian politics and who influences what (that’s why it’s Russian Politics 101 and not Advanced Topics of Russian Political Interplay). This is not a blog about Russian politics, but about Russian language. Also, keep in mind that for many people Russia is still heavily associated with Soviet Union and with a single-party system. At the same time, others might find the present-day proliferation of political parties in Russia very confusing. That’s why this post introduced some of the larger, more mainstream, parties. The style was deliberately chosen to read more like a linguistically-enhanced wiki entry and not at all like an op-ed.