The Putin Succession

Investigator: Stephen White

Funded by: ESRC (RES-062-23-1542)
Dates: 1 June 2009 to 31 May 2012

Russia is the world's largest country. It is a nuclear power, with a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. It commands a substantial proportion of the world's natural resources, and one of its most formidable concentrations of military might. Its decisions have normally been taken within a  relatively narrow circle, dominated by a 'superpresidency' within a wider 'court' of senior officials
Previous work by Professor White and his Russian collaborator, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, has established that this relatively small ruling group is increasingly composed of 'siloviki', defined as those who serve or have previously served in one of the twenty or so force ministries that deal with defence, internal security, tax collection and related matters. On our estimates, about 4 per cent of the Gorbachev elite of the late 1980s had a career background of this kind; but by the end of the Putin's first term in 2003 it had increased to 25 per cent, and a still higher proportion of the government and Security Council.
This distinctive system began to face an unprecedented challenge at the end of Putin's second presidential term in 2008, in that the President around who it was structured was leaving office and parliamentary and presidential elections had begun to bring about what Putin himself described as a 'complete renewal' of the executive and legislative branches. Developments of this kind will be of the greatest significance for Western scholars seeking to conceptualise the nature of the postcommunist system and still more so for Western governments and private corporations, given that changes of this kind take place in a country on which the outside world is increasinglyly dependent for its energy as well as because of its more generel economic, military and geopolitical significance.
Our central research question is the changes that will take place in the Russian political elite from the late Putin period to the early years of the presidency that succeeded him in May 2008, and their domestic and international implications. In particular:

i) Will the existing level of representation of the siloviki as of the end of Putin's second presidential term be maintained, or even increased?
ii) How will the silovili and other strategic groups be distributed across the branches of government and the presidential administration, within a government that will be chaired by a more influential prime minister, within the newly-elected legislature, and in the eighty-odd regions?
iii) How will these strategic groups be represented within the informal 'court' where the most crucial of all decisions are taken? 
iv) what are the implications of their representation and known opinions for Russia's foreign and security policy?

We propose to examine such matters on an annual basis in successive cross-sections, from January 2008 to January 2012 inclusive.

Amount of award: £139,068