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Project: Russia and the ‘normal country’ debates

Russia and the ‘normal country’ debates

Is, was, or will Russia ever be a “normal” country? Writers and public figures, West and East, have been staking out their position on aspects of this theme for more than a century. For scholars, the question whether Russia is a normal country subsumes several questions that have seized students of Russia for a very long time. These concern: the nature of the Soviet dictatorship at various times during the years of Soviet power; the links between modernization and the political system; whether post-Soviet Russia should or will follow the path of the West or instead pursue its own separate way; and whether Soviet and/or post-Soviet Russian foreign policy has paralleled that of normal great powers. These in turn bear on broader social science themes about the uniformity of paths to modernity, the conditions for democracy, and the predictors of great power behavior. In his forthcoming book Zimmerman argues that Russia has had multiple political systems in the past century, coming closest to being appropriately classified as a normal democracy in the late 1990s but since then has evolved into normal market authoritarian regime. 


William Zimmerman, Center for Political Studies (PI)



University of Michigan Office of the Provost


Project Period

July 1, 2008 – April 30, 2011