Russian Federation

views updated May 14 2018

Russian Federation

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Russian Federation
Literacy Rate:98%
Number of Primary Schools:66,235
Compulsory Schooling:9 years
Public Expenditure on Education:3.5%
Foreign Students in National Universities:73,172
Educational Enrollment:Primary: 7,738,000
 Secondary: 13,732,000
 Higher: 4,458,363
Educational Enrollment Rate:Primary: 107%
 Higher: 43%
Teachers:Primary: 395,000
 Higher: 382,897
Student-Teacher Ratio:Primary: 20:1
Female Enrollment Rate:Primary: 107%
 Higher: 49%

History & Background

The Russian Federation is a multinational state in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Arctic Ocean to the Chinese border. Established as an independent country in 1991 upon the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is the biggest country in the world with a territory of 6,592,844 square miles (17,075,400 square kilometers). It is divided into 21 autonomous republics, 49 oblasts, and 6 krays. The population is composed of almost 120 nationalities and ethnic groups: 81.5 percent Russians, 3.8 percent Tartars, 3 percent Ukrainians, 1.2 percent Chuvashes, 0.9 percent Bashkirs, 0.8 percent Belarusians, 0.7 percent Moldavians, and 8.1 percent others. Moscow is the capital and the largest city.

The territory of Russia was originally settled by Slavic tribes, which began migrating from the West in the fifth century A.D. The first Russian state, centering in Novgorod and Kiev, was established in the ninth century. The Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples developed on the basis of the ancient Russian ethnicity. The origin of Russian education is usually associated with the emergence of the Cyrillic alphabet. The penetration of Greek priesthood into Russia and the need to translate the Greek Scriptures into Slavic languages encouraged the Byzantine scholar and philosopher Cyril (827-869) and his brother Methodius (826-885) to create a new system of characters. It was called the Glagolitic alphabet, or glagolitsa (which meant speaking ), and its later version was called the Cyrillic alphabet, or kirillitsa.

The first known Slavic literary monuments date back to the tenth century. The creation of schools (uchilishcha ) started after the Christening of Russia (988).

The history of Russian education opens up with the handwritten chronicles from the early eleventh century about the Grand Princes Vladimir and Yaroslav, who started building churches and schools of "book learning" in Kiev and Novgorod and started obliging Byzantine priests to teach children. The schools, which offered courses of seven liberal arts, became important centers of ancient Russian culture, disseminating religious knowledge and translations of foreign authors. "Book knowledge" was preceded by learning to read and write, as well as acquaintance with foreign languages.

Beginning with the twelfth century it became common for well-to-do families to hire tutors. The education was largely centered on life experiences, family, and community relationships.

A new genre called poucheniya (precepts) emerged between the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the form of manuals for family education. The most famous precepts were written by Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125), the Grand Prince of Kiev and a highly educated man, who was closely related to European royalties through the marriages of his children. His first wife was the daughter of the English king. Monomakh addressed the poucheniya to his own children to teach them how to love God, be honest, fair, behave in battle, and how to treat other people. He encouraged them to study and follow the example of their grandfather who had known five languages. Monomakh's writings became very popular with other families.

In 1037 the Metropolitan school founded in Kiev at the Cathedral of St. Sofia started to prepare priests. Between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a number of monastery schools patronized by the Grand Russian Princes opened in Smolensk, Vladimir, Rostov the Great, and Nizhny Novgorod. These schools were attended by children of noble parents from other countries, including Western Europe.

Graffiti on church walls, old business documents, and ancient Russian chronicles proved that literacy was significantly spread among different social groups, and proved other aspects of Russian education history. Due to inconvenient script, reading in the ancient period was a very difficult art. Students wrote on waxed planks or on birch bark with special styluses. Letters were also employed for counting. One of the major subjects was singing. The teachers were poorly trained, and corporal punishment was a usual practice.

During the period of the Mongol invasion, which lasted almost 250 years (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries), numerous lands and cities were ravaged and many schools ceased to exist. In the 1300s southwestern Russia was seized by the Lithuanian state, which in 1386 was united with Poland. As a result, part of the Russian population found itself on the territories where Catholicism was the official religion. The Orthodox monasteries, however, continued to play an important role in preserving and sustaining the traditions of Orthodoxy, as well as Russian culture and identity.

Russia also faced the challenges of the European educational system. Western Orthodox brotherhoods started organizing new schools, which would serve the interests of the Orthodox church. The subjects included religious rules, rituals, church singing, the Bible, as well as languages, grammar, poetics, rhetoric, philosophy, and arithmetic. The schools were largely egalitarian and admitted children from all ranks of society. The discipline was strict, but allowed for elements of self-government.

The fourteenth to fifteenth centuries witnessed the formation of the Russian centralized state. The Moscow Great Principality stood as the state's core structure. The political and social changes, as well as the intensification of religious life, launched new educational initiatives. Numerous schools affiliated with churches and monasteries emerged in the Russian cities. Moscow was gradually becoming the center of chronicle writing. Literature, architecture, and art progressed to a new stage. Brotherhoods of artisans and merchants, formed around town parishes, recruited literate citizens to teach youth reading, writing, and counting. The schools of the Moscow state made wide use of the Byzantine scholarly tradition. However, drastic military measures aimed to subordinate the Novgorod and Pskov republics to Moscow were harmful for the old centers of "book knowledge" and crafts.

The rule of Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), the first Czar of Russia, brought about contradictory results. A highly educated person, he carried out a number of important reforms, developed the bureaucratic and military machine, and significantly extended the borders of Russia, which ultimately became a powerful kingdom. At the same time he was an unrestrained tyrant and governed using severe repression and terror. The system of Orthodox education established in 1551 for training the clergy was roughly divided into several stages: elementary (learning to write and read religious books); professional (which allowed one to conduct most of the religious services); and higher (mastering the Christian scholarship, which involved the study of ancient languages). The greatest chronicle of legal regulations summing up the ideas of the unity of Russia under the Czar was created in the 1570s. The emergence of printing (Ivan Fyodorov) advanced the dissemination of Orthodox educational literature.

The second half of the sixteenth century saw the introduction of new subjects into the school curricula. In Moscow there were many scholars with knowledge of ancient languages (namely Latin and Greek). The favorite popular genre was apocryphal literature about Adam and Eve, and Christ's childhood and his parents. The mid-1600s were marked by the creation of educational institutions similar to Western European grammar schools, as well as serious changes in principles and methods of teaching. Textbooks started to include more versatile materials. Children learned to read using ABC-books (azbuki ) and entertainment books with pictures.

The Russian Empire achieved the height of its power and territorial influence under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Peter the Great (1672-1725), the first Russian Emperor, attempted to westernize Russia. He expected science and school to serve the practical needs of the army, navy, industry, trade, and state administration. His social, economic, and cultural reforms resulted in the secularization of learning, emergence of new types of educational institutions, and advancement of teacher training. The navigation, artillery, engineering, medical, and other schools created on his initiative became the prototype of the future professional training system. He also approved the establishment of the Academy of Sciences in 1724. The introduction of the civil script in 1701 made it easier to study reading and writing. In 1703 Arabic numerals replaced the formerly used letters. Compulsory education for the children of the clergy, merchants, artisans, and soldiers was declared in 1714. The statute of 1721 established a system of Orthodox schools, seminaries, and academies.

The most outstanding figure in the Russian education of the eighteenth century was Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), the first Russian scientist and scholar of worldwide significance. He was also a poet, philologist, artist, and historian. He initiated numerous scientific, technical, and cultural innovations and devoted great efforts to the development of the Russian Academy of Sciences. His textbooks on grammar, science, rhetoric, and poetics were the first to be used at Moscow University, founded on his initiative in 1755. Lomonosov worked out regulations for the University and gymnasiums (secondary schools). His book Russian Grammar (1757) was published eleven times, translated into many languages, and widely used in Russian schools. His theoretical writings also dealt with the importance of teaching Russian language and history. The Ellyn-Greek school, which opened in Moscow in 1687, was later reorganized into the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy and gave both theological and broad secular education. The period between 1730 and 1765 produced a number of closed institutions for aristocracy, among them the First Cadet School for future officers and the Smolny Institute for Noble Young Ladies.

The school reform carried out under Catherine the Great (1729-1796) was the first attempt to create a public educational system. She sent the leading scholars to study the systems of learning in various countries of Western Europe. They finally selected the Austrian model, adapted it to Russian conditions, and tested it for several years in St. Petersburg. In 1786 The Charter of Public Schools established two types of educational institutions: five-year major and two-year minor schools for townspeople. However, Catherine the Great acted along the lines of enlightened absolutism. She wrote in a letter to her associates: "Plebeians should not be educated, otherwise they will know as much as you and I and will not obey us to the same extent as now." Due to this attitude and also because of the absence of funds and trained teachers, schools for peasants were virtually nonexistent.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the Russian Empire had more than 300 schools with 20,000 students and 720 teachers. The development of education in the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries was a permanent struggle of reforms and counter-reforms reflecting the contradictory character of Russian social life. A fundamental educational reform, prepared by the closest associates of Czar Alexander I (1777-1825), created a hierarchical school system headed by the Ministry of Public Education and regulated by The Charter of the Universities of the Russian Empire (1803). It included six educational regions with four types of institutions beyond elementary schools: parish schools, uyezd (district) schools, gymnasiums, and universities. The negative reaction of the czarist government to the ideas of the French Revolution and Enlightenment in Europe brought about the revision of school and university curricula. A number of university professors were dismissed as "unreliable, harmful books" were withdrawn from the libraries. Educators were expected to convince students of the divine origin of monarchic power.

Russian education evolved with both minor and major changes. In 1828 the course of study at gymnasiums was extended to seven years, with priority given to classical education. Schools with instruction in Armenian, Georgian, and Azerbaijan languages were opened in the Caucasus. In the 1830s the Minister of Education declared the intention to adapt world education to the peculiarities of Russian life and spirit, and this idea launched the famous formula: "Orthodoxy, autocracy, national roots." Meanwhile, it became evident that elementary schools, especially in rural areas, were the weakest part of the educational system. Churches intensified their missionary and enlightening activities: by the mid-nineteenth century there were 9,000 parish schools. In the 1835-1850 period Jewish, Muslim, and Caucasian schools were included in the state network.

The turning point in the development of the Russian educational system was the reform of the 1860s carried out as part of cardinal transformations under Czar Alexander II (1818-1881). The Statute on Elementary Public Schools of 1864 declared elementary education open to all social ranks. The reform strongly encouraged private and local initiative in establishing new schools. Special systems were set up for Poland and Finland, with education conducted in Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, and other native tongues.

Beginning with 1870, the Russian educational system started to involve adherents of Islam and Buddhism using oral languages and alphabets based on the Cyrillic characters. The statute of 1871 unified the curricula and limited the choice of textbooks. Emerging pedagogical and enlightenment societies supported the creative efforts of teachers and scholars.

Although there is evidence of the a school existing for females as early as 1086 in Kiev by Princess Anna Vsevolodovna, there has been a severe deficiency in women's education in Russian history. In the 1860s women's struggle for the right to education attracted keen public interest. As a consequence, the government gave permission to open female educational programs, but refused to finance them. Though the courses launched in Moscow and St. Petersburg did not give women higher education, they met the need for training elementary school teachers. The Bestuzhev higher courses for women who aspired for higher learning opened in St. Petersburg in 1878 and enrolled 800 female students. The best Petersburg professors taught there, often without any compensation.

Konstantin Ushinsky (1842-1870) is considered to be the founder of Russian pedagogy. A proponent of the ideas of social education, he was engaged both in theoretical research and school reform. The cornerstone of Ushinsky's pedagogical theory was the acknowledgment of the creative force of the people in the historical process and their right for adequate schooling. The system he developed was based on the demand for the democratization of public education, and the scholarly approach to the selection of teaching materials, which would reflect the peculiarities of the child's intellectual development. His anthropological position was expressed in his major work The Human Being as an Object of Education.

The aim of the counter-reforms of the 1870s-1880s was not so much to restructure the educational system, as to control society through education in order to preserve the inner security of the empire. The main emphasis was on centralization of power, restoration of social filters in access to studies, strict regulation of inner school life, and educational process.

Preparatory classes, which trained the underprivileged students, were closed. The number of Jews admitted to gymnasiums was strictly limited: 10 percent within Jewish communities, 5 percent outside, and 3 percent in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The teaching of religion in general education schools was intensified. Student meetings were banned. The fees were doubled and the state financing reduced. The statute on universities of 1884 actually eliminated their autonomy. In 1886 all the courses for women except the Bestuzhev courses were closed.

The government efforts were counterbalanced by the activities of progressive social groups and individuals who strove to develop innovative ideas, open schools and libraries for common people, and publish new textbooks and educational journals. The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) established a peasant school inside his estate, personally taught there, and encouraged other people to do the same. In order to advance his pedagogical ideas, Tolstoy organized a publishing house Posrednik (Intermediary).

According to the census of 1897, the level of literacy in Russia was 29.6 percent (44.4 percent among men and 15.4 percent women; 24.6 percent in rural areas). The number of elementary schools gradually grew. By 1914-1915 there were more than 77,000 general education institutions with about 5,700,000 students and 167,000 teachers.

After the October Revolution of 1917 educational institutions of all types were nationalized. Narkompros (People's Commissariat for Education) headed by A. V. Lunacharsky (1875-1933) assumed the responsibility for the development and control of education through the network of local administrative organs. Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya (1869-1939) outlined the main organizational principles of unified labor school in her book Public Education and Democracy. In August 1918 the All-Russian Educational Convention approved the blueprint for the statute On Unified Labor School (1918) prepared by Lunacharsky and Krupskaya. It decreed the creation of the free, unified, labor compulsory school divided into two stages: five years of study, ages 8 to 13; and four years of study, ages 13 to 17, with the emphasis on polytechnic education and productive labor. The new legislation also abolished religious education, home assignments, grading, examinations, and uniforms as obvious characteristics of the czarist school. Teachers' and parental authority were rejected. The family was expected to wither away as a survival of capitalism and be replaced by "the collective" as the main agent of socialization. School was seen as an effective tool for indoctrinating communist ideology and bringing up "the new Soviet person" able to build socialism.

The workers' faculties (rabfaki ) were organized in 1919 to prepare people from formerly underprivileged social groups for higher educational institutions. The statutes of the 1920s legalized the practice of giving preference to workers' children in admittance to school. During the 1921-1925 period the mass preparation of workers through the network of FZU (factory schools) and technicums (training schools for middle-level technicians and foremen) reflected the priorities assigned by the state.

After the end of the Civil War (1922) the voluntary society Away with Illiteracy began financing thousands of special schools for the elimination of adult illiteracy (likbezy ). In 1925 they involved 1,400,000 people; as a result, by 1926 literacy in Russia advanced to 55 percent. Narkompros stimulated the development of education for different ethnic groups in their native tongues. The immediate concerns of the state also dealt with the need to take care of the homeless, vagabond children, alongside with efforts to overcome juvenile delinquency.

The atmosphere of enthusiasm and pursuit for radically new forms of instruction gave birth to numerous experiments: the "complex system," "project method," "Dalton Plan," and group or brigade method. It was concluded, though, that traditional forms were much more effective, and the experimentation time was condemned as a period of impotence. The works by Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) and other scholars contributed to the systematization of pedagogy. But in the 1930s the attempt to discuss the connection between personality and society was denounced as anti-Leninist. The resolution of 1936 On Pedological Distortions in the System of Narkomprosses (People's Commissariats of Education) brought many psychological investigations to a halt.

The state influence on school became even more pronounced in the mid-1920s with the announcement of the course towards industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and cultural revolution. In the 1930s new transformations were initiated and personally monitored by Joseph Stalin. They envisaged centralized control at all levels, unification and regulation of the contents and methods of teaching, utilitarian attitude towards knowledge, obedience, and discipline. The legal decisions were materialized in standard obligatory curricula, syllabi, and textbooks worked out under the close scrutiny of the Communist Party.

The famous educator A. S. Makarenko (1888-1939) celebrated the idea of a highly disciplined learning collective as a model for the Soviet school committed to "bringing up a generation capable of building communism." His contradictory ideas and the publication of his book Pedagogical Poem aroused great public interest and initiated much argument. He worked out a theory of the collective as a form of educational process (including its structure and organization, stages of its development, methods of labor and aesthetic education, and formation of conscious discipline). He also made special emphasis on the creation of positive emotional atmosphere among homeless children who had suffered the horrors of war, devastation, and famine. His other ideas dealt with pedagogical logic, issues of family education, and other subjects. Makarenko was criticized from every angle, both by his contemporaries and scholars of later generations.

The speedy development of industry and collectivized agriculture, as well as the significant gains of education during the Stalin era were overshadowed by political terror, "purge" trials, mass executions, and exiles to work camps. Stalin's search for "enemies of the people" resulted in a significant reduction of the number of intellectuals (intelligentsia ) who in turn, became the primary target of the repression.

During World War II, the Nazis ruined 17,000 school buildings. To preserve the compulsory education system, new boarding schools opened in the eastern parts of the country for the children, evacuated from the regions under Nazi occupation. "Prolonged day" groups were organized. Upon the liberation of Soviet territories, schools were reconstructed or newly built. By the end of the 1940s the educational network was restored. The Academy of Pedagogical Sciences and dozens of research institutes and experimental schools contributed to the introduction of mass secondary education.

After Stalin's death (1953) Nikita Khrushchev was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party. The twentieth CPSU Congress in 1956 denounced Stalin, started the "de-Stalinization" of the country, and sparked radical changes in all spheres of economic, political, and social life.

The 1958-1964 educational reform extended compulsory education from seven to eight years, combined general learning with productive labor (up to twenty hours a week at industrial enterprises), initiated structural and curricular innovations, and established special foreign-language schools. In 1959 it was claimed that 39 percent of workers and 21 percent of collective farmers had secondary or higher education. The reshaping of the school system initiated the experimental study of the problems of instruction and development, as well as innovative methods and technologies. After Khrushchev had been deposed in 1964, the Soviet government eliminated the major features of his educational reform.

The aim of the educational policies under Leonid Brezhnev was to meet the requirements of the "scientific technical revolution." The statutes and regulations of the 1960s-1970s period introduced a revised secondary school curriculum with electives added at seventh grade and intensified vocational guidance and counseling. The efforts of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences were directed towards the elaboration of the content of general secondary education, diversified and individual approaches to teaching science, practically oriented aspects of developmental education, and problems of adult education. The main trends of the 1970s-1980s period dealt with the optimization of the teaching process, use of technical aids, pedagogical psychology, computer education, and pedagogy of cooperation.

The propagation of Communist ideology through the Octobrist (ages 7 to 10), Young Pioneer (ages 10 to 14) and Komsomol (ages 14 to 28) organizations remained an important aspect of school and university life. By the mid-1970s the transfer to universal secondary education was achieved.

However, the qualitative growth could not make up for the disparity between the country's needs and capacities of the schooling system. Real education was substituted by the production of unrealistic data advertising the achievements of socialism. This crisis in education, which became evident in the 1980s, reflected general tendencies in Soviet society. The long-standing Russian educational tradition and accumulated intellectual property had come into conflict with the ideological pressure of the Soviet bureaucratic administrative machine. School, monopolized by the state, lacked initiative, diversity, and enthusiasm. It ultimately limited the intellectual potential of society. The educational reform attempted in 1984 did not only eliminate, but aggravated the crisis. School, seen primarily as an indoctrination tool, was insensitive to the students' individuality, national, and regional needs. Humanitarian subjects were permeated with ideology. Science syllabi oriented towards "average" capacities were equally ineffective for weak and strong students. The gap between the quality of schooling in urban and rural areas continued to grow. As a result, rural young people's social mobility and access to universities were limited.

Perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), the key notions of the revolutionary reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, had a profound influence on the educational system. The main principles of its further advancement, approved by the All-Union Educational Convention in 1988, included democratization, pluralism, diversity, humanization, and continuity. The new program unfolded in 1990 and continued in Russia, which reemerged as an independent republic after the disintegration of the USSR in 1991.

The Russian educational reforms of the post-Soviet period had a number of peculiarities. The school had finally acquired freedom and could move towards democratic forms of teaching. The late 1980s to early 1990s saw the rapid development of innovative approaches and their spontaneous introduction into practice. Though educators realized the necessity to devote more attention to each individual student, they came to the conclusion that it was far too complicated in classes of twenty-five to thirty people. It also became clear that the idea of humanization could be implemented only in conjunction with profound social changes. The main goals were formulated in the federal Law on Education (1992).

On the one hand, perestroika encouraged innovation and creativity; on the other, the deepening economic crisis brought about insufficient financing, reduction or complete termination of numerous educational programs, and concentration on the survival rather than the development of the educational system. School administrations had to deal with poorly maintained buildings, overcrowded classrooms, lack of equipment, shortages of textbooks, electricity, and heat in certain areas of the country, as well as other economic problems. The transitional period made the school life more chaotic. Young people's organizations, whose activities had been heavily loaded with ideology, ceased to exist, but their place remained vacant. Students became more inert, apathetic, less interested in social life and self-government. Discipline became more lax. The number of juvenile delinquents, orphans, and children with mental problems started to grow. The partial shift from budget to non-budget financing, including the use of private funds, and the introduction of fees at certain institutions resulted in social differentiation and non-equal educational opportunities. The patience of teachers, who had previously been renowned for their enthusiasm and selflessness, was wearing thin because of low salaries and chronic delays in their payment.

This socioeconomic context made the reforms a long and painful process. The necessity to make economic adjustments partially overshadowed the educational tasks. The freedom given to educational institutions was not always used well and at times brought about undesirable consequences. Many teachers, who did not have sufficient professional training, psychological, and practical experience, started developing low-quality courses, textbooks, and methodological materials. These negative tendencies stimulated the establishment of the state standards. By 1999-2000 the situation had become more stable and was marked by systemic legal and conceptual changes in the educational system.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

According to Article 43 of the Constitution adopted in 1993, every Russian citizen is entitled to a free education. This right incorporates free provision of preschool, general primary, general secondary, and professional secondary education in state or municipal institutions, as well as access to free higher education on a competitive basis. Article 44 indicates that the church is separated from the state and education has a secular character.

The Law on Education, as well as numerous statutes and regulations of the Russian Federation, its autonomous republics, and other administrative units, give substance to these constitutional provisions. The Law on Education of the Russian Federation was adopted in 1992, upon the break up of the Soviet Union. After much argument, its amended version was approved in 1996. Corresponding laws have subsequently been enacted in the autonomous republics.

According to Article 2 of the Russian Federation Law, the main principles of Russian education include: its humanistic character, with priority given to humane values, human life, health, and free personality development; unity of the federal educational establishment, and protection of national cultures within a multicultural state; accessibility of education and its ability to adapt to different levels of student development and preparation; secularity; freedom and pluralism of education; and democratic character of administration and autonomy of educational institutions. The state educational standards established by the law include the federal, as well as national and regional components. Central (federal) organs generate the federal component, which specifies the mandatory minimum of the program content, maximum study load, and requirements for graduates. The state educational standard of basic general education is approved by the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet (Duma).

The law further outlines the legal framework of the educational system on a national scale, requirements to the academic process and its content, and defines the main goals of education. According to Article 8, the system of education in Russia included successive curricula and educational standards, a network of educational institutions of different types, and a system of administrative organs. Organizationally and legally educational institutions could be state, municipal, and non-state (private or affiliated with social and religious organizations). Articles 28 to 32 established the distribution of responsibilities between the federal, republic, regional, municipal administrative organs, and the educational institution itself. A newly organized institution had to receive a license from the state. Accreditation carried out by the federal organs defined the status of an educational institution, whereas attestation controlled the content, level, quality of student preparation, and their correspondence to the state standards. The law also regulated the economic and social aspects in the sphere of education and the international activities of institutions.

Educational SystemOverview

The Russian Federation inherited the major features of its educational system from the Soviet Union, where schooling was centralized and uniform. This explains why the educational patterns are basically the same all over the country. Preprimary education is optional and includes nursery schools for infants under three years of age and kindergartens for three to six-year olds. General education is represented by the primary and secondary levels, usually combined in one school. The length of study is 3 or 4 years in primary school, 5 years in basic secondary school, and 2 years in upper secondary school, which totals 10 or 11 years (from 6- or 7- to 17-years-old).

The secondary school system is essentially two-track: after the basic secondary course students can either go on to the upper level or enter one of the secondary professional schools: PTU, technicum, uchilishche, or college. Graduates of general secondary and professional secondary schools can get a job or enter a VUZ (higher educational institution). Higher professional education is represented by institutes, academies, and universities, which can award three types of degrees: Bachelor (four years of study), Certified Specialist (five years of study), and Master (six years of study). Those who aspire for an advanced scholarly degree can proceed to aspirantura to earn the degree of Kandidat nauk and go further to doktorantura for the degree of Doktornauk.

Russia is a unique multicultural state with almost 120 ethnic units, which belong to 20 groups of the 4 biggest linguistic families and include from 30 to 130 million people. The Declaration of Rights of the Peoples of Russia (1917) proclaimed the right of all the citizens to be educated in their native tongue. From the very start bilingualism became the main principle of education for non-Russians. In the 1920s to 1930s, scholars created new alphabets for dozens of ethnic groups (first on the Latin and later on the Cyrillic basis). Scientific and instructional literature, as well as fiction was published in many native languages. Gradually, though, the sphere of their employment was significantly narrowed. At schools their use was practically limited to the elementary grades, whereas other levels were taught in Russian. In the 1970s to 1980s new efforts of linguists resulted in the development of alphabets for ethnic minorities of the Far North. The Federal Law on Languages (1991) guaranteed all ethnicities the right to study and be taught in their native language in the places of their compact habitation. It was further intensified by the Order of the Ministry of Education On the Measures for Preservation and Development of the Languages of the Peoples of Russia (1992).

According to the Constitution of 1993, Russian is the state language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation. In addition, republics have the right to establish their own state languages, which can be equally used in the state, republic, and local administrative organs. The state guarantees all its peoples the right to preserve and develop their native tongues. Article 6 of the Law on Education grants the citizens of Russia the right to choose the language of instruction within the options provided by the educational system. In all the accredited educational institutions, except preschools, the study of Russian, as well as the state languages of the republics, is regulated by the federal and republic laws.

Whereas the legal acts of the Russian Federation give the role of the intercultural communication tool to the Russian language, they leave room for the development of other languages and spheres of their use, as well as redistribution and coordination of their functions. The desire to preserve the cultural identity, along with the recent nationalistic tendencies, explains why the number of schools with instruction in the native tongue is steadily growing. Students have more opportunity to learn about the history, culture, and progressive traditions of ethnic groups living in particular regions. The goals of education have been reconsidered to match the needs of particular communities and ethnic groups. Teacher training includes the study of ethno-specific peculiarities under the conditions of bilingualism. After the break up of the Soviet Union, national languages have become a major political force. They have been used as a sign of national identity, as well as a tool of discrimination against non-titular nations. The traditional types of bilingual educational institutions include: 1) schools with instruction in the native language where Russian is taught as a subject; 2) schools with instruction in Russian where the native language is taught as a subject; 3) schools where the native language is taught only in elementary school; and 4) multinational schools where the native language is taught only as an elective. In the 1998-1999 academic year the schools of the Russian Federation were using 80 different languages of instruction. More than 20 million students were getting education in Russian and more than 1.1 million in their native (non-Russian) language.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Russian preschools of the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries predominantly existed in the form of shelters and orphanages. They were mostly based on charity and directed towards the disadvantaged. Pedagogical principles were first introduced in preprimary education in the mid-1900s. It was the time when big cities saw the emergence of private kindergartens with fees charged for specifically Russian programs of bringing up children. Such institutions were mostly located in St. Petersburg and were accessible only for the chosen few. The rules were strict; the subjects included reading, writing, counting, and two or three foreign languages. In the period between the late 1800s and the early 1900s progressive preschools started implementing the principles of free education, as well as Montessori's ideas. In spite of the growing need and interest for early-childhood education and upbringing, the network of free kindergartens was unfolding very slowly. In 1882 there were only 37 preschools, 14 out of them in St. Petersburg. In 1893 preschool institutions received the first subsidy from the Ministry of Public Education. By 1914 Russia already had 275 preschools.

The Declaration on Preschool Education adopted immediately after the Revolution of 1917 announced that preschools in the Soviet Republic were to become an organic part of the whole system of public education. The decree of 1918 subordinated all the state and private preschool institutions to Narkompros. The First Convention on Preschool Education (1919) came up with the initiative to create year-round kindergartens functioning nine or ten hours a day. In 1925 educators invented day summer playgrounds to accommodate peasants' children during the period of the most intensive field work. By 1927 the number of children on the summer playgrounds increased tenfold, from 15,000 to 150,000. By 1931 the number of children attending preschools reached 3,667,000.

The ideological pressure of the period between the late 1920s and the 1930s resulted in the development of preschool indoctrination programs, collectivist methods, and strict official control from above. The uniform program of 1932 and a number of statutes and regulations formulated the official requirements for preprimary education, seen as the first stage in creating "the new Soviet person." Children's committees and meetings were organized. Dolls represented soldiers of the Red Army, workers, peasants, and Young Pioneers. New Year holidays were abolished as "a survival of the past." Fairy-tales were seen as "an obstacle to the formation of a materialistic outlook." Teachers interfered with the children's games if they were "ideologically unacceptable."

During World War II the number of preschool institutions continued to grow. The need to accommodate the growing number of orphans, as well as the young children from evacuated families required more boarding preschools and children's homes.

The three postwar decades (1950s to 1970s) witnessed a rapid growth of the network, especially in urban areas. By 1980 the network included 63,500 preschool institutions with 7,127,700 children. In the 1960s to 1980s the general crisis of the Soviet educational system revealed itself in the form of outdated preschool programs, exaggerated attention to ideology, unjustified unification, and a disregard for the children's individual peculiarities.

The political reforms of the period between the late 1980s and the early 1990s gave educators more independence and freedom to develop new diversified programs, personal approaches, and nationally specific forms of upbringing. At the same time the economic state of preschools noticeably deteriorated. Most of the institutions were subordinated to the municipal administrative organs and were no longer financed by industrial enterprises and government organizations. In the 1993-2000 period 20,000 preschool institutions were closed; the number of children attending them decreased by one third (2,400,000), thus satisfying only 50 percent of the demand. By the beginning of the 1998-1999 academic year there were 60,250 preschool facilities attended by 4,700,000 children.

Preschools have to be licensed and accredited as all the other educational institutions. Their network is administered by the Ministry of Education. Preschool teachers (vospitateli, literally "upbringers") are trained at 190 secondary pedagogical schools and more than 30 pedagogical institutions of higher learning.

Preprimary education in Russia exists in the form of nursery schools (yasli ) for infants aged six-weeks- to three-years-old and kindergartens (detsady ) for children aged three- to six-years-old. In many cases the two types are located in the same building. The facilities include half-day, all-day, and boarding schools. They vary from year-round to seasonal institutions, the latter predominantly in rural areas. Special facilities are set up for children with physical and mental disabilities. Private preschools are emerging in addition to the state ones. A recent development, family nursery schools and kindergartens, is gradually gaining popularity. Alongside with games and outdoor recreational activities, preschool programs, especially in the last year of kindergarten, include classes, which would prepare the children for primary school: language development, instruction in reading, writing, counting, singing, dancing, and art. The nationwide interest for foreign languages accounts for their introduction into preschool curricula. An important part of preprimary education is the organization of concerts and parties, especially for the national holidays.

Although specialists have different opinions about the future of preprimary education in Russia, they all agree that the main goal is to preserve and develop the existing facilities. On the average the network continues to lose 3,500 preschools a year. Over the last decade, the reduction amounted to almost 40 percent. The improved facilities accommodate a limited number of children from well-to-do families, while the demand for preschool education remains unsatisfied. The subordination of preschools to municipal organs in the 1990s created additional problems, the worst of which was insufficient financing. Educators suggest alternatives to the existing preschools: facilities with short-term stay (one to six hours) once or several times a week, on weekends, and with variable costs.

The plan of the government is to include preprimary institutions in the system of general compulsory education and develop flexible programs with an individual attendance schedule in order to prepare five- and six-yearolds for school. The changes in the organizational structure will be based on the distinction between preschool education and daycare as a form of federal aid to low-income families.

Another area that needs to be improved is the content of preschool education. It has been criticized for "invading" the primary school educational space. Teachers, doctors, and parents believe that it is unacceptable to overload children of preschool age and thus deprive them of the period of childhood, which has a value of its own. In order to reform the content of preschool education, a competition was organized in 2000. The winners' program has become the basis for the development of the state standards, which are expected to ensure the children's smooth transition from the preprimary to the primary school level.

General education school in Russia includes three stages: grades 1 to 4, elementary level; grades 5 to 9, basic secondary level; and grades 10 to 11, upper secondary level. The complete course totals 11 years in the general education track. There is no formal division between the levels, and the students (called ucheniki, "pupils" in Russian) usually remain in the same building from grade one through eleven. Separate primary or basic secondary schools exist only in rural areas. Since the mid-1960s the government has been making serious efforts to restructure the school network by combining small schools into larger ones located in areas accessible for the local children. In the first grade students are divided into classes of 25 to 30 people who study as a group throughout all the years of school.

In the 1998-1999 academic year, Russia had 66,700 general education schools of different types with more than 21,100,000 students. As a result of the development of the private sector in education, there were 568 non-state schools (0.8 percent of the total number with 0.2 percent students).

The history of Russian primary education is connected with monastery schools, which emerged in the eleventh century and gave children moral and religious instruction. In the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, "masters of literacy" taught small groups of students or tutored them individually. The foundations of the primary schooling system were laid in the early 1700s under Peter the Great.

In 1782 the Commission on Establishing Schools worked out a structure of general primary education, which was introduced in 1786. The Charter of Educational Establishments of 1804 created a network of one-year parish schools. The mid-eighteenth century was marked by the development of primary schools for peasants and pronounced interest for educating female students. The reforms of the 1860s committed primary schools to disseminating basic knowledge and religion, establishing centralized administration of the school system, and introducing uniform curricula and textbooks. Primary education of this period was significantly influenced by the progressive social movement and the publication of pedagogical journals and books, especially by K.D. Ushinsky.

The Statute On Unified Labor School published in 1918 after the October Revolution decreed five years of primary schooling, which were later replaced by four years. In 1934, after the reconstruction of the Soviet school system, primary learning became the first stage of the unified general education system based on the principles of continuity and transferability.

Over the next decades the curricula and syllabi for primary schools were systematically revised and altered, depending on the political and economic situation in the country. In the 1970s the number of grades in primary school was reduced to three. The educational crisis of the 1980s made it obvious that the standardized school programs permeated with Communist ideology required urgent changes. The 1984 school reform lowered the school age to six, thus returning to a four-year primary school and trying to incorporate the world experience into Soviet education. The revolutionary political changes of the late 1980s initiated "deideologization" and "depolitization" of the school system.

However, most parents, teachers, and doctors did not enthusiastically hail the transition to four-year primary schooling. The reform could not be carried out for many socioeconomic reasons: insufficient numbers of classrooms and teachers, absence of necessary facilities and equipment, and inadequate psychological and professional teacher training. As a result, a two-track primary education system developed by the end of the 1990s. According to the new program, children can start school at six years of age and study for four years, before they go on to the secondary level. The alternative is to enter the first grade at the age of seven and follow the lines of the traditional, more intensive curriculum, when the same material is covered in three years. In this case children skip grade four of primary school and go directly to the fifth grade. Though this process is somewhat confusing, it preserves the uniformity on the secondary school level. Educators hope that the coexistence of the two tracks will allow them to complete the reform by gradual transition to the four-year primary school program.

The subjects taught on the primary level include Russian (and/or another native language for non-Russian students), reading, mathematics, nature studies, physical training, music, and art. Though the content of education is based on the state educational standards, schools and individual teachers have acquired more freedom in developing curricular and teaching materials. Gymnasiums, lyceums, and private schools introduce additional subjects (e. g., foreign languages, dancing). All the classes, except music, art, and physical training, are taught by one teacher who is also in charge of extracurricular activities (excursions, field trips, concerts, parties, and celebration of national holidays).

The school year always starts on September 1. Though uniforms are no longer enforced in most of the schools, children, especially first-graders, wear white shirts or blouses. Primary school students study five or six days a week and usually have four 40-45 minute classes a day. The intervals between classes vary from 5 to 25 minutes. Each student has a special record book (dnevnik ) for writing down the schedule and home assignment every day of the week. The teacher uses the dnevnik to record the student's grades and remarks about his or her behavior. It is considered to be an effective method of the teacher's communication with parents. The academic year is organized on a quarterly basis, with four vacations (a week in early November, two weeks for the New Year and Christmas, a week at the end of March, and three months in the summer). Students are graded for every subject at the end of each quarter and the academic year. The grading is numerical: five, excellent; four, good; three, fair; and two, poor (failure).

Secondary Education

Prior to the Revolution of 1917, the prototypes of modern secondary schools were gymnasiums and lyceums. The first gymnasiums opened in the early 1700s, with Russian as the language of instruction. These were followed by other secondary schools, which were affiliated with the Moscow (1755) and Kazan (1758) Universities. The lyceums introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century were a combination of primary and secondary schools. The legislation of 1864 established two types of gymnasiums: classical and real. The curricula of the former included ancient history and classical languages, whereas the latter gave preference to sciences. The Charter of 1871 declared classical gymnasiums the only type of educational institutions representing complete secondary education. Only in 1912 did the graduates of real gymnasiums acquire the right to apply to universities.

The October Revolution (1917) declared the schools to be unified, labor, and polytechnic. As a result, general education in secondary schools was combined with vocational training. Strong emphasis was also made on the indoctrination courses expected to propagate Communist ideology. The regulation of 1934 established two types of secondary general education: incomplete seven-year and complete ten-year education. The law of 1959 extended the length of study in complete secondary schools to eleven years, but in 1966 it was cut back to ten years.

The socioeconomic crisis of the 1980s endangered the state of Russian secondary education: its uniformity, lack of educational choice, and social apathy alienated students from the school. The reform of 1984 declared a number of goals to enhance the quality of education, but the state failed to realize most of them. The decision to lower the school age from seven to six years once again extended complete education to a total of eleven years. In the early 1990s, schools acquired the right to choose curricula and textbooks, to diversify the teaching process and introduce different profiles of education.

Primary and secondary level grades are usually located in the same building and are regarded as one school. Nevertheless, there is a major difference between the levels: if in primary grades most of the classes are taught by the same teacher, on the secondary level there is a different teacher for each subject. Students are transferred from primary to secondary school as a class of about thirty, who continue on together as a group. One of the subject teachers is appointed their klassny rukovoditel (academic director) in order to give them guidance, watch their progress, provide leadership for extracurricular and recreational activities, and keep in touch with the parents. Parent-teacher conferences called "parents meetings" are devoted to the students' achievements, discipline, and organizational issues. They also elect representatives to the school parent committee, which assists the teachers and administration.

The academic year in all the schools begins on September 1, which is celebrated as the Day of Knowledge, and continued until the end of May, exclusive of the examination period. The year is divided into quarters. Students go to school five or six days a week (depending on the decision of the school administration) and have up to 36 lessons per week. Classes last 40 to 45 minutes. The intervals between them are from 5 to 25 minutes long, and there is no additional lunch break. Since most of the school buildings cannot accommodate all the students at once, schools usually operate on a shift schedule.

The subjects in the curricula are grouped into seven areas of knowledge: languages and literature (includes Russian, as well as other native and foreign languages; the number of hours allotted for the Russian language can be different and depends on the linguistic situation in the area, as well as peculiarities of a particular school); mathematics (includes algebra, geometry, logic, statistics); sciences (includes physics, chemistry, biology); society (includes Russian and world history, law, foundations of modern civilization, world economics, international relations, and sociology); art (includes fine arts, music, world culture, and courses reflecting the cultural peculiarities of the region where the school is located); labor (includes labor education, professional training, and technical drawing); and physical training.

The number of hours in each area is subdivided into the federal, regional, and school components. The curricula comprise an invariable part, which is mandatory for all the schools, and a variable part, within which schools are free to make decisions of their own. The programs also provide for individual consultations, electives and optional courses, which are often taught by invited university professors, actors, artists, or people of other professions. For the last thirty years the number of subjects at schools have doubled. It can be as high as seventeen to twenty, therefore the schedule of classes is different every day of the week.

Though computer literacy instruction is part of the programs, it is ineffective because in most of the schools the equipment is outdated or nonexistent. The lessons of physical training take place in the gym or on the sports grounds. Due to the lack of adequate equipment and poor organization, sports activities are not very popular with Russian students. Insufficient state financing compels schools to look for sponsors and seek additional funds to improve their facilities. Some innovative schools also work in close conjunction with universities, local libraries, museums, and industrial enterprises.

Students in grades five to eight are evaluated at the end of each quarter, and students in grades ten to eleven twice a year (after the second and the fourth quarter). All secondary school students receive a cumulative grade in each subject at the end of the academic year. Officially the grading is based on a four-point scale: five, excellent; four, good; three, fair; and two, poor (failure). Grade one (very poor) is usually an emotional response to unsatisfactory performance and is used as a disciplinary measure. Students are promoted to the next grade on the basis of academic achievement during the year and the results of the annual examinations (oral or written) in Russian and mathematics (obligatory for all) and one or more subjects of their own choice. Those who fail in two or more disciplines either repeat the year or are transferred to a class of compensatory education. Students with a failing grade in one subject are allowed to go on to the next grade, but they have to complete their work on the subject. People who are unable to cope with a particular level cannot go on to the next one. Excellent students of grades five to eight are exempt from examinations. However, everybody is required to take exams after grade nine, because it is the final year of basic (incomplete) secondary school. After it some students go on to secondary professional schools; others continue with grades ten and eleven.

The examinations for the Certificate of Secondary Education, also called a "maturity certificate," conclude the eleventh grade. They are prepared by the federal authorities and strictly monitored. The school can offer five or seven exams, which always include an essay on Russian literature and a written test in mathematics. Other subjects can be chosen by the student. Those who get all excellent grades for the last four semesters and the final examinations are awarded a gold medal. Students with a maximum of two good grades (all the others being excellent) receive a silver medal. The medals significantly improve their chances to be admitted to a competitive higher educational institution.

The democratization of the school system, greater flexibility in curricula development, and encouragement of innovations have opened up the way for numerous experiments at the secondary school level. In 1998-1999, alongside with regular secondary schools, the network included 2,547 lyceums and gymnasiums with 1,700,000 students. The old terms have acquired a new meaning. The word "lyceum" has come to denote an innovative secondary school with a specialization in a particular area (e.g., mathematics, law, ecology, pedagogy), which is attached to a higher educational institution. "Gymnasium" is a nontraditional humanitarian school with a comprehensive program and the study of at least two foreign languages. To be granted the status of a lyceum or gymnasium, schools are expected to prove that they have highly qualified teachers, advanced programs, and adequate facilities. Among the first institutions to receive this status were the schools with intensive foreign language programs, which had been established under Khrushchev (the 1960s) and had gained popularity for producing nearly bilingual graduates. Though officially these schools are expected to enroll all the children of eligible age from the local community, the entry there is becoming more and more competitive.

The schools for the gifted and talented, which work in conjunction with theaters and conservatories, provide advanced training in ballet, music, and performing arts. Children with outstanding abilities for mathematics, biology, physics, and other sciences selected during nationwide competitions (Olympiads ) are enrolled in specialized educational establishments, which are affiliated with universities and serve as laboratory schools or experimental grounds.

Those who decide to combine work with parallel secondary education can study at part-time evening schools. Due to the low quality of instruction and the inability to compete with daytime institutions, enrollment in such schools is steadily decreasing. Boarding schools, which in the late 1950s were seen as the Communist school of the future, now predominantly accommodate orphans, children deprived of proper parental care, and students from remote rural areas, who do not have a regular private school in their locality. In 1998-1999 the number of children in boarding schools and orphanages was more than 96,000. Most of such schools, as well as children's homes, are poorly financed and maintained. Their existence is a struggle for survival, rather than a strive for innovation.

The state also operates special facilities, which provide secondary education for the blind or partially sighted, deaf or partially hearing students, individuals with speech defects, and other health problems. The educational process in such schools is adjusted to the students' special needs and trains them in skills, which can be useful in their adult life. Alcoholism, crime and other social problems account for the growing number of institutions for mentally retarded and physically handicapped children, as well as closed correctional establishments for juvenile delinquents.

A school is headed by the Director who is personally responsible for the general management of the school life. As the main administrator, the Director deals with the educational process, staffing, the financial state of the school, the maintenance of its facilities, as well as food and security. Deputy directors (zavuchi ) take care of particular areas of work (curricula, schedules, extracurricular activities, etc.). The highest organ of school self-government is the pedsovet (pedagogical council), which deals with fundamental aspects of the school life. It is chaired by the Director and includes all the deputy directors and educational staff. The Pedsovet adopts the school Charter (Ustav ), defines the organizational structure of the school administration, makes decisions about educational programs, choice of curricula, forms and methods of teaching, approves the students' final grades, cooperates with the parents committee, educational institutions, and NGOs.

In the situation when schools have to deal with numerous economic difficulties, it has become vitally important to preserve and support the educational network, especially in the Far North, Siberia, and the Far East. Due to insufficient financing, only 46.3 percent of schools have the necessary facilities; and one third of the buildings need repairs. There is no construction of new educational establishments occurring in rural areas. Many schools are overcrowded, 32 percent of them have to work in two or three shifts.

Due to low social and territorial mobility of students and teachers, people living in different parts of the country do not have equal access to high-quality programs. It is necessary to improve and diversify the content of education, develop new methods, technologies, curricula, and textbooks. Another aim is to make various forms of education accessible for the gifted and talented students living in remote areas. The transition to a market economy requires paying more attention to professional orientation and programs for individuals who combine their education with work.

The principle of continuity between different stages of schooling is declared, but not truly implemented. The number of secondary school graduates, who can enter higher educational institutions without additional training (private tutoring), is steadily decreasing. Serious efforts have to be made to bridge the gap between the content of secondary and higher education. In order to support students from rural schools (68.9 percent of the total number), it is essential to intensify professional guidance, organize specialized classes, and search for other forms of cooperation between VUZs and rural schools. The introduction of unified state examinations is expected to make the admission to higher educational institutions more objective.

One of the long-term goals is a gradual transmission to a 12-year secondary education (4-6-2 model), which involves the development of new curricula, alleviates the students' work load, and allows for the individual choice of subjects according to the students interests and abilities. The reform is preceded by a period of experimentation: beginning in 2001, five educational institutions in every region are working along the lines of the new program. By 2015 the reform will embrace ninety percent of all the students.

The development of specialized professional education in Russia was strongly encouraged by Peter the Great and started with the opening of the Artillery School (1701), Medical School (1707), Engineering School (1709), Navy Academy (1715), and other institutions. By 1914-1915 there were more than 400 professional schools with 54,000 students, who were trained to work in construction, industry, transportation, medicine, and agriculture. During the first years after the October Revolution the Soviet government, which made special emphasis on vocational training, established 450 new institutions called technicums.

In the 1930s the network continued to grow; the night and correspondence departments were opened for those who combined studies with work. During the Second World War the vocational training system prepared 340,000 workers and specialists. When adults were recruited into the Army, teenage graduates replaced them in factory shops. By the late 1940s there were 4,000 vocational schools and technicums with 1,007,700 students. After three more decades of steady growth, the enrollment figures became stabilized and in the 1990s started decreasing (4,611,000 students in 1980, 4,231,000 in 1990).

Vocational institutions were subordinated to the republic, regional, and local administrative organs in order to meet the needs of particular territories. New types of schools (professional colleges and lyceums) combined general and vocational training with the purpose to improve the students' economic, legal, and industrial competence. By 1998-1999 there were 2,649 state and municipal secondary professional schools with 2,052,000 students.

The system encompasses two levels of education. The initial level comprises professional technical schools (PTU) and centers of continuing professional education, which train skilled workers and paraprofessionals for blue-collar jobs. The course lasts from one to two years for professional training only, and three to four years if it is combined with general secondary education.

The types of schools at the secondary professional level include: technicums (or polytechnicums ) (independent institutions, which predominantly train middle-level technicians, lower managers, shop foremen for industry, transport, construction, and agriculture); uchilishcha (schools, which prepare specialists for non-production spheres, including preprimary and primary school teachers, nurses, circus performers, and librarians); and colleges (secondary specialized institutions, which can be either independent or function as structural divisions of a university, institute, or academy).

Other types of vocational institutions are farmers' schools, commercial schools, and specialized schools aimed at the social rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. Organizationally, all the schools are subdivided into state, municipal, and non-state institutions. In order to acquire a legal status, they have to be accredited by the state. The prerequisite for admission is basic (nine-year) or complete (eleven-year) secondary education. Prospective students have to take entrance examinations, which in some cases can be substituted by an interview. Preference in admission to free education is given to applicants who are getting professional training for the first time, as well as those who are referred to the institution by employment agencies.

The length of study at schools, which offer an mixture of professional and general education, is from three to four years. The state standards, adopted in 1992 and 1996, introduced a completely new approach to the structuring of the permanent and variable parts of the curricula. They include the federal, national, and regional components. The federal component defines the obligatory minimum content of educational programs, maximum workload, and the required level of student training. In their turn, the national and regional components reflect the specific needs of a particular locality and ethnic group. The standards have to be reviewed at least once every ten years. The new arrangement allows for adjustments, which take into consideration the peculiarities of the natural environment, climate, and the demand for certain skills and occupations. It aims at training specialists of wider profiles, who would have more professional mobility and adaptability to the changing social conditions. The mandatory minimum in the curriculum provides for the equivalency of training on all the territory of Russia.

The curricula, built along the lines of the state standards, include practical and theoretical courses. The annual number of hours can be from 4,418 to 5,744. Approximately one-third of them are devoted to general education (710 to 800 hours for humanitarian subjects, 500 to 680 hours for sciences, and 263 to 435 hours for electives and optional courses). In technical schools special emphasis is made on the basics of technology, economics, law, organization of production, intensive work methods, and use of new equipment. In addition to traditional topics, students get acquainted with new trends in commerce, management, marketing, auditing, and computer science. The educational process consists of lectures, tutorials, laboratory work, consultations, tests, excursions, simulation games, and practical training. The weekly study load is 36 to 38 hours. Students are organized in groups of 25 to 30 students (12 to 15 students for complex specialties). An academic director or a master of production training, attached to each group, is responsible for developing the students' vocational skills. Practical training usually takes place at the school shops or corresponding enterprises. At some schools the course culminates in the defense of a final paper called a diploma project.

Vocational schools are administered by a council representing all categories of employees, students, and other interested parties (enterprises, organizations, or parents). The council is chaired by the Director, who is responsible for the educational process, the school's financial state, the students' health and security, and recreational activities. In 1998-1999 there were 123,200 teachers employed in the network of secondary professional education. Most of them were graduates of industrial pedagogical institutes, higher, and specialized secondary institutions.

Educators are trying to find a rational correlation of theoretical and practical knowledgea calculated balance of creative thinking and professional skills. In order to intensify the professional, social, and territorial mobility of specialists and make them more competitive on the job market, it is necessary to extend and combine the existing specialties and advance the quality of education. The educational tendencies encompass competitive enrollment; diversified curricula; financial reform of the network; cooperation of the state, businesses, trade unions, and educational institutions; and attraction of investments into the sphere of vocational training.

Higher Education

The first higher educational institution in Russia was the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy reformed in the early eighteenth century by Peter the Great. The Moscow University founded in 1755 on the initiative of Lomonosov gradually became one of the leading educational establishments in Europe. The system of higher learning, which developed in the first half of the nineteenth century, was administered by the Ministry of Public Education and included universities, privileged lyceums, and specialized institutes. At the end of the nineteenth century there were 63 higher educational institutions with 30,000 students. By 1914 the number of the students grew fourfold and reached 120,000.

After the Revolution of 1917, preference in access to higher education was given to workers and members of the Communist party. In the 1921-1933 period "institutes of red professorship" trained students to become lecturers on Marxism-Leninism, History, Political Economy, and other social sciences. In spite of the dramatic losses during the Second World War, the network of higher educational institutions was preserved. The postwar period was marked by a strict unification of curricula and priority given to engineering education, often at the expense of other areas, for the sake of training specialists for the defense complex. Though the number of graduating students was steadily growing, the level of education did not adequately meet the demands of the country and its regions. Absence of choice within the programs and prevalence of courses indoctrinating Communist ideology in the curricula resulted in low motivation, inability to make independent decisions, and social apathy.

The reform of higher education, which started in the USSR in the late 1980s, continued in the Russian Federation after it had become an independent state in 1991. It was aimed at the development of a uniform federal policy in higher education, democratization, establishment of self-government, and diversification of curricula. The Federal Law on Higher and Post-Graduate Professional Education of 1996 outlined the structure of the educational system and defined its priorities. Though the period of transition to a market economy caused a number of serious problems for professors and graduates (insufficient financing, low salaries, problems with finding jobs), the popularity of higher education continued to grow. By 1998-1999 there were 584 state higher educational institutions with more than 3,300,000 students and 334 non-state institutions with 250,700 students.

The generic term VUZ (Russian acronym for "higher educational institution") is used to denote all types of higher schools, including: Universities (which provide graduate and post-graduate education in a wide variety of specialties, carry out fundamental and applied research in different areas of knowledge, are leading scholarly and methodological centers in the spheres of their activities); Academies (which also give graduate and post-graduate degrees, but in a particular area of knowledge); and Institutes (which are similar to academies, but do not necessarily have post-graduate programs; they can function either independently or as part of a university).

VUZs are administered by the Academic Council, an elected organ, which makes fundamental decisions about the institution's policy, teaching process, and future development. The Rector, chief administrative officer and head of the Council, is elected by secret ballot at a general meeting or conference for a period of five years and approved by a supervising administrative organ. The Rector must be under sixty-five years of age at the time of the election, and the period of the work in this position can be legally extended until the age of seventy. Heads of higher educational institutions are members of the Union of Rectors of the Russian Federation. Prorectors who are responsible for particular areas (academic affairs, research, international contacts) are not elected, but have contract positions.

Approximately the same structure is repeated on the level of faculties, or schools (facul'tety ), organized in accordance with areas of knowledge and including both professors and students. Each facul'tet is headed by a Dean (dekan ), head of the faculty council on which students are also represented. The Dean, together with Associate Deans, is in charge of academic work, student and faculty research, curricula, schedule, and extracurricular activities. Professors are organized in departments (kafedry ) according to the discipline they are teaching. There is no tenure, and they have to be reelected every five years by the faculty council. The procedure of reelection or election to a higher position requires the proof of active academic activities, research, publications, and extracurricular work.

Since specialization in Russian VUZs starts at the freshmen level, applicants must make an early decision about the major area of study and their future profession. A prerequisite for admission is the Certificate of Secondary Education. Students are selected on the basis of entrance examinations. Educational institutions have the right to decide which examinations to offer, but they have to choose the subjects from the list worked out on the federal level: Russian language (mandatory for all in the form of an essay), literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history of Russia, social science, and a foreign language. The would-be students have the right to answer the exam in Russian or a titular language of a republic. Theoretically, the examinations have to be based on the material covered in secondary school, but due to keen competition to particular VUZs, there is a gap between the school and university entrance requirements. In order to enter a university that is much sought after young people have to study with individual tutors for a year or two before they apply. There was a time when the average secondary school grade was taken into account during the entry procedures, but in 1984 this practice was relinquished.

Students with gold and silver medals are exempt from all the entrance examinations, except the profile one (English for the School of Foreign Languages) and are admitted if they receive an excellent grade. Among all those who have successfully passed the exams, preference is given to orphans, individuals left without proper parental care, physically handicapped, people demobilized from the army service, and war participants. Other benefits exist for the winners of national and international Olympiads (competitions) in school subjects. A certain number of places can be allotted to rural school graduates, whose level of training does not allow them to compete with their urban peers, due to the rural/city divide in the quality of secondary school training. The total number of male and female applicants is about equal. Women usually predominate in humanitarian departments, whereas men are more numerous in technical schools. Since VUZs have acquired more freedom, they are trying to regulate the stream of applicants and search for ways to control their enrollment. If competitive schools offer highly demanding entrance tests, in less popular schools examinations can be substituted by an interview.

Final examinations in secondary school followed by entrance exams to a VUZ are a double stress for the young people. VUZs do not trust the school transcripts, because they fear that teachers can give their students good grades under the parents' pressure. On the other hand, bribery and nepotism in admissions to higher educational institutions have soared to an unprecedented level. In order to solve the problem, the Ministry of Education has come up with the idea of introducing a national examination (analogous to the SAT in the United States). It has set up a special council, headed by the Minister of Education, to supervise the project. The system of centralized testing has existed since the mid-1990s, but it is voluntary for the applicants as well as VUZs, the latter can decide whether to accept the results or not. Therefore this form of testing embraces only a limited number of students. During the first stage of the project the system will be tried out in several provincial towns. The tests will be then sent to Moscow to be graded by independent specialists.

The project managers will also have to deal with emerging problems, such as non-sanctioned teachers' assistance at schools, informational security, and imbalance in enrollment between different VUZs, organization, and curricula. Upon entrance, freshmen are divided into permanent groups of 20 to 25 people and stay as a group until they graduate. In regards to foreign language classes and other subjects, which require more individualized approach, they are further distributed into subgroups of about ten people.

The academic year lasts from September 1 until the middle or end of June (depending on the year of study) and is divided into two semesters. There are two weeks of vacations in late January, early February and two months in the summer. Classes take place five or six days a week in the form of lectures (for 50 to 100 students), seminars (20 to 30 students), and practical or laboratory work (10 to 12 students). The period lasts from 80 to 90 minutes. The schedule is made for the whole group. Elective and optional courses are usually scheduled at the same time, and students can choose a subject as a group or individually.

The principles of the curricula organization are similar to those used at the secondary school level. All the disciplines are divided into several categories: general humanitarian and socioeconomic subjects, mathematics and sciences, general professional subjects, and specialized subjects. Each of the categories includes the federal component (70 percent of the curriculum), that is defined by the central authorities; a national and regional component reflecting the needs and peculiarities of a particular territory or ethnic group; and a VUZ component established by a particular institution. This arrangement ensures uniform requirements on the national scale and at the same time allows for innovative approaches and diversification of the VUZ programs. Legally students can study as many subjects offered by the institution as they wish, but because of the heavy workload they seldom attend classes outside their main curriculum. In order to graduate, students have to write and defend a thesis and take final state examinations. Most of them are oral and taken in front of a panel, which consists of university professors and is headed by a colleague invited from a different institution.

Students who graduate with honors receive a red certificate. Most of the higher educational institutions are concentrated in big cities, whereas suburban campuses are uncommon. In 1998, a total of 63.4 percent students studied full-time, 6.9 percent in part-time night, and 29.7 percent in extension-correspondence divisions. Other forms of education offered by VUZs comprise training and retraining programs, short-term courses, and professional development seminars. A form gaining popularity is second higher education, when part of the subjects studied previously is counted towards the second degree.

Current assessment of the students work is done throughout the semester. Unlike in secondary schools, numerical grades are seldom used. Examinations sessions take place at the end of each semester, and the grades are verbal: excellent, good, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory (failure) or pass/fail. All the examination grades are recorded in the students credit book colloquially called zachotka. Some VUZs are developing assessment approaches for example rating systems, which employ percentage or cumulative grades. Evaluation is done openly, and public opinion is supposed to stimulate the students' performance. Full-time students who successfully fulfill all the requirements receive a small stipend.

Academic degrees were introduced in Russia in the nineteenth century. Beginning with 1803 it was decided to award three types of degrees in philosophical and law university departments: Kandidat, Master, and Doktor. The system developed mainly under the influence of European standards. After the Revolution of 1917 the degrees were eliminated. However, because of the necessity to differentiate between levels of qualification, the degrees of Kandidat and Doktor were restored correspondingly in 1934 and 1937 with a partially changed meaning. VAK (Supreme Attestation Commission) was instituted in 1934.

The state standard of professional higher education of the Russian Federation has stipulated three levels of study: Level 1 represents incomplete higher education, which is based on fundamental general subjects and lasts at least two years with the receipt of a corresponding certificate. Level 2 requires four years of study and leads to a Bachelor's degree. Level 3 is represented by two types of degrees: Certified Specialist earned upon completion of a five-year program, or Master, which entails six years of study. Individuals interested in advanced postgraduate research can enter aspirantura, leading to the degree of Kandidat nauk (literally Candidate of sciences), and subsequently doktorantura, culminating in the receipt of a Doktor's degree. Another track leading to advanced degrees is a part-time position of soiskatel (literally, seeker ), which allows a scholar to do research without leaving the main job.

The degree of Kandidat nauk requires at least three years of study beyond the five- or six-year VUZ program, success in three Kandidat's examinations (major specialty, philosophy, and foreign language), and the defense of a dissertation. It is roughly equivalent to Ph.D. in the United States. Doktor nauk (Doctor of sciences) is the highest academic degree awarded in Russia and has no equivalent in the United States, as well as some other countries. The prerequisites comprise a well-established reputation in the chosen field, a considerable number of publications including a monograph, and experience in supervising undergraduate and graduate research. For the Doktorantura the main track leading to this degree is a three-year sabbatical with provision of a stipend and paid trips to conferences and central libraries.

Dissertation boards at VUZs are established by the Supreme Attestation Committee (VAK). In 1998 their total number was 1,868. According to the statute of 2000, VAK was formed of the leading specialists in science, technology, and culture. Its main functions encompassed attestation of scholars of the highest qualification; creation, coordination, and control of the activities of dissertation boards; and analysis of defended dissertations. Included in its competence were the decisions to confer the degree of a Doktor, approve the degree of a Kandidat, advance scholars to the rank of a Professor, and cancel academic degrees.

Contract faculty positions comprise (in order of importance): assistant, starshy prepodavatel (senior teacher), dotsent (usually for a holder of the Kandidat's degree), and professor (usually requiring the Doktor's degree). Academic ranks (zvaniya ) are a form of expressing official appreciation of scholarly achievements and include Dotsent and Professor. The ranks are awarded to the scholars who have worked in the corresponding faculty position for at least a year, have post-defense publications, and who have answered a number of other criteria established by VAK. The highest honorable ranks conferred by Academies are Corresponding Academy Member and Full Academy Member. The four major research Academies in Russia are the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Academy of Education.

Higher education has been affected by the economic crisis of the 1990s, like the rest of Russian society. Deteriorating buildings, limited access to modern equipment, as well as the poor state of libraries, cafeterias, and sports facilities are only some of the problems facing higher educational institutions. Since 1990 the financing of research has decreased over thirty times in comparable prices. Low salaries and lack of social protection have significantly influenced the prestige of the teaching profession. Due to the "brain drain," many talented scholars and university professors have left the country. There is a steady tendency towards the aging of faculty, including holders of advanced degrees. The attempt to shift the financial burden from the budget to non-budget funds, which contradicts the law, has become a common practice. It disturbed the socioeconomic balance in higher education, making it inaccessible for young people from low-income families.

The emergence of paid institutions and departments has opened the doors of VUZs to applicants, whose level of knowledge would not allow them to compete in the entrance examinations for free education. As a result, the level of students paying fees is usually lower, as compared to those who study for free. A number of non-state VUZs cannot recruit qualified faculty and therefore are unable to ensure an adequate quality of education.

The governmental program of the development of higher school has formulated the following goals, which combine the interests of individuals, different social groups, and the state in the sphere of education: to enhance the academic independence of VUZs; to reinforce the institutions responsibility for the results of their work; to provide broader access to professional education at the expense of the federal budget; to ensure gradual transition to the university system with the preservation of the strong sector of specialized institutions; to create and develop regional systems of higher education; to support the practice of teaching Russian abroad as a language of the UNO and other international organizations; to advance distance education; and to develop computer networks.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Russian education functions under the jurisdiction of the federal (central), republic, regional, and local (municipal) administrative organs. Among other responsibilities, their competence includes the realization of federal and international programs, accreditation of institutions, attestation of staff members, direct financing and control of educational activities. The Law on Education regulates the distribution of powers between administrative organs of different levels. The competence of the federal organs includes the development and implementation of the educational policy, establishment, reorganization, and elimination of institutions, setting up educational standards, and formation of educational infrastructure. Republic, regional, and municipal organs make decisions relating to their territory, whereas federal powers have the right to control their activities.

Previously the system of administration consisted of specialized organs: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education, and the State Committee of Vocational Technical Training. It reflected the necessity to regulate specific areas, but at the same time brought about a number of negative consequences. The educational process was torn between different agencies; schools were separated from VUZs and the network of secondary professional training. The Academy of Pedagogical Sciences was subordinated to the Ministry of Education; as a consequence, areas headed by other agencies were not adequately embraced by the research. The administration of VUZs was distributed between 70 ministries, which brought about disproportion in staffing, location of facilities, financing, and equipment. By the year 2000 the functions of different agencies had been combined under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. The main features of the administrative reform were: democratization; elimination of the state monopoly in managing the system; decentralization through giving more powers to regional and municipal organs; more independence granted to institutions; multiple forms of property; and self-determination of national schools.

The educational sphere is financed as part of the national and municipal budget. In 1992 the share of expenses on education from the federal budget was 5.65 percent, in 1998 it dropped to 3.45 percent. Further data reflect some positive tendencies: 3.63 percent in 1999 to 3.75 percent in 2000. Yet, only one-fourth of the need for financing throughout the country was satisfied from the budget. Monetary problems included chronic nonpayment of salaries to school teachers, disconnection of educational institutions from electricity and heat, and lack of funds for maintenance of buildings and other facilities. One of the government's goals was to develop mechanisms, which would provide multichannel financing of education, both from the state and private sources. Educational institutions were exempt from all kinds of taxes. Other taxation benefits encouraged sponsorship, investments in the sphere of education, and renting buildings to educational institutions.

The Doctrine on Education, adopted in 2000, established three stages of gradual change in the financing: First stage (until 2004): the tempos of growth of the financing of the educational sphere will be faster than the general expenditure from the budget; additional funds will be received from non-budget sources and fees paid by families. In the Second stage (until 2010) financing will grow in accordance with the increase of the gross internal product, with additional funds coming from family budgets and enterprises. For the third stage (until 2025): the tempos of growth of the budget financing will be preserved; there will be a significant increase of funding from non-budget sources.

Nonformal Education

Nonformal education is represented by a network of more than 7,600 institutions of different types with 6,300,000 students engaged in technical work, tourism, biology, sports, music, art, and other activities. The economic and political reforms of the late 1980s to 1990s have freed the extracurricular programs of the ideological Communist influence, but have also brought about considerable reduction of financing of nonformal education. The Octobrist, Young Pioneer, and Komsomol (Young Communist League) organizations, which used to engage young people in all kinds of extracurricular activities, were disbanded in 1991 and have not been adequately replaced. The numbers of facilities and program participants have significantly decreased. Cultural and political education offerings for adults, which were widely spread in the USSR, have largely become the things of the past. The remaining institutions are learning to survive under new socioeconomic conditions.

Due to the long-established tradition and high value of all-rounded education in Russia, parents regard additional education for their children as a priority and are willing to pay for it. Former Young Pioneer palaces and houses, which have been transformed into children centers, Young Naturalist stations, technical stations, youth clubs, and vacation camps continue to provide both educational and recreational activities. Part-time music, art, and sports schools are reorganized on new principles. Emerging types of institutions include multifunctional children centers, teenage clubs, ecological and health centers, schools of folk culture and crafts, religion-related schools, as well as institutions of Noble Young Ladies trying to revive pre-revolutionary values. Aerobic classes and foreign language courses are very popular with teenagers and adults. In big cities, especially Moscow and St. Petersburg, numerous courses prepare young people for study abroad. Another widely spread form of nonformal education, which is a major expense for families with teenage children, is private tuition mostly used to coach secondary school students for higher education entrance exams.

The plans for the improvement of nonformal education were aimed at the development of its legal basis, extension of the network, and introduction of new organizational forms and services. Adult education, which was largely ignored in the late 1980s to 1990s, also needed improvement. In 1997 the heads of the CIS governments signed an "Agreement on Operation in the Field of Disseminating Knowledge and Education for Adults" and established an Interstate Committee for the realization of the program. It was aimed at solving both educational and social problems (unemployment, and training of specialists for new areas of knowledge).

Teaching Profession

In 1998-1999 teachers were trained at 670 educational institutions, including 81 pedagogical universities and institutes, 61 classical universities, 22 other VUZs, 183 pedagogical colleges, 163 pedagogical secondary schools, as well as 96 institutions of advanced training and professional retraining. The number of teachers employed in secondary education exceeded 2,000,000. Out of 1,700,000 teachers working at state schools, 75 percent had a higher education. The share of teachers with specialized secondary education was 23.0 percent in general secondary education and 72.5 percent in preschools.

The secondary professional level of teacher training is represented by pedagogical schools (uchilishcha ) and pedagogical colleges, the latter usually affiliated with higher educational institutions. Uchilishcha and colleges train preprimary, primary, and incomplete secondary school teachers. The length of study is two or three years. The specialization may be in labor, art, technical drawing, music, singing, or physical training. An important part in the curricula belongs to the subjects of the psychological and pedagogical cycle: anatomy, physiology, hygiene, psychology, and methods of teaching. Great attention is also devoted to the profile disciplines, which provide the necessary professional level in a particular area. This kind of education is regarded as the initial stage of teacher training. Graduates can go on to study at higher educational institutions. Joint programs established between VUZs and secondary pedagogical schools or colleges (complexes of continuing education: school, VUZ, or pedagogical college VUZ) allow students to proceed directly to the second or third year of the institute or university.

The second stage, higher pedagogical education, exists either as the traditional five-year model, or the new multilevel model (four plus two years), which consists of module-blocks, rather than traditional subject cycles. The six areas of knowledge constituting the curricula include: "Natural Sciences," "Socioeconomic Issues," "Humanitarian Issues," "Professional Training," "Pedagogy," and "Art." Students are regularly required to engage in teaching practice, which lasts several weeks. Most of the teachers are trained in two specialties, but only 30 percent of them use their minor in practice. The teachers' usual workload is 18 hours a week. They receive extra pay for the work done above this norm or for additional responsibilities (acting as class academic director).

Every five years teachers have to participate in advanced training organized by specialized institutes or departments. Some 78 teacher training VUZs have postgraduate programs in 14 areas of knowledge (more than 80 specialties with 3,000 students). Schools usually maintain close contacts with local methodological councils and institutes of advanced training. The latter offer traditional short-term courses, a combination of full-time and part-time studies, independent work, individual consultations, and problem solving seminars. Teachers also take part in professional development seminars and conferences, attend lectures delivered by university professors, and discuss their colleagues' demonstration classes. State social organizations, such as the Council for Teacher Training Education, the Association of Pedagogical Universities and Institutes, and local councils of directors of secondary pedagogical institutions, play an important part in the unfolding of an effective teachers' network. Participation in advanced training is counted in the process of attestation.

In 1992 the Ministry of Education developed unified principles for the attestation of primary and secondary school teachers. It established twelve qualification groups and four categories that would reflect the teacher's professional level. The teacher's qualification is assessed every five years by special commissions and involves two stages: a qualification test in the form of an examination, interview, report, or defense of a project; and an analysis of the teacher's lessons; testing the students' knowledge; colleague, parent, and student evaluation of the teacher's work. The first category is the highest and requires significant teaching experience, excellent knowledge of the subject, use of innovative methods and materials, leadership, creativity, and active participation in extracurricular events. The salary depends on the assigned category.

There is no special training for university professors. They are usually recruited from capable graduates with good research potential. Their total annual workload, including all kinds of activities (teaching, research, methodological and extracurricular work) is 1,550 hours. The decision about the number of classroom hours (from 150 to 900) is made individually for each faculty member. University professors also have to upgrade their qualification once every five years. They can take a sabbatical (from one to twelve months long) in order to study the experience of their colleagues at other universities, consult with senior scholars, or do research of their own. Aspirantura and doktorantura are also considered to be forms of advanced training. After five years of work in a particular faculty position, university teachers have to go through a competition process. In reality, it is not so much a competition, but rather a report on the previous five years of work with recommendations for the future made by immediate supervisors and colleagues.

The most influential research institution is the Russian Academy of Education (RAO). It was established in 1991, upon the disintegration of the Soviet Union, on the basis of the USSR Academy of Pedagogical Science. RAO has five regional branches: Siberian (Krasnoyarsk), North-Western (St. Petersburg), Southern (Rostov), Central (Moscow), and Volga Region (Kazan). The staff of the Academy is engaged in fundamental research, which deals with the history and theory of education and upbringing, the development of methodological aspects and basic principles of schooling, and other issues.

Limited resources in the educational sphere, nonpayment of salaries, and distrust of the official promises to improve the state of schools have significantly injured the reputation of the teaching profession. Consequently, more than 11 percent of teaching positions in preschool and general secondary education (89,100 spaces) is vacant. The situation is especially bad in rural areas, where only 40 percent of schools and 19.5 percent preschools have enough teachers (in the city correspondingly 59.0 percent and 80.5 percent). In the late 1990s the teachers' trade union organized a number of strikes to demand the payment of salaries from the government. The teachers, traditionally used to the role of the conscience of society, detested the idea of going on strike, but for many of them it was the last resort in the struggle for the right to be paid for their work. Another problem is the lack of male influence in secondary schools, because teaching has become predominantly a female occupation; in 1998-1999 more than 80 percent of teachers were women.

Because of the development of personality-oriented pedagogy, teacher training institutions are increasingly charged with the task of diversifying their programs. The establishment of schools of new types (lyceums, gymnasiums, colleges, etc) requires a supply of teachers with indepth knowledge of particular subjects and a greater research potential. On the other hand, numerous institutions for children with health problems and deviant behavior create the demand for defectologists, psychologists, and specialists of other profiles. The flow of refugees from the former republics of the Soviet Union accounts for great numbers of children with insufficient knowledge of Russian and different levels of preparation in basic subjects. Institutions also face the necessity to train teachers for the sociocultural sphere and the expanding network of non-formal education. All these factors indicate that the areas and types of activities for teachers with higher education have substantially extended. There are 42 officially distinguished pedagogical specialties.

Among the priorities of the Russian government is the development of legal, economic, and cultural conditions for continuous teacher training, enhancing the prestige, social status, and the living conditions of teachers. The decision to increase the share of expenses on education in the federal budget is expected to bring the teachers' salaries up to the level of average wages in industry.

The National Doctrine of Education, the laws "On Education," "On Higher and Post-Graduate Education," and the Program of the Development of Teacher Training Education in Russia in 2001 to 2010 have formulated the following requirements to the system of teacher training: to provide higher education for all the teachers employed in preprimary and general educational institutions; to create conditions for their further professional growth through advanced training; to attract talented specialists to the educational system; and to ensure adequate conditions for the work of specialist with advanced degrees in institutions of higher learning.


The longstanding humanistic tradition of Russian education was revived during the socioeconomic reforms of the 1990s. At the same time political cataclysms and financial problems created serious obstacles on the way of educational development. Profound democratic changes and new requirements of society brought about the need for innovations in the Russian educational system. Its priorities and goals were laid out in the Federal Program of the Development of Education (1999) and the National Doctrine of Education (2000). The main objectives were further formulated in republic, regional, and local programs, with regard to national, territorial, socioeconomic, ecological, cultural, demographic, and other peculiarities. The necessity to function in the context of a market economy calls forth for the introduction of new economic mechanisms, encouragement of nongovernmental investments in education, and attracting businesses and prospective employers to social partnership with educational institutions. Other major challenges facing Russian education are: the development of the legal and normative bases, state standards and corresponding curricula; social support of teachers and students; harmonization of national and ethnocultural relations; preservation of all languages and cultures of the Russian Federation, including ethnic minorities; enhancing the prestige of the Russian language as one of the uniting factors in the multinational state; and integrating the Russian educational system in the world educational community. Educators believe that the democratization of the school life will allow to bring up personalities, capable of humanistically oriented choice and individual intellectual effort, respecting themselves and others, independent in thought, and open to unexpected ideas and alternative opinions.


Bondarevskaya, E.V. Obrazovaniye v Poiske Chelovecheskihsmyslov (Education in Search of Human Meaning). Rostov-on-the-Don, 1996.

Canning, Mary. Reforming Education in the Regions of Russia Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1999.

Dneprov, E.D. Tchetvyortaya Shkolnaya Reforma v Rossii (The Fourth School Reform in Russia). Moscow, 1994.

"Federalnya Programma Razvitiya Obrazovaniya" (Federal Program of the Development of Education). Narodnoye Obrazovaniye, 9 (1999), 29-65.

Latyshina, D. I. Istoriya Pedagogiki. Vospitaniye i Obrazovaniye v Rossii (X Nachalo XX Veka). (The History of Pedagogy: Upbringing and Education in Russia, 10th to Early 20th Century ). Moscow: Forum, 1998.

Long, Delbert H., and Roberta A. Long. Education of Teachers in Russia. Westport, CN.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Nauchny Potentsial Vuzov i Nauchnyh Organizatsiy Minobrazovaniya Rossii: Statistichesky Sbornik (Scholarly Potential of Higher Educational Institutions and Scientific Organizations of the Russian Ministry of Education). Moscow, 1999.

Richmond, Yale. From Nyet to Da: Understanding the Russians. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1996.

Serikov, V.V. Obrazovaniye i Lichnost (Education and Personality). Moscow: Logos, 1999.

Smirnov, S.A., ed. Pedagogika: Pedagogicheskiye Teorii, Sistemy, Tekhnologii (Pedagogy: Pedagogical Theories, Systems, Technologies), 3rd ed. Moscow: Akademia, 1999.

Webber, Stephen L. School Reform and Society in the New Russia. New York: St. Martin's Press in association with Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham, 2000.

Yegorov S.F., ed. Istoriya Pedagogiki v Rossii (History of Pedagogy in Russia). Moscow: Academa, 2000.

Olga Leontovich

Russian Federation

views updated May 14 2018

Russian Federation

Basic Data

Official Country Name:Russian Federation
Region (Map name):Russia
Language(s):Russian, other
Literacy rate:98.0%
Area:17,075,200 sq km
GDP:251,106 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers:2,635
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts:127 (US$ millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures:11.40
Number of TelevisionStations:7,306
Number of Television Sets:60,500,000
Television Sets per 1,000:415.9
Number of Satellite Subscribers:11,275,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:77.5
Number of Radio Stations:953
Number of Radio Receivers:61,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000:422.8
Number of Individuals with Computers:6,300,000
Computers per 1,000:43.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access:3,100,000
Internet Access per 1,000:21.3

Background & Characteristics

On the eve of its breakup in December, l99l, the Soviet Union had a population of about 291 million, the third largest in the world. Great Russians made up a slight majority of 52 percent. Non-Russian Asians were clearly growing sharply in numbers and as a percentage of the total population. With the collapse of the USSR, the Russian Federation's population was down to l45 million. Great Russians totaled 82 percent of the entire population. Of much greater significance, the birthrate in Russia was 9 per l,000; the death rate was l4 per l,000.

In the early 2000s, Russia was a largely urbanized nation with about 66 percent of the population living in cities. The largest cities in Russia were Moscow with 9 million, St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad, 5 million), Nizhni Novogorod (l.4 million), Novosibirsk (l.5 million), Yakaterinburg (l.3 million), Samara (1.2 million) and Omsk (1.1 million).

Russia has one of the greatest literary traditions in the world. From Pushkin and Gogol to Dostoyevksy and Tolstoi, down to Pasternak and Solyzenitsyn, the Russian people have always enjoyed great literature and poetry. By contrast, the press and modern journalism came relatively late to Russia. The first printing press reached Moscow only in l564. Peter I founded the first newspaper in Moscow, Vedomsti (The Bulletin ) in l703, and technically it lasted until l9l7. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Russian journalists looked forward to celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of the paper in 2003.

But everyday realities in Russia worked against a mass circulation press. The vast majority of the Russian people were rural, poor, and illiterate. Enormous distances made travel difficult, and production, transportation, and newspaper distribution very expensive.

The reign of Alexander II (l855-8l) marked the real beginning of Russia's popular press age. The Great Emancipation of l86l ended serfdom across Russia, and Alexander's attempts to promote education vastly expanded literacy. Censorship laws were modified and revised, though censorship in Imperial Russia continued down to l906.

In Western Europe the free press co-occurred largely with democracy and the growth of capitalism and the market economy. In Russia, the popular press developed in a far more inhospitable environment. The press emerged either as an arm of the government relying heavily on state subsidies or among opposition thinkers, many of whom were in and out of prison. Russian (and later Soviet) intellectuals often saw themselves as almost a separate priesthood with a sacrosanct knowledge of "truth." In the nineteenth century many actually were sons of the Russian Orthodox priesthood, in which marriage was a requirement of ordination. They were known as the raznochintsky or classless intellectuals, and they formed the backbone of early dissident and later revolutionary movements. They were often highly intolerant of any but their own beliefs, a characteristic of many Russian intellectuals down to the early 2000s.

The first systematic publication of free, popular press occurred abroad, most of all in London and Paris, to avoid Russia's harsh censorship. I. G. Golovin put out The Catechism for the Russian People in Paris in l849; Alexander Herzen began publishing his works in London in l853. Then in l863 Andrei Kraveski began publication of the first independent Moscow daily, Golos (The Voice ). Unlike previous Russian newspapers, it was not dependant on government subsidies and clearly maintained a liberal, reformist perspective. Many young Russian writers got their start writing for the new popular press, most famously Anton Chekhov. In l863 the government removed heavy restrictions on advertising in the press, thus allowing genuine press independence. Then in l880 Russian newspaper circulation actually exceeded that of magazines. Yet the census of l897 revealed that nearly four Russians out of five could not read or write.

In l908, St. Petersburg readers saw the launching of the Gazeta Kopeika (The Kopeck Gazette ) which rose to a circulation of 250,000 in l909, nearly twice the circulation of the next leading paper, Russkoe Slova (The Russian Word ). In the meantime, the Russian book publishing industry, both fiction and non-fiction, expanded tremendously. On the eve of World War I, Russia in publishing 30,079 titles was the second largest book publisher in the world, after Germany.

With the onset of World War I, almost all the Russian press rallied to the Czarist cause. Newspapers became vital in news-starved Russia. Russkoe Slova, conservative and semi-official, had a circulation of 325,000 in l9l3 that rose to over one million by l9l7. The free press helped enlighten the Russian masses in that fateful year and also played a vital role in undermining Kerensky's Provisional Government. It helped make way for a new world in November, l9l7.

Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin understood, as few men of his time, the force of ideas and the power of the press. Published in St. Petersburg in l905, the first legal Bolshevik (Communist ) newspaper, Novya Zhizn (New Life ) was partially initiated by Lenin. Pravda (Truth ) was published in Moscow in l9l2 but suppressed in l9l4.

On November l0, l9l7 (three days after the Revolution), the new Bolshevik government issue the "Decree on the Press," and the "General Regulation of the Press," which essentially eliminated all opposition media (and re-established censorship in Russia, a far tighter and more thorough censorship than the media had ever known under the Czar). During the period 19l7-l8, the Bolshevik government closed down 3l9 bourgeois papers. In l922 Soviet authorities formally created the Glavnit (censorship office). In l925, the state information system of the USSR headed by the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) was established.

Still the Leninist period (l9l7-25) marked a relatively liberal period in the new Soviet age. In July, l922, at the height of the New Economic Policy, the ten-page edition of Izvestia (The News, the official paper of the Soviet state), had over five pages of advertising. In l925, book production in Russia exceeded the l9l3 level, even though Soviet Russia had lost Finland, the Baltic States, and Poland along its western littoral. The Communist regime put tremendous emphasis on education and literacy in the countryside. By l939, the literacy rate was over 8l percent in the Soviet Union, over twice the rate it had been in l9l4. At the same time, there was an enormous increaseboth in the number and variety of publications, both in Russian and in a host of minority languages.

But the Russian people paid a heavy price for this new literacy. Russian literature, especially after l928, was dominated by Stalin's "socialist realism," which emphasized the positive achievements of a socialist society. Most newspaper reporting was dull, turgid, and pedantic. Soviet newspapers (led by Pravda and Izvestia ) were physically small (usually six to eight pages) and filled with official announcements and the full text speeches of party officials. There were few photos, and these were usually staged and carefully edited (often editing out political "non-persons"). But in a society starved for news and information, even these kinds of newspapers played a vital role. During the Great Patriotic War of l94l to l945, Soviet newspapers were critical in informing, propagandizing, and maintaining morale across the country, at the front, and even behind the front, among hundreds of thousands of partisans behind German lines.

After World War II, the Soviet peoples had to endure drastic economic shortages and privations, strict censorship, and a cult of the individual, which glorified Stalin. With his death in l953, Soviet media underwent some liberalization and some qualitative improvement, especially with the arrival of slick, Western style magazines. There was a noticeable improvement in the number and quality of newspapers. Headlines became larger, articles shorter, and photographs were more frequent. The number of newspapers per 100 Soviet citizens over the years grew: there were 2 copies in l9l3; 20 in l940; 32 in l960; and 66 in l980.

The most important newspapers at the height of the Soviet era included Pravda with a single issue circulation of l0.7 million (making it the largest circulation newspaper in the world); Izvetia 7 million, Komsomol's Kaia Pravda (Komsomol Truth ) 10 million, Sel'skaia Zhizn (Rural Life ) 9.5 million, Trud (Labor ) 12.2 million, Sovietskii Sport (Soviet Sports ) 4 million, Literaturnaya Gazeta (Literary Newspaper ) 2.6 million, and Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star ) 2.4 million. All of these were heavily subsidized by the Communist Party or the Soviet state and were remarkably cheap and popularor at least widely read, if not popular in the Western sense. All clearly had teleological and political messages. In l980, newspapers were published in 55 languages of the peoples of the Soviet Union and in ten foreign languages.

The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted from many factors including economic failures, inflexible leadership (until Gorbachev when it was too late), and ever-increasing amounts of knowledge which first seeped and then flooded in from the West. The quality of Soviet press and media greatly improved by the l980s and so had access and dissemination of information. But the Soviet people's hunger for knowledge and information had exploded exponentially. The Russian people lived more poorly than people in the West and increasingly, through foreign media and word of mouth, theyrealized it.

For a long time, dissidents and others blocked from official press sources had adopted a policy of samizdat (self-publication). Originally these private journals, newspapers, and newsletters were written longhand and circulated privately. Later these papers were often mimeographed. The most famous of all samizdat publications was The Chronicle of Current Events, which was founded in l968 and continued in form or another until l990. In the last years of the USSR, samizdat writings were often Xeroxedfrequently by Soviet or Communist Party officials using state or party facilities and offices at night or in off hours. In the l970s the basic print run of samzidat publications was from 20 to 50; in the early l990s, it was sometimes in the tens of thousands.

Exemplified by George Orwell's 1984, in the l940s and l950s, mass media, technology, and control of information did not necessarily favor the totalitarian state. The August, l990, Law on the Press of the Gorbachev era laid the legal foundation for print media independent of state direction. New independent, privately owned publications and newspapers were allowed. Former official or party newspapers were often bought or brought together by founders or by independent entrepreneurs who determined the policy and content of the papers. Existing assets of media were often simply claimed by those in charge, without any formal kind of compensation or payment.

The revelation of the abuses of Stalinism and Communist duplicity and corruption drove newspaper circulation to exponential highs. Ogonyoky 's (Flame or Beacon ) subscriptions went from 600, 000 to 3 million. Komsomalskaya Pravda nominally a weekly youth magazine, reached a circulation of 20 million. Argumenti I Fakti, another weekly, which a few years before went out to 10,000 party propagandists, now topped 35 million. For a few years it was the most widely circulated periodical in the world.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party on Christmas Day, l99l, opened a tremendous media void, creating enormous opportunities for new sources and entrepreneurs who quickly moved in to fill the vacuum. The result was media anarchy and a general information and entertainment free for all.

The Russian Federation that emerged from the old Soviet Union was physically smaller (about 76 percent of the former USSR, though, by far, the largest nation in the world). Almost all the territory that Russia lost in breakaway republics was overwhelmingly non-Russian. In the last days of the Soviet Union, the Great Russians were 52 percent of the population, Ukrainians were l5 percent, and Uzbeks and other Asians were also about l5 percent. Many Russians had commented on the gradual "yellowing" of the population. As of 2002, about 82 percent of Russia was Great Russian with Tatars making up 4 percent of the population.

As is common after the fall of dictatorial regimes, the free press moved in, enthusiastically but uncertain of its role. For a while, it saw itself as the key factor in liberating the nation and playing a central role in reforming Russia. The period from l988 to l992 marked what many feel was the "Golden Age" of the Russian press. The press saw itself as an equal partner with the new reformist government. As in the nineteenth century, intellectuals and journalists saw themselves as the "conscience of Russia." There was an explosion of new publications, representing every imaginable cause and issue, not all responsive or responsible. The new atmosphere allowed journalists to appropriate media outlets, especially those in large cities, and particularly those, which formerly belonged to the Communist Party.

One Western author, Scott Shane, cited just a few of the new newspapers in the wide spectrum and the causes which they purportedly championed at the time: Democratic Russia (pro-Yeltsin Reformist coalition), The Alternative (Russian Social Democratic Party), Prologue (Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia), Nevsky Courier (Leningrad People's Front), The Cry of Yaroslavl (a military reform group called Parents of Soldiers), Charity (Soviet Charity and Health Fund), Under One's Breath (Moscow Organization of the Democratic Union), Christian Politics (Russian Christian-Democratic Party), Lightning (Communist Initiative),Freedom (Moscow chapter of memorial; all profits go to survivors of the Gulag), and Crossing (veterans of the Afghan War).

There were in addition, scores of other, non-party independent political papers, religious newspapers, and papers that took up every conceivable cause and issue, for example, animal rights, the environment, and UFOS. There were also a number of intensely nationalist papers and several Jewish and anti-Semitic publications. Many newspapers lasted but a few issues. Most, in keeping with the Communist tradition, were but a few pages long. Some were polemics. Others were tabloids.

The new Russian press thrived on scandals and exposes. The Boris Yeltsin regime provided plenty of material. Many papers and journals accused the government of negligence and corruption, as well as bribetaking and cover-ups. A score of Russian journalists and newsmen were killed in their efforts to expose corruption and government connections to organized crime. Other newspapers and forms of media were themselves accused of being in on the corruption and cover-ups. Papers and other media seemed to be "journalists for hire." They cranked out favorable publicity for those who paid them or character assassination or the threat of character defamation for those who did not. Some deputies in the Duma actually paid to be shown on television. Paid-for articles, nicknamed dzhinsa, became widespread in both new and traditional Russian media and did much to discredit the veracity of Russian journalism.

The "golden age" of the Russia press was predictably short-lived. Economic conditions took a sharp down turn in the early l990s, especially as artificially low prices, were allowed to float in l992 in the privatization of Russia's economy, and most promptly moved sky-ward.

The Russian print media were caught in a classic economic ldbquo;scissors" crisis. On the one hand, with the removal of price controls, costs for all raw materials rose exponentially. From l990 to l99l, the price of news-print alone increased five to seven times. The same happened to the costs of ink, transportation, and new equipment. Mailing costs tripled, but service noticeably declined. On the other hand, the heavy government subsidies that publications depended upon in the Soviet era practically disappeared. The new regime was unwilling and often unable to replace them. At the same time, advertising in the new Russian economy was far too weak and far too limited to take up the difference. What money was spent on advertising tended to go into the radio and television markets. Wages were appallingly low to begin with and were often paid months behind time or not paid at all. After accounting for inflation, some newspapers were paying their employees ten dollars per month. Reporters and journalists were forced to take second and third jobs. Others simply took bribes.

In l992, the Moscow-published newspapers with the largest circulation in the former Soviet Union lost about 18 million subscribers. Pravda, the flagship paper of the Soviet period, shrank from 10.5 million subscribers in l985 to 337,000 in l993.

Other, more controversial papers, often focusing on "investigative journalism" and exposing corruption in both the public and private sectors, enjoyed peak circulation in the early l990s and rapidly declined or collapsed. The weekly, Argumenty I Fakty (Arguments and Facts), had over 33 million subscribers in l990, but 5.5 million in l994. Izvestia, which had adopted an independent path after the Soviet collapse, had reached a circulation of l0.4 million in l988 but withered to 435,000 in l994. Komsomol Pravda, had reached 22 million readers in l990, but collapsed to 87l, 000 in l994.

Not a single major daily exceeded l.5 million subscribers in l993, and most were under a million. By the summer of l995, only four newspapers could really be called Russian in the sense of having a national circulation: Trud (Labor, the trade union paper), Komsomol Pravda, Argumenty I Fakty, and AIDS-Info, a paper oriented to young people. A number of leading Russian newspapers went bankrupt. Others sought support and financial aid from foreign media conglomerates, though these were often short-term relationships. Some papers became more dependent on local or regional government subsidies or reverted to state ownership. The l998 ruble crash destroyed what remained of the currency and the financial markets. Even more, it cut back or completely ended government support and subsidies to many media and television stations. Even before this, government was able to actually pay out only about 20 percent of the promised amounts they had committed to the media.

In l999 there were l5, 836 officially registered newspaper titles published in the Russian Federation. There were also 7,577 periodicals. Argumenty I Fakty remained the most popular magazine in Russia though its circulation plummeted from over 30 million to fewer than 3 million in 2000.Izvestia was down to 4l5, 000 in l999. Komsomolskaya Pravda had a circulation of 763,000 in 2000. Compared to l990, the total national circulation of newspapers by l999 was reduced to one-fifth, magazine circulation in the same period decreased to one-seventh.

In less than a decade, and far more rapidly than in the West, Russia evolved from its historic role as a "reading nation" to that of a "watching nation." In l999 overall audience for the print media was 80 percent while television got 95 percent of all Russian viewers and radio got about 82 percent. Thirty-six percent of all Russians found television as the most reliable medium, while only 13 percent define newspapers as reliable.

As of the early 2000s there were a number of foreign language newspapers, which mainly catered to the large foreign language communities, primarily in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Going back to 1930, the English language Moscow News was a KGB front paper for English speaking visitors in the city. After l99l it became a legitimate independent newspaper, appealing to tourists and business interests, along with The Moscow Times. Both were widely distributed in foreign hotels and businesses, and they offered a combination of political and business news plus tourist information. Since they carried a wide range of advertisements they were usually given away for free. The St. Petersburg Times performed a similar function in that city. There were also German and French publications, but these were dwarfed by the much larger Anglo-phone audiences. Moscow News had a Russian language circulation of about l20, 000 and an English language edition of 40,000.

Advertising helped support press independence, but it was largely concentrated in the big cities, especially Moscow and St. Petersburg, where most wealth and foreign investment were concentrated. Outside these cities, most newspapers tended to be in the hands of local political forces. With the collapse of the big national dailies, there was an upsurge in local and regional papers, some of which were considered quite good and very professional. But they too tended to be highly vulnerable to financial and political pressures, often from local and regional political forces. Private Russian investors or foreign partners have bought up some Russian newspapers and magazines. But in the late 1990s, the Putin regime seemed to have broken the power of private investors over the media.

Even more significant than the economic collapse of newspapers and their subsequent demise was the crumbling of public faith in the Russian media. In l990, a survey by the Commission for Freedom of Access to Information, a Russian NGO, found that 70 percent of respondents believed the media's reports. Six year later, a poll by the same organization found that only 40 percent trusted journalists. In 2000 the commission said the figure was l3 percent.

Economic Framework

Historically Russia lagged behind most of Europe, both in terms of economic development and even more, in individual living standards. The forced draft collectivization and industrialization of the l930s were achieved with staggering losses in life and great human suffering. They allowed Soviet Russia by 1941 to leap ahead in industrial terms to become the second greatest industrial power in the world, at least quantitatively. But devastating human and material losses in World War II, along with a grim determination to rebuild industry and the military first, left the average Russian far behind West Europeans and even further behind Americans.

Soviet Russia did manage to perform economic miracles both in terms of industrial production and in terms of keeping pace with the United States in the Cold War arms race. But the Soviet economy failed to deliver civilian consumption goods to satisfy the Soviet peoples. As Marshall Goldman wrote in l983, the Soviet Union largely won Khrushchev's industrial race with the United States, but it won the "wrong race." In l987, the Soviet Union produced twice as much steel as the United States, but in that same year there were 200,000 microcomputers in the country compared to 25 million in the United States. Russia produced enormous amounts of raw and finished goods, industrial products to satisfy the planners in Moscow not the Russian consumer.

At the same time, the Soviets had developed a first rate education system, a good and almost free medical system, and they provided something of a nation-wide welfare and full employment system, though admittedly there was a lot of "disguised unemployment." For many years the prices of necessities were kept artificially low and relatively stable in Russia with the countryside clearly subsidizing the urban population. Consumers were obviously starved for higher end quality products, and housing was in desperately short supply. The ubiquitous queues characterized the Russian consumer economy, reflecting both consumer goods scarcity and serious under pricing. According to research carried out in l987, some 83 percent of the population paid extra for goods and services outside the official distribution system; they were doing business on the black market.

The assumption in the West was that Yeltsin leadership of the Russian Federation only had to put Russia on the path to capitalism, privatize the enormous resources of the state, and give a push, and Russia would be on its way. This action proved to be a disaster.

In the European and U.S. traditions, capitalism and the press grew up almost together. Many of the great fortunes in the West were made when one individual (or a group of individuals) discovered a new product, market, or method of manufacture, iron and steel, oil, automobiles, or microchips. These were the success stories of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, and Gates.

In Russia, by contrast, the nation had tremendous wealth already created by the blood, sweat, and sacrifices of the Russian people. With the collapse of the old Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin and his inner circle largely distributed this wealth, especially natural resources, in the form of legal monopolies and trading privileges to various of his cronies and "insiders." The old restrictions and protections were simply thrown away without regard to consequences or consumer protection. Many old Communist Party apparatchiki (organization men and operators in the old Communist Party network) became rich and corrupt. Personal connections meant everything.

Removing price controls in 199l created inflation in Russia somewhat similar to the hyper-inflation of Weimar Germany in l923. A reckless banking system contributed to the collapse of the Russian ruble in l998. Both of these forces destroyed much of the nascent Russian middle class and impoverished almost all citizens on fixed incomes, that is, almost everyone over 55. The gross national product dropped sharply for most of the first decade of post-Soviet rule. However, a handful of Russians in the post-Soviet era become multi-billionaires, largely because of their personal connections to Yeltsin's Kremlin inner circle. In doing so, some acquired enormous amounts of wealth from the Soviet state for pennies on the dollar, sometimes not even pennies.

The big losers were the Russian people, the vast majority of whom eke out livings in factories, on farms, or, especially women, as small time traders on street corners, selling food, pirated videotapes, often in the harshest weather. Many took second and third jobs just to pay for rent and food. Begging on the streets and in the Metro was a professionalized industry in Moscow.

Between l99l and l998 there was an economic revolution and a "new stratification" in Russian society. According to a Finnish source, (Nordenstreung, Russia's Media Challenge) the employed population dropped from 71 percent to 58 percent; pensioners went from l9 to 28 percent; the unemployed climbed to 10 percent; students from 7 to 3 percent; and housewives rose from 4 to 5 percent of the entire population.

In the early 2000s Russia's gross domestic product was about $3,000 per capita per year while that of the United States was about $32,000 per year and Germany's (even allowing for the depressed former Eastern zone) was about $23,000. Former Soviet satellites had a noticeably higher income level: the Czech Republic, an average income of $ll,700; Hungary, $7,800; and Poland, $7,200. But these statistics reflect comparative income levels that go back to the nineteenth century. After World War II Russia was not able to substantially improve its living standards in comparison to other countries, for example, Germany, Japan, China, and much of East Asia. Living standards for most Russians dropped sharply.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there was little sense of authentic free enterprise in modern Russia and little real sense of competition. In the Western world, advertisers spend tens of billions of dollars on ads of every kind, amounting to about $200 per person per year in the United States. They spent about $2 per person per year in Russia. The press tended to be small in size and limited in its number of pages. Advertising played a small role in most newspapers, though in l995 both newspapers and television claimed they derived 30 to 50 percent of their budgets from advertising.

While one is aware of advertising in the Russian media, it hardly plays the decisive role it does in media empires of the West. Each media empire tends to have its own corporations and advertisers. The only strict rule is that they do not criticize the media owners or their views or political sponsors.

There have been a few high profile, high-spending advertisers. Usually these were for luxury items such as foreign cars, clothes, chocolates, or perfumes. One of the few notable Russian exceptions was the MMM pyramid scheme, which in l993 and l994 was the most frequent advertiser on Russian television, guaranteeing almost instant riches. Millions of naive Russians put their life savings into the stock, which rose from about a dollar to over 50 before the inevitable collapse. Interestingly, the slogan of MMM was "the government has betrayed you, but MMM never hasand never will!" A depressed economy directly affects the media.

On the other hand, electronic media in many ways reflects the New Russia. Russian broadcast advertising is slick and sophisticated, certainly a match for its Western counterparts. Russian advertising tends to be concentrated at the beginning and end of most programs, allowing viewers to enjoy most programs with less interruption. At the same time, many Russians, especially those living outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, criticize television with its glitzy advertising, claiming it creates a far higher imagined living standard than most Russians can possibly afford and thus produces what in the West used to be called a "Revolution of Rising Expectations." This induced hopefulness went a long way towards undercutting the old Soviet system. It had a similar effect on the Yeltsin regime. Consequently, quiz shows and give away shows were immensely popular in Russia, even though prizes (cash, clothes, automobiles) were far more modest than those on Western shows.

Russia's greatest foreign exchange earners were exported oil and natural gas, which earn about 40 percent of all exports. As of the early 2000s, the country was the second largest oil and gas exporter in the world. Though not a member of OPEC, Russia did within limits cooperate and follow OPEC guidelines. Base metals earned another 20 percent. The biggest imports included foreign (luxury) automobiles and electronic goods and machinery of every description. Contrary to the United States, Russia did enjoy a massive mercantile balance of payment surplus (exports of $80 billion; imports of about $50 billion). This surplus enabled Russia to make huge interest payments on its massive foreign debts and to pay for massive imports of new technology from the West.

Nonetheless, many factors contributed to Russia's poverty and economic chaos. In part it resulted from Russian capitalists and insiders whose self-serving actions alienated the new regime. Some of these opportunists lived in safety and luxury in London or Madrid or in the United States. Following allegations of misuse of International Money Fund (IMF) funds and loans, an audit was conducted of the Central Bank. Auditors revealed in February, l999, that the bank had diverted some US $50 billion in hard currency reserves over a five-year period into an "offshore" company, which invested and managed the assets for the personal gain of bank staff provoked outrage.

After considerable time of unrestricted capitalism, many Russians were thoroughly disillusioned. Perhaps, they did not want a return to Soviet style Communism, but they seemed more than willing to return to an autocratic government with less free enterprise and more willingness to provide minimal economic and social needs.

To some extent, the Putin regime began to move in the more traditional Russian direction. The economy turned around and began to grow strongly in 2000 and 2001. Total foreign investment grew by 23 percent, mainly in the oil industry. Inflation remained high, about l8 percent per year, but it was far more manageable than earlier. Average wages increased to $l43 (4,294 rubles) per month compared with $89 (2,492 rubles) per month in 2000. Approximately 27 percent of citizens continued to live below official monthly subsistence level of $52 (l,574 rubles) per month. Official unemployment remained at about 10 percent, though the real rate of unemployment is much higher. There was a five-fold increase in tax revenues from an admittedly very low level in l998 to 2002. Part of that increase reflected better incomes, a new flat tax rate of 13 percent, and perhaps much more rigorous tax collection. But above all, it demonstrated far more faith in the country, the new government, and hope for the future. Projections in 20002 forecasted that the Russian economy would grow by about 3.5 percent from 2002 through 2005.

In a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Center in 2002, just 5 percent of the respondents chose European society as a model for Russian development and 20 percent favored a return to Communism. Sixty percent said the country should follow its own unique path of development. Another majority, 70 percent, said above all, Russia needed a strong leader.

In the l930s and l940s Marxists around the world often explained embarrassing events in Russia by saying that the Soviet Union was not practicing "real Communism." Western apologists for the Yeltsin years explained the corruption and economic changes in Russia as "not real capitalism." Still, there seemed to be a feeling that Russia had turned the corner and economic conditions were beginning to improve.

Press Laws

On paper, the Russian press and media enjoyed some of the strongest legal protections in the world. Section 5 of Article 29 of the new Russian Constitution of l993 explicitly provides: "The freedom of the mass media shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be prohibited." But it is easier to make laws than to interpret or enforce them.

Of much greater day-to-day significance is the Law Concerning Mass Media, significantly signed by Boris Yeltsin on December 27, l99l, two days after he took office as president of the Russian Federation. Article I of the law commits itself to "freedom of mass information." Article 3 expressly prohibits censorship. At the same time, all mass media in Russia must register with the Ministry of Press and Information (Article 8), which implies non-registered media cannot operate in Russia. Sometimes overridden, this law nonetheless has enormous potential for misuse. Courts have authority to prohibit publication or other function of a medium, for violation of Article 4, "The Abuse of Freedom of a Mass Media." While there is nominal freedom of the press, Russian law leaves courts and government the option to crack down on abuses, to be determined at their own discretion.

Elaborate discussion is made of grounds for application and Article l6 explicitly states:

The activity of a medium of mass information can be stopped or suspended only by a decision of the founder or by a court acting on the basis of civil legal proceedings in accordance with a suit of the registering organ or the Ministry of Press and Information of the Russian Federation.

The same kinds of laws apply to broadcasting and the license to broadcast. Under Article 32, a broadcast license can be annulled: if it was obtained by deception; if licensing conditions or a rule government dissemination of programs have been repeatedly violated and on the bases of which (two) written warnings have been made; and if the commission for television and radio broadcasting establishes that the license was granted on the basis of a hidden concession.

Given the political and economic realities of Russia at the time, virtually every broadcast license granted may have violated one or more of these prohibitions.

Still, there is a positive and liberal spirit in the mass media law, which encourages openness. Article 38 provides that "Citizens have the right to receive timely and authentic information from a medium of mass information about the activity of state organs and organizations; society bodies and official persons." Article 43 offers a "Right of Refutation," roughly the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Equal Time laws. Article 47 of the Mass Media Act actually provides for a Journalist's (Bill of) Rights. These include the right to request and receive information and the right to visit state bodies and organizations and to be received by official persons. Newspersons have the right to copy records and to make records. Article 49 lists journalists' obligations, and Article 50 explicitly states that "journalists have the right to use 'hidden' recordings." Article 58, entitled "Responsibility for the Limiting of Freedom of Mass Information" warns that any government agency which effectively censors mass media "entails immediate cessation of their funding and liquidation on the basis of the procedure provided by legislation of the Russian Federation." Article 59 again specifies, "The abuse of a journalist's rights entails criminal or administrative liability in connection with the legislation of the Russian Federation." Clearly, the Mass Media Law outlines openness and fairness. Its practical application is another matter.

A separate Press Law for Russia, published on February 8, l992, paralleled the Mass Media Law. The law gave private individuals and businesses the right to establish media outlets. It anticipated the adoption of a separate law regulating television and radio broadcasting. But this separate law was never adopted, leaving all kinds of legal problems for the actual establishment of the granting of broadcast licenses. Inevitably there was room for political favoritism and bribery.

Censorship was again forbidden, but certain kinds of speech are prohibited, especially those calling for changing the existing constitutional structure by force; arousing religious differences, social class, ethnic differences; and disseminating war propaganda. The vagueness of the Press law left room for all kinds of defamation and libel suits by public figures. Famed right-wing, nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky alone was reported to have filed nearly one hundred lawsuits from l993 to l995.

A number of laws were designed to supplement the Law of Mass Media. The Statute on State Secrets, adopted by the parliament on July 2l, l993, defined a state secret as "information protected by the state in the area of defense, foreign policy, the economy, intelligence the dissemination of which can damage the security of the Russian Federation." Like similar U.S. laws and the British Official Secrets Act, it made disclosure of state secrets a crime.

The l994 Federal Statute on the Coverage of the Activities of State Agencies in the State Media was important because a large portion of the mass media in Russia belongs to the state bodies of different levels. The State Duma on January 20, l995, adopted the Federal Statute on Communications, which established the legal basis for activities in communications and confers upon organs of state power the authority to regulate such activities and determines the rights and obligations of entities involved in communications.

Article l5l of the Civil Code and Article 43 of the Statute on the Mass Media placed responsibility for proving the correctness of the information on the defendant (i.e., the journalists or editors of the outlet). This requirement created problems for publications and broadcasters, many of whom had to prove the accuracy of allegations in order to avoid liability.

The Federal Statute on the Economic Support of District (Municipal) Newspapers, adopted by the State Duma on November 24, l995, provided subsidies to the newspapers. Again, this law had enormous significance both because of the appalling economic conditions in Russia and because of the general belief that once the government begins to subsidize local papers, it has tremendous leverage over the editorial and news policies of local papers. In January, 2001, the parliament passed a new law which federalized this support and thus gave control (both financial and by implication editorial) directly to Moscow.

At the beginning of the 2000s, Russia still lacked a statute on television and radio broadcasting. The statute On the Mass Media did allow for the government to shut down or suspend a media outlet if the state believed it violated the law. According to this statute, the government must issue two written warnings within a given year, and then, if violations persist, it is obliged to go to court for an order to close the outlet. The l998 statute On Licensing of Certain Types of Activity provided for an annulment of a license to broadcast by a court decision without any warnings of the licensing body. The statute allowed the licensing body to suspend for up to six months a license if it believed that there were "violations of conditions of the license that could be harmful to the rights, lawful interests, morals and health of the citizens, as well as to the defense and security of the state."

On July 25, 2000, the Ministry of Communications issued a decree On the Order of Implementation of Technical Means of Providing the Operational-Investigative Measures on Telephone, Mobile and Wireless Communication Networks regulating the Implementation of the so-called System for Operational-Investigative Activity (SORM, by Russian acronym). The technical means enabled security services to collect information from security networks and allowed access to the contents of personal communications of any form including e-mail messages. Ironically, the decree obliged communications service providers to install at their own expense relevant equipment to assist security services in conducting investigations. This legislation understandably upset media groups, civil libertarians, and journalists.

Russian authorities and courts chose a flexible interpretation of these laws without the protections for which journalists had hoped. It must be said, however, that many of the media and especially broadcasters got their licenses originally by supporting the Yeltsin government, thus bending Russian media law in the first place.

There is no tradition of an independent judiciary in either Soviet Russian history or in the post-Soviet period. Nevertheless, Russia's Supreme Court in February, 2002, struck down an unpublished l996 military secrecy law that was used to convict of espionage and treason the journalist Grigory Pasko when he exposed to Japanese sources the Soviet-era navy mishandling of nuclear waste. The implication is of some independence for the Russian judiciary at least in the most blatant cases of injustice.


Censorship has a long and honorable tradition in both Russian and Soviet history. An early instance occurred when Alexander Radischev published his pioneering expose of social conditions and injustice in Russia, Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, in l790. Catherine the Great (1729-96), appalled by the excesses of the French Revolution, saw Radischev as a dangerous radical. She originally sentenced him to execution and later reduced the punishment to ten years in prison.

Alexander I (1801-25) favored a "progressive" censorship policy, and Russia passed its first modern censorship law in l804. But the administration of Nicholas I (l825-55) epitomized the harsh, stringent censorship policy of Old Russia. Pushkin got in trouble with Russian censors, as did Dostoyevsky and Turgenev. Ironically, Russian censors approved the writings of Karl Marx, feeling that they were "too boring to be dangerous."

Censorship policy and laws were modified under Alexander II (l855-8l), allowing the birth of Imperial Russia's popular press not long after it developed in the West and allowing Russian literature to enter its truly golden age. Censorship was almost entirely abolished with the reforms that followed the Revolution of l905.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks restored strict censorship after they seized power. The Decree of the Press of October 28 (November 10), l9l7, basically banned all anti-Communist publications. Lenin believed the press "must serve as an instrument of socialist construction." Originally censorship was to be abolished with the end of the civil war, but in l920 Lenin refused to annul the decree, claiming that unrestricted freedom would "help monarchists and anarchists" and weaken the fragile Bolshevik regime.

In l922, Glivat was set up, the Main Administration for Safeguarding State Secrets in the Press (Glavnoye Upravelenie po Okhrane Gosudarstvennykh Tayn v Pechati) under the Council of Ministers. Elaborate controls were established and Glavit functionaries were provided with a manual (affectionately called the Talmud by working censors) containing long, continually updated lists of prohibited materials. Failure on the part of the censor to detect publication of a state secret could lead to eight years in prison.

With Stalin's accession in l928, censorship clamped down even harder and socialist realism became the literary form of the day. Soviet writers tried to go unnoticed, and there was a great deal of "writing for the drawer," that is, putting manuscripts away in hopes of a future, more tolerant day. Soviet readers, especially the politically astute, developed high skill in translating the euphemistic language of the Soviet press. Though Soviet press censorship eased after the death of Stalin, it remained in place almost to the end of the regime. State security was a prime concern for the Soviets, and its constituent elements were broadly construed.

Boris Pasternak (l890-l960), arguably the greatest writer of Soviet Russia, was the most famous victim of its censors. His novel, Dr. Zhivago, was rejected by a leading Moscow monthly in l956 because it "libeled the October Revolution and socialist construction." The manuscript was smuggled out of Russia, printed by an Italian publisher and became a worldwide best-seller. Pasternak received the Nobel Prize for literature in l958, which he was forced to refuse for political reasons.

The Soviet Criminal Code had elaborate provisions to guard against undesirable materials and statements. Article 70 warned against "Propaganda and agitation, which defame the Soviet state and social system," Article 75 punished "Divulgence of State Secrets," and Article l30 punished "circulation of fabrications known to be false which defame another person." The fact that in all, the censorship office employed 70,000 people across the Soviet Union, gives some idea how much importance the Soviets attached to censorship.

Until l961, the Soviets practiced an overt policy of pre-publication and pre-broadcast censorship of foreign correspondents' reports. Everything had to be cleared through the foreign correspondents' censorship office or it was not transmitted out of Russia. After l96l, and on into the l980s, the Russians adopted a policy of self-censorship which allowed correspondents to send out almost anything they wished, but with the knowledge that if they stepped over the line, they would be deported immediately.

A key part of Mikhail Gorbachev's program was glasnost (openness). Like his mentor, KGB Chief Yuri Andropov, Gorbachev realized how much the nation was being hurt by its closed society mentality and the resulting hunger for information. Glasnost was essential for his even more fundamental plans for perestroika, the complete restructuring of the entire Soviet economy. Thus, with the passage of Gorbachev's Press Law of August, l990, Glavit and official censorship came formally to anend. The l993 Media Law expressly prohibited censorship and protected the right "to gather and distribute information." However, the law had enough nuance to allow politicians, bureaucrats, and media bosses to influence those who articulated the news.

Boris Yeltsin was at first a great champion of the free press and free media. He became bitter, however, about those who criticized his administration and later his conduct regarding the war in Chechnya. In September, l993, during his attempt to close down the Duma and the storming of the White House, censorship was reinstated. Based on the state of emergency that Yeltsin had declared, a presidential decree closed down the 10 most important opposition papers (mainly Communist).

President Vladimir Putin made known his dissatisfaction with press reporting of the war in Chechnya and other issues. He was embarrassed by the media when it showed him vacationing at a Black Sea resort while the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank in the Arctic Ocean with 118 crew aboard. After that, he became more media and public relations conscious. He urged the media people to use more self control in their reporting.

After coming to power in January 2000, Putin reined in Russia media and their freewheeling reporting styles. Under Putin, it was more difficult for the press to go into Chechnya than it was in the first war. Terrorist bombings against civilian apartments in Moscow and other places made the Russian public far less tolerant of the Chechens than they were in the first round of fighting.

In March of 2000, in his first annual address to members of the Russian Duma, President Putin warned, "Sometimes media turn into means of mass disinformation and a tool of struggle against the state." In September 2000, he signed the Doctrine of Information Security of the Russian Federation, which offers general language on protecting citizens' constitutional rights and civil liberties but also includes specific provisions that justify greater state intervention. For example, the doctrine gives much leeway to law enforcement authorities in carrying out SORM (System of Ensuring Investigative Activity) surveillance of telephone, cellular, and wireless communications.

The case of Vladimir Gusinsky illustrates the state suppression of the media. In April, 2000, government security officers raided the offices of Media MOST, the flagship media empire of Gusinsky whose spokesmen had been especially anti-state. Media MOST was deeply in debt to a number of other businesses, most of all GASPROM, the huge state-owned natural gas monopoly. At the same time Gusinsky was charged with embezzling funds in a privatization deal. Supposedly Gusinsky was secretly offered a deal by the state prosecutor: if he sold his shares of Media MOST to Gazprom, he would be set free. Gusinsky signed the deal. Claiming later that he signed under duress, Gusinsky subsequently went into exile in Madrid. Spain refused to honor an Interpol warrant for him issued in Russia on fraud charges. Later he moved to New York City.

In the meantime, litigation began to determine who should control the Media MOST empire. In early April, 2001, Gazprom finally won the litigation and soon appointed its own men to run NTV. Eventually, new managers took over the station. For a while NTV personnel fled to TV-6, controlled by Boris Berezovsky. But when TV-6 personnel refused to break off their connections with the exiled tycoon in London (or at least the Ministry of Press said they did not) government forces closed this station as well.

The Media MOST takeover sent a clear message across Russia that political power and the government controlled the media. A large proportion of Russians admitted that they favored tightening government controls and expanding government authority in every sphere. After years of almost unlimited freedom, many Russians seemed eager for a return to authoritarian controls and benefits.

As an illustration of this trend, the Glasnost Defense Foundation estimated that government agencies brought several hundred lawsuits and other legal action against journalists and journalistic organizations during 2001, the majority of them in response to unfavorable coverage of government policy or operations. During the year, judges rarely found for the journalists; in the majority of cases, the government succeeded in either intimidating or punishing the journalist.

Rulings upholding libel and other lawsuits against journalists served to reinforce the already significant tendency towards self-censorship. Many entry-level journalists in particular practiced self-censorship. For example, in April, 2001, Yuriy Vdovin, a prominent St. Petersburg-based media freedom activist, stated at a Moscow conference: "young journalists are particularly vulnerable to self-censorship, because they are less protected from mis-treatment by authorities. If a young reporter loses his job for political reasons, his chances of finding a new one are much lower than those of his older, more established colleagues. It is also more difficult for a young, unknown journalist to rally public attention and support." On February 27, 2002, the editor of Russia's most influential radio station, Echo Moskvy, announced that he and dozens of other journalists were quitting rather than work for a news outlet that was becoming a voice of the state.

State-Press Relations

Russian state-press relations almost came full circle in the last two decades of the twentieth century. In the l980s, the press and other media were under the tight control of the Communist Party. Control and supervisions were exercised by two departments: the International Information Department (IID) and the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party Central Committee. Most Soviet media, especially high profile newspapers, such as and Izvestia, were understood to be more than mouthpieces for the Communist Party and the Soviet state. The electronic media were administered by the State Committee for Television and Radio and also under the Council of Ministers.

In the absence of an independent press, dissidents at great personal risk often put out or contributed to privately circulated samizdat publications. Beginning in the late l970s more and more dissidents achieved recognition. Inthe l980s, they began to gain more respect and enjoy some tolerance. At the same time, some younger establishment journalists began to show more independence. Both elements played a major role in helping discredit and undermine the Communist Party and the Soviet state. While Gorbachev at first favored an independent press, as time went on he felt more and more it was irresponsible, mainly being used by anti-Soviet forces to embarrass the system and question its legitimacy. Far too late, he began to support those conservatives in the regime, who wanted to rein in independent journalists.

The years l988-92 were seen as something of a "breakthrough period" for the independent Russian press. Scandals were exposed; the dictatorship was undermined. The attempted putsch of August, l99l, was poorly planned and miserably executed. The independent press and the apathetic military played decisive roles in dooming the attempted revolution. At the same time, the television image of Boris Yeltsin standing on a tank, appealing to the Russian people to oppose the coup doomed the Soviet state and made Yeltsin an icon.

For the next two years the press and other media in Russia saw themselves as the country's saviors and decisive instrumentalities of democracy. The economic crisis and collapse reduced support for newspapers and other media. Resentment began to build between the Yeltsin administration and the Russia press over the reporting of corruption and the Chechnyan War. Still overwhelming media support went to Yeltin in the l996 elections, partly because of financial self-interest by various tycoons and media bosses and partly because the media feared a Communist victory would mean a return to censorship and retribution. The media, especially television, played a decisive role in re-electing Yeltsin, against overwhelming odds and economic problems.

But soon after the Yeltsin victory, increasing bitterness broke out between the state and the press and electronic media. Part of it was undoubtedly the inevitable disappointment and quarrels over the sharing of the election spoils. As soon as Yeltsin was re-elected, he began to shed some of his old media supporters. A series of media wars broke out between Boris Berenovsky and Gusinski and between both of them and some of the closest assistants to Yeltsin over claims that promised pay offsPravda and appointments were not being made. Many of the media empires and independent magazines and television stations began to fold. Several of the media lords and business leaders who lost their shields of Kremlin protection, wisely began to leave Russia.

The appointment of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, former head of the Federal Security Service (formerly KGB) on New Year's Eve Day, 1999, accelerated the deterioration of state-press relations. Putin was clearly upset by the liberalism and irresponsibility (and in his mind, anti-patriotism) of the press and wanted to curb its excesses.

As of 2001, the government owned nearly one-fifth of the l2,000 registered newspapers and periodicals in the country and exerted significant influence over state-owned publications. The government owned 300 of the 800 television stations in the nation and indirectly influenced private media companies through partial state ownership of the gas monopoly Gazprom and the oil company Lukoil, which in turn owned large shares of media companies. The State owned two of the three national television stations (somewhat akin to networks in the West) outright, Russian Television and Radio (RTR) and a majority of Russian Public Television (ORT). It also maintained ownership or control of the major radio stations Radio Mayak and Radio Rossii and news agencies ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti. The Government owned a 38 percent controlling stake of Gazprom, which in turn had a controlling ownership stake in the privately owned NTV. In April, 2001, Gazprom formally took over NTV because of unpaid debts.

At the regional and local levels, local governments operated or controlled a much higher percentage of the media than in Moscow; in many cities and towns across the country, government-run media organizations were the only major source of news and information. As a result in many media markets, citizens received information mainly from unchallenged government sources. In January 2001, Putin signed a law transferring control of government subsidies for regional newspapers from local politicians to the Press Ministry in Moscow. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists claimed law affects 2,000 subsidized newspapers across Russia and would further centralize Moscow's control. The committee further stated that this control was especially true in the provinces where papers and broadcast media depended on local administrations for everything from floor space to computers.

In April 2001, the majority stockholder won a suit to close down the heavily indebted Segodnya (Today) newspaper, the flagship of the Gusinsky media empire. At the same time, the majority owner replaced the entire management and reporting staff of Itogi (Total) magazine, which had been owned by Gusinsky and which for several years had had a relationship with Newsweek. In May 2001, procurators raided the offices of the radio station, Ekho Moskvy, the only profitable Media-Most property and the most popular and independent station in Russia. They were supposedly searching for incriminating financial documents. The action frightened away advertisers for a while, which may have been the intention, but Echo Moskvy continued to operate independently for several months. But on February 27, 2002, the editor of the station announced that he was quitting rather than work for a news outlet that was becoming simply another voice of the state.

Increasingly, the press and electronic media were seen as mouthpieces for the Putin regime and the more independent press was seen as withering under the pressure of the state. Nonetheless, the situation was still far freer than in Soviet days, but state-press relations had returned almost completely to the conditions of two decades earlier.

Attitudes toward Foreign Media

In the Soviet period, most Russians' attitudes towards the foreign press were a mixture of curiosity, suspicion, and fascination. As time went on, Soviet Russia opened, and more and more foreign press was allowed in, including Western cameramen. By the late l980s, after the Helsinki Accords, the Western media were almost revered and imports, especially electronic equipment (usu-ally made in Japan) were automatically seen as inherently superior to Russian products. Even before Gorbachev's glasnost campaign, Soviet television began to adopt Western style news formats. Gradually the jargon of the Stalin/Brezhnev era was dropped and many Western terms began to creep into the media vocabulary, especially terms such as skandal.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union came a flood of Western products, Western newsmen and Western programs to Russian television and movies. Tourism and foreign media coverage skyrocketed in post-Soviet Russia. Tourist numbers grew from about 5 million in the early l990s to 21 million by 2000. In 2002, the Russian people were far more used to tourists and foreign media than they were just a few years before.

In the Soviet period, foreign news and the international situation seemed to be the primary focus for most Russian readers and television viewers. This focus was the result of deliberate Soviet policy, confrontation with the West, and a little sense of the forbidden fruit of the unknown West.

When Western programs and information began to flow into Russia they were well received. For a while Russians were wildly enthusiastic about the cornucopia of foreign programs and films that flooded the Russian media, especially foreign programs on Russian television. In late l993, the top 10 programs in Russia included Santa Barbara, Field of Miracles, and a Mexican soapopera, Just Maria. Later, enormously popular Mexican soap operas included The Rich Also Cry and Wild Rose were added to the list. Within a week after the movie opened in New York City, one could buy reasonably good tape copies of Titanic for seven U.S. dollars on the streets of Moscow. Almost every Western movie was pirated and dubbed within a few days in Moscow. Russia did pass the l993 Copyright Statute to respond to foreign claims of piracy but seemed to do little to enforce it. In any case, Russian viewers soon got used to these novelties, and as Russian television began to create its own soap operas, focusing on Russian problems, attention switched to them.

While foreign correspondents were tolerated, sometimes even respected, the Russians are amazed and bothered that so many foreign correspondents were assigned to Russia who did not speak Russian and who seemed to have not the slightest appreciation of Russian history or Russian culture. Russians also were amazed by how brief foreign visits tended to be and then to see these journalists on television broadcast from the West, claiming to be experts. Russians suspect Westerners who seem satisfied with brief interviews. They are also troubled by the seemingly superficiality and artificial friendliness of many Westerners, especially Americans. Russians tend to be far distant and slower to open to others and more committed in their relationships than foreigners seem to be with them.

After the Cold War ended, generally foreign correspondents were well treated and well respected, providing they played by Russian rules. They were forced to get special permits to visit certain areas of Russia, most of all in Chechnya; there the Russian military often suspected them of biased reporting and did not make getting permits easy. If correspondents leave, and they have been too critical of the situation in Russia, they may find it very difficult to return. But the Russian are loathe to carry this policy too far. They are anxious to have Russian correspondents accredited overseas, and journalists and their accreditation are often based on a system of quid pro quo.

In April 2002, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced it would start broadcasting to the North Caucasus region in Chechen, Avar, and Circassian. Russian officials warned that they would monitor the broadcasts and might take away its license if they showed a pro-Chechen bias. One Russian official warned that "members of radical Chechen groups" might use the radio service to encourage extremism.

New Agencies

The old Soviet Union had two news agencies. Telegrafnoyue Agentstvo Sovietskovo Soyuza: Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) and Agenstvo Pechati Novosti (APN, the News Press Agency). For all practical purposes TASS was the official press agency of the Soviet Union. It was created in l925 and eventually developed into one of the largest international wire services in the world. It had news bureaus and correspondents across the Soviet Union and in over l00 countries around the world. While it was very extensive, it suffered from serious handicaps, as its news was heavily dependent on Moscow's interpretation of events, and often this dependency involved bitter arguments among editors and even inside the Central Committee of the Communist Party. As a result Soviet news often lagged behind that of Western sources and agencies.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in l99l, TASS was reorganized into two branches: the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia or ITAR, reporting on news inside Russia itself; and the Telegraph Agency of the countries of the Commonwealth or TASS, reporting on news of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In addition, there were a number of newly created agencies including Federal News Service (FNS), Inter-fax, Post factum, and the Russian Information Agency-Vest, which collaborates with foreign press, and publishing organizations in 110 countries around the world. Interestingly while ITAR-TASS maintained a vast international network, almost all foreign news and reporting came from Western sources and networks. Over a 30-day period between December, l992 and January, l993, of l98 foreign news items, only 48 were written by Russian correspondents and l50 were translations from Reuters, Associated Press, or France Presse.

For foreign correspondents in the Soviet era, Moscow was one of the most frustrating assignments in the world. Conditions were harsh and the weather, especially in the winter, could be bleak. Censorship was frequent and often heavy-handed and the city itself was hard to live in with little outside enjoyment. There was always a real danger that foreign correspondents could run afoul of KGB machinations or worse, would compromise their news sources.

As of 2002, however, Moscow was often considered one of the "plums" for foreign correspondents. It was a far more livable and exciting city than it used to be, though winters could still be a challenge. There was certainly far more food, housing, and entertainment than ever before, and there was far more contact with other foreigners and with the Russian citizenry. As of May 2002, there was almost no censorship of any kind on foreign correspondents or on foreign news bureaus. Over 40 foreign news bureaus maintain offices in Moscow, from Agence France Press (AFP) to China's Xinhua (New China) and Korea's Yonhop agencies.

Broadcast Media

Lenin was one of the great readers of history but he was also one of the first world leaders to recognize the immense potential of radio and film for communication and propaganda. Years of exile in Siberia made him painfully aware of the enormous distances of Russia. In l922 he wrote to Stalin about the possibility of using radio to transmit propaganda over thousands of miles. In l925 the first short-wave station in the world began broadcasting from Moscow's Sokolniki Park.

At the same time ever-greater resources were put into motion pictures, both for home consumption and for foreign export and propaganda. Sergei Eisenstein's films, Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (l925) and October or Ten Days that Shook the World (l928), all showed the artistic and polemical power of the new medium in general and Soviet film in particular.

Radio dominated the early Soviet period. Almost all factories, collective farms, and eventually apartments and homes had basic Soviet-made receivers with selectively set tuning so they could only receive prescribed Soviet stations. Over these receivers in June, l94l, a broadcast announced Nazi Germany's invasion of Russia. Subsequently, it was Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, not Stalin, who went on the radio to reassure the Soviet peoples. In March, l953, Radio Moscow announced the death of Stalin.

Foreign radio broadcasts played an important role in Russian listening habits, even though most Soviet era radios were made only to receive domestic broadcasts. "Enemy voices" (vrazhskie golosa) gave Russian listeners not only far more understanding of what was going on outside Soviet Russia but often inside as well. One survey carried out between l977 and l980 indicated that perhaps as many as one-third of the Soviet adult population "was exposed to Western radio broadcasts in the course of a year, and about one fifth in the course of a typical week."

During the August, l99l coup attempt, when the Communist hard-line Emergency Committee attempted to take control of the press, television and radio, people turned to foreign radio stations for news. Many were surprised to hear that President Gorbachev himself listened to enemy voices when he was in custody in the Crimea.

He confided the following in his book, The August Coup :

The best reception was from the BBC and Radio Liberty. Later we managed to pick up Voice of America. My son-in-law Anatoli managed to listen to a Western station on his pocket Sony. We started to collect and analyze the way the situation was developing.

Television was first developed in the United States in l928. The Nazis actually broadcast part of the l936 Olympic games over television to the rest of Europe. Experimental television transmission in Soviet Russia began in the l930s. By l950 there were 10,000 television sets in all of the Soviet Union; by l960, there were almost 5 million. (The comparable American figures were 700,000 sets in l948; 50 million sets in l960.)

In l960 one of the world's largest television towers in Moscow's Ostankino neighborhood went into operation. At the same time television production and accessibility were dramatically increased in the l960s. By l988 there were 8,828 television broadcasting stations in the Soviet Union, covering virtually the entire country. There were 90 million television sets in the USSR.

Television had enormous influence on contemporary Russia for three reasons: 1) the enormous distances of Russia made it the only effective communications medium; 2) with the implosion of the Russian economy in the l990s and the decline of printed media, television broadcasts were largely a free commodity and free entertainment, hence supremely important to Russian consumers; and 3) while Russians in general were much more a reading public than Americans, working class Russians remained overwhelmingly dependent on broadcast media and especially television for their news.

These patterns were clear even in the Soviet period; hence they brought tremendous emphasis on television production and programming. In spite of the importance the Soviets put on the medium, most Communist programming (like the press) was largely wooden, stilted, and two-dimensional. One of the few exceptions was the evening Nine O'clock News program which even in the Soviet period was professionally done and received enormous attention. It became one of the hallmarks of the Soviet television industry and something of an icon for television watchers across the land who habitually gathered around the television set at night.

Gorbachev was clearly the first television secretary-general, just as Kennedy had been the United States's first television president. Undeniably, under Gorbachev, Soviet television programming vastly improved. In l986 and l987, glasnost allowed more liberal and more progressive shows on Soviet television: Give Me the Floor, The World and Youth, Cast of CharactersTwelfth Floor,and above all, Vzglyad (Glance or View) which was something of a Russian version of CBS's Sixty Minutes, and which specialized in the same kind of exposes, became overwhelmingly popular television shows.

In May l989, for the first time in history, the entire Congress of People's Deputies was broadcast live on Russian television so unlike the previously carefully edited wooden shots and sound bites. An enormous number of Soviet citizens watched these broadcasts with rapt attention, perhaps 75 percent a far greater number and percentage than their U.S. counterparts who normally see their national political conventions as unappreciated interference with regular programming.

Under Gorbachev and then Yeltsin, Russian television came of age. Many television broadcasters, especially for news programs, became national personalities in their own right. A flood of new programs and "independent" stations came on the air, of widely varying quality, and there were a host of foreign programs that began to fill Russian airtime. Russians newscasters were far more inclined than their Western counterparts to give their personal views and their own personal interpretation on the news they were reporting. Many of the newscasters became celebrated personalities in Russia, which helped some of them launch political careers.

On September 2l, l993, President Yeltsin issued Decree No. l400 and suspended the Congress of People's Deputies and ordered new elections. Parliament in the White House ordered Yeltin removed from office. Their supporters then tried to seize the national broadcasting center and tower at Ostankino and ultimately failed. Eventually pro-Yeltsin military forces attacked and seized the White House. The critical factor here is that both sides recognized the decisive importance of television in modern Russian politics.

Over 700 private television stations emerged in Russia after l992. As of 2002, there were 800 television stations in all of Russia, including 300 owned partly or completely by the state and 500 private stations. At the end of l993, there were only two channels with national audiences, Channel One (Ostankino) and Channel Two (Russian Television), both owned and managed by the Russian state.

The Yeltsin government decided to allow the de facto privatization of Channel One in l995. The state retained control of 5l percent of its shares while a consortium of banks and industrial groups held the remaining 49 percent. The largest single private shareholder was Boris Berezovsky, a tycoon with Kremlin connections and the head of Logovaz, a conglomerate based on a car dealership. By the end of Yeltsin's second term, Berezovsky's media empire included control over television channels ORT (Channel One) and TV-6, newspapers Nezavisimaya, Novye Izvestya, and Kommersant, as well as a number of weekly magazines.

Vladimir Gusinksy started off as a theater director in the old Soviet days, who always had an interest in the media. He came to power through his connections with Boris Yeltsin but from the first he sought to build a vast media empire. He got control of NTV (Russian Public Television) in October, l993, and since it did not have a license to broadcast on a major national channel, Gusinsky avoided the license requirement by getting a presidential decree to broadcast. NTV was an overnight success. It played Western movies and sports and had the most professional and most reliable news coverage, both of events in Russia and the war in Chechnya. Gusinsky clearly supported Yeltsin in the l996 presidential elections, as were all private and state-owned television stations and virtually all printed media.

Many believed that without the media support, especially television, Yeltsin would have been defeated in the l996 elections by Zhuganov and the Communists. As apay off to Gusinsky, the government announced that NTV would be able to pay the same low program transmission rates that official government stations paid. Most other private, independent stations were outraged.

Even before the l996 election, Yeltsin had invaded the independence-seeking republic of Chechnya. The operation was a disaster. For the first time free and independent television, most of all National Television, actually got into Chechnya ahead of Russian armed forces and was able to expose the lies of official Russian reporting.

Independent Russian reporting in the first Chechnyan War had an effect in Russia similar to the U.S. reporting on the Vietnam War had in the States. The graphic pictures of human suffering on both sides largely cost Russia the war in the Russian hearts and minds at home back in the Russian homeland. More and more Russians asked why their husbands and sons were fighting in Chechnya and if it was worth the price. The shaky alliance supporting Yeltsin soon came apart, especially after the blatant jockeying for power and the Berezovsky-Gusinsky alliance lost out in bidding for another media group headed by Kremlin insider Panin and supported financially by billionaire George Soros.

With the appointment of Putin as president on December 3l, 1999, a series of furious battles broke out to control independent private stations. One after another, former Yeltsin cronies fled Russia for the West, and the remnants of their economic and media empires were either foreclosed or taken over by new government-controlled or government-sympathetic media forces.

Practically all Russians received two national channels: ORT (Obshchestvennoe Rossikoe Televidenie, Public Russian Television) available to 98 percent of the whole population, and RTR (Rossiiskoe Televidenie) Russian Television) received by 95 percent of the population. In December, l999, the most popular networks included the following: ORT, NTV, RTR, and TV. Flashy Western television shows long since lost their appeal with most Russians in favor of new and traditional Russian television programs. Reality shows were popular in Russia, though they could be a bit rougher than in the West. Nostalgia Television made a major comeback. Just as many Americans enjoyed old classic television including Lawrence Welk, I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, many Russians enjoyed some of the old Soviet era movies and old Soviet television programs. They were often well written and well produced, and they clearly reminded many Russians of a more secure and more serene period in the past. As of 2002, some 94 percent of all Russians watch television every day. The average time spent watching television is extremely high, about 3 to 3.5 hours per day, about 30 percent more time than is spent by western Europeans watching television.

Because broadcast media in contemporary Russia determined so much, the state wanted to control who gets on the air and who gets to broadcast. While it did not formally censor the airwaves, it recognized that access to and control of the media were all-important. Much of the battle over NTV and then TV-6 was largely over the control of the airwaves.

The easiest way for the state to control these was to control the issuance of radio and television licenses, which allow sources to broadcast at given wavelengths. In the United States and in most of the West, this action was largely a bidding process where money was the key determinant. In Russia while licensing was also supposed to be a bidding process, in practice it was largely tied to connections within the administration. Much attention was given to the awarding of a license to a television station under the headline "Nonstate TV Wins License to Broadcast." But a closer examination of the facts showed clearly that the independent forces wielded one vote in the channel's management while the public and political figures (largely pro-Kremlin) wielded five. Again, the key to media broadcasting is control of the licensing procedure and here the Russian state was again in full command.

Electronic News Media

More than any other country in the world, the Russian Federation is the ideal situs for Internet communications. The huge distances, spanning eleven time zones, the lack of written resources, the difficulty of traditional communications, all make the electronic medium an ideal communications form.

The Internet does serve three functions in contemporary Russia. First, it gives access to world-wide sources of information, quite apart from available local and national sources, many of which are tightly controlled. Next, it acts as a market place for locally produced goods and services open to a national and sometimes international market. Finally, it serves as information source for the all of Russia's Diaspora peoples, Jews, Armenians, Georgians, Chechens and many others, to find out what is going on back in their homelands when most local (and Russian) sources are almost totally silent about them.

For a while the Ru-net (the Russian language sector of the Internet) seemed to guarantee free speech and the free market place of ideas. In the early and mid-1990's, the number of Russian Internet users doubled each year. But even by the year 2001, the total numbers of Internet users was under 10 million.

As of 2002, Russia again found itself at a distinct disadvantage in terms of media and information resources. The two most essential elements in the Internet system are personal computers and phone or cable connections to hook them up to each other and the Internet. There is a critical lack of personal computers in Russia (about 32 per l, 000 population as compared to about 450 per l, 000 in the United States), and there is also a chronic shortage of telephone lines (in l997 there were 644 telephone lines per l, 000 people in the United States; l83 lines available per l, 000 in Russia). Cable, outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, was all but unknown. In May and June 2001, a poll conducted among adults in Russia by the Institute for Comparative Social Research reported that 7 percent of adults have access to the Internet. Predictably, Moscow and St. Petersburg have the highest number of users.

Education & Training

There is no question that in the early years of the Soviet press, party loyalty and ideological commitment meant far more than preparation or journalistic ability. This correspondence began to change in the l950s when a number of major Soviet universities created professional faculties of journalism, with regular five and six-year programs (usually night school for six years) leading to a degree in journalism. The journalism program at Moscow State University was clearly Soviet Russia's flag-ship, but there were a number of other excellent departments in Leningrad (later St. Petersburg), Kiev, Tashkent, and Vladivostok. The quality of the young men and women attracted to journalism tended to be high, partly because it gave visibility to individuals who did well and partly because, especially in the early years, journalism was one of the few professions which allowed legitimate exits out of the Soviet Union and a chance to see the magic world of the West.

Later, programs were set up in television and radio broadcasting as well as journalism departments, which focused on specialized training for radio and television specialists. Admittedly, Soviet technology, especially in television and videotaping, was clearly behind that of the West. On the other hand, Soviet journalists were usually far better prepared in foreign languages and knowledge of the culture and history of countries to which they were assigned. Usually they were far ahead of Western journalists in these areas who were reporting from Russia.

The USSR Union of Journalists (Soyuz Zhurnalistov SSSR), organized in the late l950s, totaled about 65,000 in l980 and was open for at least three years to journalists and media people who "displayed high professional skill". More accomplished journalists or those who had published books became members of the USSR Union of Writers, which put a strong emphasis on party support and ideological purity. With the Press Law of l990, and with the subsequent decline of official journalism, the Union largely disappeared and was replaced by a number of informal, independent unions.

The crown jewel of achievement for Soviet-era writers and artists was a state dacha at Peredelkino, the art colony about 25 kilometers west of Moscow. Pasternak and the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko held two such dachas among many others. They were simple but comfortable. After the Soviet collapse, new era capitalists moved into the community and bought up old dachas and lots and turned them into mansions, to the fury of the old residents.

The collapse of the Soviet Union transformed Russia's education system and caused a general exodus from Russia's academic and journalism professions. These trained professionals were drawn to lucrative jobs in business and technology. Employment with and connections to foreign corporations were especially valued. Some schools in Russia offered courses computer hacking. In a second exodus, people left Russia for the United States, Western Europe, and to Israel. Professionals were attracted to the better salaries, living conditions, and research facilities. Some of the most famous of Russia's journalists and media people have joined the most recent Russian Diaspora.

Back in Russia, local journalists needed no special training, preparation, or credentials of any kind. Access to Russian media required financial resources and connections, the necessary factors for individuals who sought positions in journalism. The quality of journalism there was, therefore, very uneven at best.

The Putin years initiated a turn around in the Russian economy and at least the beginnings of some improvement in Russia's much troubled education system. By some calculations, Russia was expected to spend more money on education in 2002 than it would on defense, an almost unprecedented feat for any major power. Still, many believed Russian education and Russian journalists' training had a long way to go to return to their previous Soviet caliber and still further to go to catch up with Western standards.


The media and especially the press have played decisive roles in every major Russian social and political change in the twentieth century. They helped bring down the Czarist government in March, l9l7, and the Kerensky regime in the following November. They were essential in supporting the Soviet state in the 74 years of its existence. As the Soviet state began to break down, the independent press and other media began to play a decisive role in undermining that regime. In the end, they helped sound the death knell that brought down the Communist regime in December, l99l.

For a few years the press and other media enjoyed uncensored, unrestrained (and some might add, unprecedented) freedom in post-Soviet Russia. But it was short-lived. Just as they had in l9l7, economic problems in l99l first undercut Russian popular faith in the government, then in Russia's version of capitalism and finally in the entire democratic process. At the same time, economic problems and vulnerability weakened both the free press and undercut its own credibility. Like so many of the Russian people, the press has had to go "hat in hand," asking for economic support and help. And like so many of the Russian people, they had to pay a very high price for that help and support. Some may question if as of 2002 there really was a genuinely free and independent press in Russia. Certainly, economic realities had done far more to curb and weaken the independent press than any kind of overt government censorship and repression.

Contrary to George Kennan's article and thesis of l947, the Soviet Union was able to deal with containment,confrontation, and crisis. Indeed the country thrived on them. What Communism (and dictatorships in general) could not deal with was normality and prosperity, especially prosperity in other countries when the Russian people knew about that prosperity.

In the long run, perhaps the greatest hope for Russia's press may be prolonged periods of stability and prosperity. Once Russian consumers and enterprises can seize the commanding heights of Russia's economy, they may be able to create independent economic and financial bases, and these in turn may give the press and media political and editorial independence.

It was the belief of nineteenth-century Slavophils that Russia's mission was to suffer for the rest of Europe and all of mankind. In the twentieth century no nation suffered more in both peace and war than did Russia. Perhaps with a period of stability without the threat of foreign wars and invasions, Russia may finally begin to turn to its own needs and its own problems.

The maintenance of a free media is the keys to democracy in Russia. The question is how to maintain a free press. In 1900, many Russian writers and journalists believed the key to the situation was in cutting loose from government support and control. In the early 2000s, the question was how would the Russia media support themselves without government finances and interference.

Significant Dates

  • December 25, l99l: Dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ends the 74 year-long Communist dictatorship. Boris Yeltsin becomes president of the New Russian Federation.
  • December 27, l991: The Statute on Mass Media is adopted by legislation of the Russian Federation. It goes into effect on February 8, l992.
  • September 2l, l993: Yeltsin suspends Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet for their opposition to his reform measures. He also suspends opposition (mainly Communist) newspapers and periodicals. He calls in army tanks to bombard the Parliament building, forcing surrender of rebels, October 4.
  • December l2, l993: New Russian Constitution formally recognizes freedom of the press and prohibits censorship.
  • 1994-96: First Chechnyan War. NTV (Media Most empire led by Vladimir Gusinsky) makes it a point to try to show Chechnyan side of war, angering Russians and Boris Yeltsin.
  • l996: Overwhelming media support for Boris Yeltsin in second presidential campaign.
  • January, l996: NTV supports Yeltsin. Communications Ministry allows NTV to pay same rates for transmission services as state-owned television stations infuriating other private radio and television channels.
  • July 3, l996: Boris Yeltsin wins a second presidential election by a narrow margin over the Communists in spite of severe economic problems.
  • 1997-98: Information Wars occur between various business factions.
  • July, l997: Bidding for privatization for a stake in telecommunications company Svyazinvest. Media tycoons Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky lose out in their bid for a stake. Kremlin insider Vladimir Putin wins. Both blame Anatoly Chubais, their former ally and the man responsible for engineering privatization of the Russian economy.
  • August, l998: Financial meltdown. Collapse of the ruble. Advertising market collapses. Politically connected media giants such as ORT and NTV continue to get state loans. Other media organizations, especially smaller regional ones, simply disappear or are absorbed by official media structures.
  • August, l999: Vladimir Putin, former head of Federal Security Bureau and political unknown is appointed prime minister of Russia. Presidential campaign for 2000 election begins. After much speculation, Boris Yeltsin chooses Vladimir Putin as his heir. Gusinsky refuses to support Putin and comes out in favor of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov.
  • Fall, l999: New military campaign begins in Chechyna with more popular support because of terrorist bombings in Moscow and also much tighter control of media coverage.
  • December 3l, l999: Boris Yeltsin resigns as president of the Russian Federation; appoints Vladimir Putin, a comparative political unknown, as his successor. Kremlin officials make it clear that journalists opposing official Russian position on Chechnyan War will be considered enemies of the state and traitors.
  • Spring, 2000: Sergei Ivanov, secretary of Russia's Security Council, states that Russia's journalists should show patriotism, and "take part in the information war against Chechen terrorists."
  • March 26, 2000: Vladimir Putin wins decisive victory in presidential election with 52.9 percent of all votes cast. Communist Zyuganov wins 29.2 percent.
  • April, 2000: Criminal investigators and tax police raid Media Most offices. They allege tax dodging and "financial irregularities." Media Most officials say it is because of their independent and sympathetic reporting on Chechnya.
  • April, 2001: NTV is soon taken over by Gazprom officials who terminate former staff and bring in more sympathetic (to Putin regime) staff and reporters.
  • November 26, 2001: A Moscow court orders the dissolution of TV-6, the country's last major independent television station. The station, owned by self-exiled mogul Boris Berzovsky, employs journalists who left television station NTV when state gas company and creditor, Gazprom took control.
  • January 2l, 2002: Media Minister Mikhail Lesin takes TV-6, the country's largest independent television station, off the air after its journalists renege on an agreement to cut ties with station owner Berezovsky. Lesin says TV-6 journalists can stay on the air if they ignore direction from Berezovsky who flees to Spain to avoid fraud charges. Of the country's four major networks, TV-6 provides the most critical reporting about President Putin and the Chechen War.
  • April 2, 2002: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announces the beginning of broadcasts to Chechnya. Russian officials voice concerns and issue warnings.


Baker, Peter. "Blacked Out: A Firsthand Look at the Demise of Russia's Only Independent Television Network," American Journalism Review (June 2001): 50-55.

Baker, Peter, and Susan B. Glasser. "Station Break," New Republic, vol. 224, Issue l7 (23 April 2001): l6.

Blaustein, Albert, and Gisbert H. Flamz. "The Russian Constitution of December, l993,"

Comparative Constitutions of the World, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, l994.

Collings, Anthony. Words of Fire: Independent Journalists Who Challenge Dictatorships, Druglords and OtherEnemies of a Free Press. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Ellis, Frank. From Glasnost to Internet: Russia's New Infosphere. New York: St. Martin's Press, l999.

Europe Worldbook, vol II, London: Europa Publications, Ltd., l999, 2001.

Fossato, Floriana. "The Russia Media: From Popularity to Distrust," Current History, vol. 100, no. 648 (October,2001): 343-48.

Gambrey, Jamey. "Moscow: The Front Page," New York Review of Books (8 October l992): 56-62.

Gevorkyan, Natalya, Natalya Timakova, and Andrei Kolesnikov. First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President Vladimir Putin. London: Hutchison & Random House Group, 2000.

Gorbachev, Mikhail. The August Coup. London: Harper-Collins, 1991.

Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition. New York: Macmillan, l973. Articles on "Press," "Publishing," and "Censorship".

Hoffman, David E. The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.

Khrushchev, Nikita. Khrushchev Remembers. Edited by Eduard Crankshaw. Boston: Little, Brown, l970.

Lipman, Masha. "Russia's Free Press Withers Away," New York Review of Books, vol. 48, no. 9 (31 May 2001): 4.

Lovell, Stephen. The Russian Reading Revolution: Print Culture in the Soviet and Post Soviet Eras. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

McReynolds, Louise. The News Under Russia's Old Regime: The Development of a Mass Circulation Press. Princeton: Princeton University Press, l991.

Mickiewicz, Ellen. Changing Channels: Television and the Struggle for Power in Russia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, l999.

Murray, John. The Russia Press from Brezhnev to Yeltsin: Behind the Paper Curtain. Aldershot: Edward Elgar, l994.

. "Nonstate TV Wins License to Broadcast," New York Times, (28 March 2002): A7.

Nordenstreung, Kaarle, Elena Vertanova, and Yasson Zassoursky, editors. Russia Media Challenge. Helsinki: Kikimora Publications, 2001.

Ricchiarti, Sherry. "Out of the Past: Russia's Crackdown on the Media is an Unhappy Echo of the Iron Curtain Era." American Journalism Review (May, 2001): 42-49.

. "Russian High Court Strikes Down Military Secrecy Order," New York Times, 13 February 2002, A13.

Ruud, Charles A. Fighting Words: Imperial Censorship and the Russian Press, l804-l906. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, l982.

Shane, Scott. Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union. Chicago: Ivan R. Day, l994.

Tavernise, Sabria. "Russia Imposes Flat Tax on Income and Its Coffers Swell," New York Times March 23, A3.

United States Department of State. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2001 Russia," Released by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002.

Wines, Michael. "A Film Clip and Charges of a Kremlin Plot," New York Times, 6 March 2002.

Winters, Paul, ed. The Collapse of the Soviet Union. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999.

Zassoursky, Y. and E. Vartenova. Changing Media and Communication. Moscow: Faculty of Journalism/ICAR, 1998.

Philip D. Supina

Russian Federation

views updated May 17 2018

Russian Federation

Type of Government

The government of Russia operates under a super-presidential system that grants broad powers to the elected head of state, the president. The president appoints and shares executive powers with the prime minister, who is the head of the government. The legislative branch includes a bicameral assembly, the upper chamber of which comprises a Federation Council made up of representatives from geographical areas. The lower house, the State Duma, holds the authority to confirm the appointment of the prime minister in addition to its legislative functions. Following more than sixty years of Communist rule during the twentieth century, democracy brought stunning changes to Russia in the 1990s, but perhaps none so surprising as a return to an autocratic style of leadership under President Vladimir Putin (1952–), who has taken full advantage of the authorities granted him by the constitution.


Stretching across 6.6 million square miles and eleven time zones, Russia is the world’s largest country in area, and ranked sixth in population with 142 million people. Just over 80 percent of its citizens identify themselves as ethnic Russians, with the remaining 20 percent consisting of minorities from the former Soviet republics. Its origins as a state date back to the ninth-century founding of Kievan Rus in nearby Ukraine, the first unified entity of the Eastern Slavic tribes. By the 1400s the center of power had shifted from the city of Kiev to the more heavily fortified settlement in Moscow. Rulers there began using the title of “czar,” the Russian-language variant of “caesar,” and carried out an ambitious expansion program that established autocratic rule across a vast empire stretching from Europe to the Pacific Ocean.

St. Petersburg, built by Czar Peter the Great (1672–1725), was the opulent capital of imperial Russia after 1712, and it was there that the Romanov dynasty was overthrown in 1917 during World War I. A seizure of power by Communist hardliners known as the Bolsheviks followed later that year, and the new government re-established Moscow as the capital. The terms “Russia,” “Soviet Union,” and “USSR” (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) have often been used interchangeably, but technically Russia (as the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, or RSFSR), was only the largest of the constituent Soviet republics during the Soviet period. It was also the most powerful, and the Communist Russian elite who ruled it and the rest of the Union enjoyed privileged status. The control maintained by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) began to wane with the introduction of reforms by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–) after 1985, and the first multiparty elections since 1917 were held in March 1990. Three months later, the RSFSR’s new parliament, the Congress of People’s Deputies, issued a declaration of sovereignty. A year later, in June 1991, the first presidential elections in the RSFSR took place, and an outspoken, reform-minded former Communist official named Boris Yeltsin (1931–2007) won the office by a landslide.

Yeltsin played a crucial role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union following an attempted coup by Communist Party operatives against Gorbachev in August 1991. With that event, the individual constituent republics began declaring independence, and the economic situation became perilous. Yeltsin responded by transferring Soviet assets, institutions, and authorities to Russian control over the next three months, and outlawed the Communist Party for its role in the failed coup. Citing a 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union, which contained a clause permitting the constituent republics to secede, Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords on December 8, 1991, followed several days later by a meeting with leaders of Soviet republics in Central Asia. The end result of these agreements was the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its stead. Gorbachev resigned on December 25.

Government Structure

During its first two years in existence, Russia was governed by a 1978 Soviet-era constitution, although this was amended in several sections in order to allow for significant changes to the country’s political and economic structure. The new Russian Constitution was approved by referendum on December 12, 1993. Under it the president holds the right to dissolve parliament, has the power to initiate national referenda, and is granted immunity from prosecution. He or she is elected to a four-year term by direct vote and is limited to two terms. The prime minister serves as head of government and is appointed by the president but subject to a confirmation vote by the lower house of the legislature. In theory, impeachment of a president is possible in the event of high treason or other serious crimes, but the stringent process requires actions by both houses of the legislature, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Court, making a legal ouster unlikely in practice.

Russia’s bicameral parliament is jointly referred to as the Federal Assembly. Its upper chamber is the 178-seat Federation Council, which consists of two deputies from each of Russia’s 89 administrative divisions. The 1993 constitution did not specify how the Federation Council was to be chosen, and initially the membership included regional governors and leaders of regional assemblies. When Putin came to power in 2000, however, he overhauled the selection system, providing for the election of the Federation Council deputies by the regional assemblies.

The lower house of Russia’s Federal Assembly is the State Duma, with 450 seats. Half of them are allocated to candidates from single-mandate constituencies who won a majority vote in legislative elections, and the other 225 come from party lists of candidates. These latter 225 seats are allocated on a proportional basis according to election tallies, and parties must receive a minimum of 7 percent in the popular vote in order to qualify for seats. The deputies of the State Duma serve four-year terms, and may issue a no-confidence vote in the current government, appoint or dismiss the head of the Central Bank, and initiate legislation—although this last power is not exclusively theirs. The Constitution grants deputies of the lower house the right to override decisions of the Federation Council by a two-thirds vote, and presidential vetoes may be nullified with the same percentage in a joint vote of both houses.

The judicial branch in Russia is blighted by pervasive corruption and attempts by elected officials to influence outcomes. Both are a legacy of the Soviet era, when the judiciary functioned as a rubber-stamp body for the policies of the Communist Party. At the top of the post-Soviet judiciary is a Constitutional Court, charged with reviewing legislation, presidential decrees, and international treaties. Its nineteen judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by a vote of the Federation Council, as are the justices of the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal for criminal and civil cases. The number of judges on the Supreme Court is not fixed by the constitution, but they are appointed in the same manner as the Constitutional Court. This appointment process also applies to the High Court of Arbitration, which hears commercial disputes. Russian law does not recognize the principle of judicial precedent (abiding by previous court decisions) in issuing rulings. Criminal-case conviction rates in Russia are abnormally high, generally estimated above 95 percent, and judges who acquit defendants are often targeted for review or dismissal. Jury trials have been introduced in some regions and have a slightly higher acquittal rate than trials decided from the bench; however, jury trials comprise only a small percentage of criminal trials in Russia and have been more likely to be overturned on appeal by the state.

Russia is divided into eighty-nine administrative regions, covering six territories known as kraya; ten okruga, or autonomous districts; twenty-one ethnic enclaves; fifty oblasts, or provinces; and two municipal districts, St. Petersburg and Moscow. These regions have historically battled with the Moscow government over certain governance issues. During the early years of the Russian Federation, Yeltsin bested his political opponents in Moscow by winning support from regional politicians, to whom he granted greater autonomy in return for their help. However, this policy eventually intensified separatist sentiments in some of the eighty-nine regions. When Putin came to power he reasserted federal authority by establishing seven super-regions, called federalnyye okruga, which are Northwest, Central, Volga, North Caucasus, Ural, Siberia, and Far East. A plenipotentiary representative, or presidential envoy, is appointed by Putin to oversee each of them, and these loyalists wield a great deal of administrative power over locally elected officials.

Political Parties and Factions

Political parties have failed to achieve any genuine status in Russia, which observers link to the country’s long history of absolute monarchy and then one-party rule. New parties are usually formed before legislative elections, but then dissolve. For the 1993 elections, the Russia’s Choice Party was created, followed two years later by the Our Home Is Russia Party. The Unity Party won eighty-two seats in the State Duma in 1999, and was the bloc that backed Putin’s ascension to power. It evolved into the United Russia Party in 2003 in time for parliamentary elections, in which it won 222 seats. The Communist Party has continued to win a substantial number of seats in each election since independence.

In the mid 1990s a group of newly rich entrepreneurs began to influence Russian politics. They had typically accrued their fortunes from privatization deals in which Yeltsin’s government sold off the formerly state-run industries during Russia’s transition to a free-market economy. Accordingly, they backed Yeltsin in his 1996 presidential re-election bid. They did the same for Putin in the 2000 race, but once elected the new president swiftly moved to end their influence. Some of the oligarchs were arrested, and others fled the country. Russia’s wealthiest citizen, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (1963–), who was chair of the Yukos petroleum company is the best-known example. Khodorkovsky had publicly stated his support for increased transparency and democracy in Russia, and had strong connections to financial powers outside the country. He was arrested in 2003, put on trial, and sentenced to nine years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. Meanwhile, Yukos’s assets were frozen by Putin’s government, and the company was later declared by authorities to be bankrupt.

Major Events

Russia’s fragile democracy has faced threats on several fronts since Communist rule ended in the early 1990s. Yeltsin’s reform program met with serious opposition from Communists in the Russian Supreme Soviet, and in September 1993 he ordered that body dissolved. When the deputies refused to budge, troops were sent in to oust them. In 1994 a separatist war broke out in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim area of the Caucasus that had declared its independence from Russia, and Chechen rebels battled Russian troops over the next two years.

In 1996 Yeltsin was reelected, but he suffered a heart attack between the first round of balloting and a run-off election—a perilous situation kept secret from the public for a time, which left the government essentially rudderless. A year later, a recovered Yeltsin concluded a peace treaty with the Chechen rebels specifying that a decision on Chechnya’s status would be delayed until 2002. In 1998 Russia teetered on the brink of financial disaster with the collapse of the ruble, but a serious economic crisis was averted. Yeltsin still faced major opposition and resigned on December 31, 1999, in a surprise announcement. Putin was prime minister at the time and automatically became acting president. He was elected by direct vote in March 2000.

Putin’s government resumed the war in Chechnya, despite the terms of the 1997 peace accord, after an apartment building in Moscow was the target of a supposed Chechen terrorist attack in 1999. The war escalated in October 2002 after the seizure of a Moscow theater during a performance; 850 audience members and theater personnel were held hostage, and more than 150 people died in the incident. In September 2004 nearly four hundred people were killed in an attack by Chechen separatists on a school in Beslan, a city in the autonomous republic of North Ossetia. Most of the fatalities in the incident resulted when Russian special forces took action against the hostage-takers, who were holding about twelve hundred adults and children at gunpoint in the school gymnasium. Putin’s tough tactics against Chechen rebels in these crises prompted concern that he was reestablishing a dictatorial-style regime in Russia. One outspoken critic of his policies was the journalist Anna Politkovskaya (1958–2006), who was fatally shot in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006 in what appeared to be a contract killing. Weeks later, Alexander Litvinenko (1962–2006), a former officer in the Russian state security service, died in London, England, where he had been living. Litvinenko had publicly accused Putin of responsibility for Politkovskaya’s death, and British authorities launched a massive investigation that tied his death to poisoning by radiation after he met with a Russian operative linked to the Federal Security Service, known by its Russian-language acronym FSB.

Twenty-First Century

The Russian economy was growing at a pace of more than 6 percent annually in 2007 due in large part to its natural resources industries, including exports of oil, gas, timber, and metals. Because of the rapid economic growth, observers warned that the country’s low birth rate and demographic shifts may result in a shortage of workers within the next decade. In addition, labor migration within Russia has led to ethnic tensions and was blamed for an increase in hate crimes. As of 2007, in an effort to entice workers to affected areas, the government was offering housing, relocation allowances, and cash incentives to returning ethnic Germans who had been forced out of Russia during Communist rule.

During his two terms in office Putin had consolidated power at the federal level and silenced his liberal opponents. While some of his policies, such as tight control of the media, were considered antidemocratic by Western standards, they received broad support within Russia, and his approval rating was among the highest in the world for a national leader. The 1993 constitution limits Putin to two terms in office, and the next presidential elections are scheduled for March 2008. Several politicians close to him, including FSB officers and the female governor of St. Petersburg, Valentina Matviyenko (1949–), are believed to be the most likely successors to the office.

Fish, Michael Steven. Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Jack, Andrew. Inside Putin’s Russia. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Remnick, David. Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia. New York: Random House, 1997.

Russian Federation

views updated May 23 2018

Russian Federation


According to international law, the Russian Federation from 1992 is the successor state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which was created after the First Russian Revolution in October 1917. The USSR was established formally in 1922 and was the successor state of the Russian Empire under the tsarist rule of the Romanov family from 1721.

The founder of the Soviet Union was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (18701924). On the ideological basis of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union existed for seventy-four years as an alternative Eastern political and economic regime, competing with Western democracy and the market economies of the First World and thus constituting the so-called Second World. In 1928 the successor of Lenin as leader of the Communist Party was Joseph Stalin (meaning man of steel; 18791953) from Georgia. The Soviet Union moved from Leninist principles (19221927) to a totalitarian Stalinist regime, which lasted from 1928 until Stalins death in 1953. Stalin was followed by Nikita Khrushchev, the Communist leader until 1964, and Leonid Brezhnev from 1964 to 1982. The Brezhnev era was much less radical than the Stalinist erawith its millions of regime victimsand produced a certain degree of social, economic, and political stability as well as stagnation. After the end of the long Brezhnev era, two party leaders, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, had short terms in office until March 1985.

The last important political leader of the USSR after Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev was Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, who came into power in 1985. His policy was to overcome the general stagnation by introducing decisive structural reforms into the Communist economic and political regime. Gorbachev attempted to modernize the USSR so that it could compete successfully with the Western world of democracy and free markets, but it failed in the end. His wide-ranging reforms of the Soviet Union had three main elements. The most important reform was perestroika, a structural reform of the planned economy, and uskorenie, the acceleration of these economic changes. The second strand of political reforms focused on glasnost, or public openness and transparency about the Stalinist pastwith political terror, genocide, and mass murderand the political history of the USSR. Within these broad areas of economic and political change, Gorbachev started public campaigns against alcoholism and corruption, which proved to be rather unpopular in Soviet society. The third dimension of these deep reforms was demokratisatsiya, which tried to democratize Soviet society without the introduction of democracy and retaining the Communist one-party state.

In August 1991 conservative Communist forces attempted a coup détat to stop the structural reforms of the Soviet system that Gorbachev initiated and directed. The Communist coup was stopped within three days by Boris Yeltsin (19312007). This attempt to stop the disintegration of the USSR accelerated it. The Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

The population of the USSR before the final breakdown encompassed 286 million Soviet citizens. The Russian Federation as successor state lost 139 million former Soviet citizens to other Newly Independent States (NIS) and had an initial population of 147 million inhabitants. During the 1990s, the Russian Federation experienced a dramatic decrease in life expectancy, especially among Russian men, and had a population of 143 million citizens in 2005. The Russian demographic crisis has almost been offset by immigration from other former Soviet Republics into the Russian Federation. In the early twenty-first century the Russian Federation is structured into seven federal districts: the Central District around the capital city Moscow, the Northwestern District with Saint Petersburg, the South District that includes the northern Caucasus, the Volga District, the Ural District, the Siberia District, and the Far Eastern District. Russia consists of eighty-six regions and republics, which are integrated into these seven large federal districts.

In June 1991 Yeltsin became president of Russia as part of the Soviet Union after the first Russian presidential elections with 57.3 percent of the vote. In 1996 he was elected as the first president of an independent Russia with 53.8 percent of the valid vote. During his eight years in power, Yeltsin had the difficult task of ending the old political and economic Soviet regime and commencing the transformation toward a democratic system and a market economy in a vast country that covers 11 time zones and about 6.6 million square miles. Weakened by health and alcohol problems, Yeltsin resigned from office on December 31, 1999.

Vladimir Putin (b. 1952) became acting president of Russia on January 1, 2000. He won 52.94 percent of the valid votes in the Russian presidential elections on March 26, 2000. Between 2000 and 2007 he created a hybrid political system, which combines elements of a democratic regime with those of an autocratic regime. The Putin regime is characterized by centralization of power (e.g., appointment of regional governors instead of regional elections), absence of a full rule of law, lack of separation of powers, restricted human and political rights, and suppression of electronic media. President Putin weakened the political powers of the Russian national parliament, the Duma, as well as the Russian party system by favoring a new presidential party with the name United Russia. The Putin era has transformed the Russian Federation into a political system with a historically unique mixture of democratic and autocratic elements. Hence the historical path of Russia toward democracy or autocracy will be decided after the Russian presidential elections in 2008. The Second Russian Revolution, which began in August 1991 with an attempted coup to return to a Communist regime as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has not yet reached a historical conclusion.

SEE ALSO Brezhnev, Leonid; Communism; Economies, Transitional; Federalism; Gorbachev, Mikhail; Khrushchev, Nikita; Lenin, Vladimir Ilitch; Putin, Vladimir; Russian Revolution; Stalin, Joseph; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics;Yeltsin, Boris


Brown, Archie, ed. 2001. Contemporary Russian Politics: A Reader. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Fish, Steven M. 2005. Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Herspring, Dale R., ed. 2007. Putins Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

McFaul, Michael. 2001. Russias Unfinished Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Rose, Richard, William Mishler, and Neil Munro. 2006. Russia Transformed: Developing Popular Support for a New Regime. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sakwa, Richard. 2002. Russian Politics and Society. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

White, Stephen. 2000. Russias New Politics: The Management of a Postcommunist Society. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Christian W. Haerpfer

Russian Federation

views updated May 17 2018


The Russian Federation (formerly the RSFSR, one of the fifteen republics of the USSR) covers almost twice the area of the United States of America, or 17,075,200 square kilometers (6,591,100 square miles). It is divided into eighty-nine separate territories. The country reaches from Moscow in the west over the Urals and the vast Siberian plains to the Sea of Okhotsk in the east. The Russian Federation is bounded by Norway and Finland in the northwest; by Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the west; by Georgia and Azerbaijan in the southwest; and by Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China along the southern land border. The Kaliningrad region is a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea and is bordered by Lithuania and Poland.

The Russian Federation was established in 1991, when the USSR disintegrated and the former RSFSR became an independent state. A declaration of state sovereignty was adopted on June 12, 1991 (now a national holiday), and official independence from the USSR was established on August 24,1991. The Russian Federation replaced the USSR as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The term Russia has been applied loosely to the Russian Empire until 1917, to the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from 1917 to 1991, to the Russian Federation since 1991, or even (incorrectly) to mean the whole of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The term has also been used to designate the area inhabited by the Russian people, as distinguished from other Eastern Slavs and from non-Slavic peoples.

Moscow, the ninth largest city in the world, the largest Russian city, and the capital of the Russian Federation, was founded in 1147. The city's focal point is Red Square, bound on one side by the Kremlin and its thick red fortress wall containing twenty towers. The tsars were crowned there; in fact, Ivan the Terrible's throne is situated near the entrance. The second largest city, St. Petersburg, is situated northwest of Moscow and was known as a cultural center with elegant palaces. The city is spread over forty-two islands in the delta of the Neva River.

The terrain of the Russian Federation consists of broad plains with low hills west of the Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; and uplands and mountains along the southern border regions. Although the largest country in the world in terms of area, the Russian Federation is unfavorably located in relation to the major sea lanes of the world. Despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture. It does, however, have enormous resources of oil and gas, as well as numerous trace metals.

Since 1991, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. The country adopted a constitution on December 12, 1993, and established a bicameral Federal Assembly (Federalnoye Sobraniye). Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was elected to the office of president of the Federation on May 7, 2000, with 52.9 percent of the vote, as opposed to 29.2 percent for the Communist representative, Gennady Zyuganov, and5.8 percent for the democratic centrist, Grigory Yavlinsky.

See also: gorbachev, mikhail sergeyevich; putin, vladimir vladimirovich; russian soviet federated socialist republic; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


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Herspring, Dale R., ed. (2003). Putin's Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Kotkin, Stephen. (2001). Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 19702000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Sunlop, John B. (1993). The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Johanna Granville

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