Sharon Rivera

Professor of Government Sharon Werning Rivera and Visiting Assistant Professor of Government David W. Rivera recently published an article in the British journal Russian Politics (Vol. 4, pp. 499-519).

The Riveras said that after assuming the presidency in 2000, Vladimir Putin appointed many fellow ex-KGB officers to positions of power of authority. Since the start of his fourth presidential term in 2018, moreover, he has continued to manifest a penchant for staffing the state with military and security officers — so-called “siloviki.”

In “Are Siloviki Still Undemocratic? Elite Support for Political Pluralism during Putin’s Third Presidential Term,” they address the question of whether Russian military and security officers currently possess a less liberal worldview than do civilian elites, as was the case in both the Soviet era and the immediate post-communist period.

David Rivera
David Rivera Photo: Ford, Nancy L.

The authors answer this question on the basis of data collected by the Survey of Russian Elites, a data set consisting of seven surveys of high-ranking Russians that were fielded in 1993, 1995, 1999, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.

The survey’s eighth wave was recently fielded by Sharon Rivera, the project’s principal investigator, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Hamilton’s Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center and Office of the Dean of Faculty, and the University of Michigan.

In their analyses of the data, the Riveras found that attitudinal differences between siloviki and civilians persist into the present. As was the case in both the 1990s and 2000s, elites with professional backgrounds in the military-security field are less supportive of political pluralism and individual rights than are those with purely civilian résumés. In addition, active-duty officers are even less liberal than either their retired former colleagues or lifelong civilians.

“The implications for Russia’s evolution after Putin leaves the scene are clear,” the authors concluded. “Some members of the Putin-era elite will almost certainly rise to leadership positions during and after the transition to a post-Putin era. The more that Putin continues his past practice of staffing the state with siloviki, the lower is the likelihood of renewed democratization in the future.”

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