Russia has gone through many political changes over the centuries but in relatively recent times it has been particularly volatile. The 20th century was one of great change and one that started with a Russian royal family and progressed via the communist Soviet Union, through to the more democratic processes that we know today. In relative terms, this all happened so quickly so maybe it’s not such a surprise that people still sometimes ask is Russia a communist country?
What type of Government does Russia have today?
The official explanation of Russia and its politics today is that the country is a federal semi-presidential republic. In basic terms, the country has a president – currently Dmitry Medvedev – who is head of a multi-party government system which in turn is headed by the Prime Minister.
At the last Russian presidential election, Medvedev stood as an Independent and swept to power with over 70% of the total vote and thus became the third president of Russia. Support for him remains steady but, at the time of writing, it is uncertain whether he will stand for re-election or step down to allow Vladimir Putin to return to the Russian Presidency.
However, opposition remains relatively well supported and there are many opponents who will be hoping to increase their share of the vote next time around, notably the Russian Communist Party (see below).
As the focal point of the Soviet Union, Russia found itself under Communist rule for many years during the 20th century. From the revolution of 1917 through to the reforms under Gorbachev that lead to the ultimate downfall of the USSR, the nation was ruled by the Communist Party, and its theories and practices dominated people’s everyday lives.
While there were few tears shed when communism fell, there was still a pocket of resistance that was brought into sharp focus with the conflict early in Boris Yeltsin’s leadership.
Moving forward to today, the Communist Party in Russia still exists and it has more than a pocket of support. It is officially known as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
At the last Presidential election, the communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov polled 13,243,550 votes which represents around 17% of the total votes cast.
While 17% may seem like a moderate figure at best, that still means that over 13 million people in Russia would be happy to see a Communist President at the helm and, you would surmise, they would be equally happy to see a return to the days when they lived as communists under the old regime.
The future for Communism in Russia
That figure of 17% does, to be fair represent a fall in support for the communist party in Russia today and it is a significant drop from the results of the 2000 election when Zyuganov secured over 29% of the electorate’s votes, or the 1996 election where more than 40% voted for Zyuganov.
As for Zyuganov himself, he is undaunted and in April he announced his intentions to run for Presidency once again. As the numbers of those who can remember living under communism begin to dwindle even further, it will be fascinating to see how many votes the official Communist party in Russia will poll.
So when you ask is Russia still communist, the answer is that it no longer has a Communist government, but that there is still a solid core of the Russian population who support the new Communist Party.