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 Vladimir Putin) who is nominally the head of a multi-party government system which in turn is headed by the Prime Minister.
Recent election results
Vladimir Putin is one of only three Russian Presidents. He has won four of the past five Russian Presidential elections – gaining a 76.7% share of the vote in the 2018 Presidential election. (Dimitry Medvedev won the other in 2008). He has gradually centralised power, and today Russia is perhaps more autocratic than democratic.
Elections for the Duma are slightly more competitive. The ruling United Russia party won 49.82% of the vote in the 2021 Duma election, which translated into a supermajority of 324 of the 450 seats in the Duma. The Communist Party, still headed by Gennady Zyuganov, is the only serious competitor – they polled 18.93% of the vote, but only won 57 seats. Other parties with more than 5% of the vote were the SRZP, LDPR and New People parties.
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 Mikhail 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 2018 Presidential election, the communist candidate Pavel Grudinin polled 8,659,206 votes which represents 11.9% of the total votes cast.
While 11.9% may seem like a moderate figure at best, that still means that over 8 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 11.9% 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 other recent elections, such as 2000 when Zyuganov secured over 29% of the electorate’s votes, or the 1996 election where more than 40% voted for Zyuganov.
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 going forward, and whether they can pick up new voters to replace their still elderly voter base.
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.