In This Review

Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics

Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics
By M. Steven Fish
336 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2005

Fish argues that the time has come to explain why Russia has not made it to democracy -- why it is in fact wobbling uncertainly in the opposite direction. Rather than rely on impressions, no matter how well grounded historically or experientially, he attempts to unravel the mystery by using statistical studies of many countries (in particular, postcommunist ones) to identify what accounts for Russia's retarded state. Out of the mix, he emphasizes three factors as the primary culprits: lagging economic reform, the curse of resource wealth, and a disempowered legislature. He discounts the importance of the Soviet legacy, ethnic diversity, public intolerance, and the Orthodox Church. Fish acknowledges that (statistical) linear regression analysis risks brushing over critical particularities and discontinuities, and as compensation he offers a clean analytic design, with carefully specified criteria, much well-exploited data, a basis for prediction, and a fair future test for proving him right or wrong.