Martin Sixsmith has a very readable piece – part political memoir, part analysis – posted at the LA Review of Books today. He looks back over the recent decades of Russian politics, beginning with the August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, and offers some theories as to why Russian politics looks the way that it does today. He also draws on a range of history, including Russia’s early Asiatic forms of government, revolts in the 17th and 18th centuries, and why so many applauded Vladimir Putin when he came to power.
Here’s an excerpt (full piece is here):
[T]hose who regard Russia as a European nation “like us” miss the point. Russia has always looked both ways: to the democratic, law governed traditions of the West, but at the same time — and with more of this DNA in her makeup — to the Asiatic forms of governance she imbibed in her early years. The Mongol occupation of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries cemented a collectivist model of a strong, centralized state with a corresponding discount on individual liberties. The eagerness with which Russians have embraced strong rulers has deep roots in those distant times.