Conservatism in Russia

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Conservatism in Russia is a broad system of political beliefs in Russia that is characterized by support for Christian values, Russian imperialism, statism, anti-communism, economic intervention, advocacy for the historical Russian sphere of influence and a rejection of Western culture, economic liberalism and modernism.[1]

As opposed to other conservative movements, Russian conservatism is seen as defending the established institutions of its time, such as the Tsarist and Soviet strong-man rule. Therefore, Russian conservatism is unique in rejecting the concept of liberty prevalent in Western conservatism, and instead supports a mixed economy, as opposed to libertarian ideals such as economic liberalism. This makes Russian conservatism largely populist in its promotion of anti-establishment views, strong nationalism and social conservatism. Russian conservatives believe that the state should control both economic and social policy, as it aligns with its origins in tsarism and the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church.[2]


The strong history of authoritarian ideals and anti-liberal sentiment is largely a product of support for hierarchy and a lack of political forum. The growth of liberalism during the 19th and 20th century was unable to flourish in Russia as it did in Western European nations such as Germany, Italy and Spain. The succession of autocratic governments has therefore shaped the political ideologies of Russia in a unique way to Western democracies. Due to the stagnation of libertarian ideals of both economic and social liberalism in Russia, Russian conservatism is unique in its support for a mixed economy and its condemnation of liberty and Western democracy. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the two main political parties in Russia have been United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party.[3]

State control

Russian conservatives believe in the government largely controlling both economic and social policy, with a strong centralised state influenced by nationalist and imperialist ideologies. They also believe in opposition to Western globalism, and the promotion of Russian ideals and culture with support for the Russian sphere of influence through art and media. The authoritarian ideals in both Tsarist and Soviet Russia of devotion to the state and strong nationalism are supported by Russian conservatives, who believe in a return to Russian ideals in reaction to modernism and globalism, with strong opposition to the globalist organizations such as the UN, EU and NATO. With classical liberalism playing major roles in the development of conservatism in Western democracies, Russia largely differs from conservatism in other parts of the world with its belief in state control. With Russian conservatives holding largely interventionist views in international affairs, they hold deep contempt with the United States and strong support for CIS countries other than Georgia and Ukraine.[4]

Social views

Social views held by conservative Russians are largely influenced by traditionalism and the Russian orthodox church. Russian conservatism, alike conservatives in other parts of the world, believe in the promotion of Christian ideals in its opposition to abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and its support for gender roles in the government and in civil life. Influenced by the totalitarian and autocratic views held by the Russian Tsar and the Bolsheviks, Russian conservatives believe in the rule of law, and the cult of personality. Strong nationalist sentiments are largely held, influencing the support for national and state unity against foreign influence. The suppression of individual freedoms are believed to be necessary in law enforcement and halting social progressivism. Western culture and modernism are largely opposed in favor of realism, seen as largely a product of the consumerist cultures of Western democracies. Under Vladimir Putin, the leader of the Russian government since 1999, Russia has expressively condemned foreign influences, and believed in expanding Russia's own influence, since with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and opposed nuclear disarmament.[5]

Economic views

Although economic liberalism and laissez-faire capitalism has been key in the history of conservatism in country such as the United States, the historical role of state control in Russia, has resulted in the development of state interventionist views of Russian conservatives in respect to the economy. Although both major conservative parties post-USSR largely condemn communism, Russian conservatives largely believe in a mixed economy, with a mixture of regulations in the private sector with market freedoms, public ownership of several key industries such as energy and defence, and low to moderate distributions of wealth across the economy. Russian conservatives believe in the government intervening in markets and regulating the private sector, as it has a necessary role in the framework of a capitalist economy. Along with other conservatives in the world, Russian conservatives believe in protectionism, and the regulation of global interaction with the Russian economy, through the use of tariffs and government subsidies to domestic producers.[6]

Religious views

As strong adherents to the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian conservatives largely espouse traditional Christian views on social issues as mentioned previously, the church collaborating closely with the state in social and cultural affairs under Putin. The rise of globalization and social freedoms in Western democracies has been largely quelled in Russia under Putin, with direct influences from the church, who's deep condemnation of homosexuality and support for Russian expansion into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has been largely criticized as the church under Patriarch Kirill of Moscow have halted social progressivism in Russia and developed the violation of human rights in Russia for homosexuals.[7]


Ivan lll laid the foundations of Tsarist autocracy, a system of governance which would influence the authoritarian nature of Russian conservatism.

The traditions of autocracy and patrimonialism developed in Russia in the 17th and 18th century, as Ivan lll built upon Byzantine traditions of autocracy, allowing for the development of Tsarism and the monarchy of the Romanov dynasty in the 19th and 20th centuries. This paved the groundwork for the development of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union after the Russian revolution, with Stephen White describing the fabric of Russian identity being interwoven with autocracy. This progression of autocratic governments didn't allow for the spread and rapid development of liberals ideals as seen in Western Europe, with state interventionism remaining the key ideology in all Russian parties. This influenced the development of conservative thought post the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, with state control playing a key role in Russian traditionalism.[8]

Attempts at liberal restructuring of the Soviet economy and political landscape through the Perestroika reforms during the 1980s and 1990s, were largely suppressed by the return to authoritarian politics under the conservative Putin government, after his predecessor Boris Yeltsin was unable to keep on course with social and economic reform. The Russian youth played a key role in the 2000s, developing conservative ideas away from the traditional western libertarian sense, with the Gorbachev and Yeltsin liberal reforms being seen as a time of political upheaval and chaos. A 1987 survey undertaken by Russian sociologist Yuri Levada, found the ageing soviet citizens of the 1980s or "Homo Sovieticus", who still had memories of Stalinism and totalitarian Soviet governments, were a "dying breed" as the younger and more naive generations in Russia began to shape the political climate of the future. A disdain for liberal reform and lack of knowledge for the reign of terror under Stalin allowed for the youth in Russian to develop into the hardline nationalist faction of Russian politics, allowing for the polarization of Russian politics and development of totalitarian ideas in conservatism.[9]

Current political parties

The two main conservative parties in Russia are the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky and United Russia, led by its de facto leader Vladimir Putin. United Russia is the ruling party of Russia and largest party of Russia, holding 74.4% of seats in the state Duma.[10][11]

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia or LDRP was founded in 1992 by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. As a more ideological Conservative party, the LDRP scored 22.9% of votes in the 1993 state Duma elections, opposing the right-left dichotomy in Russia alike the United Russia party. In 2016, the party received 13.4% of the vote, giving it 39 of the 450 seats in the State Duma. During the 1990s, Zhirinovsky and the LDPR formed a component of the political opposition to Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, however members of the party largely voted against impeaching Yeltsin in 1999. In recent years, the LDPR has often supported the agenda of the United Russia party and Putin government when voting in the Duma, leading some to believe that the party receives funding from the Kremlin.[12]

Other Russian conservative parties include Rodina, the Russian All-People's Union and the Eurasia Party.


Although the ideology itself hasn't been poorly received by the general public, political parties such as United Russia have come under intense scrutiny as a party of “crooks and thieves”. This term coined by activist Alexey Navalny amidst the corruption in Russian politics, was consistently used by opposition parties during the 2011 election to characterize the United Russia party as being corrupted and concerned with “maintaining and strengthening their own power”. The 2011-2013 Russian protests show the Russians public perception of a flawed election process in Russia, and the yearning for a more democratic process against what they believe has become an authoritarian government.[13] [14][15]

The ideology of Russian conservatism itself, through its roots in statism, has been described as authoritarian and an oppressive system of governance. Opposition from both right and left wing groups has characterized the Putin governments harsh laws in promoting stability in the country, as being exercised to cement the governments own power. Regulations on freedom of the press and economic interventionism has been opposed starkly by right-libertarian while social views on abortion and Putin's ban on LGBT rights propaganda has been criticized by anarchist and left wing groups.[16]


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  7. ^ Mäkinen, Sirke (June 2011). "Surkovian Narrative on the Future of Russia: Making Russia a World Leader". Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics. 27 (2): 143–165. doi:10.1080/13523279.2011.564084. ISSN 1352-3279.
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  13. ^ "Большинство тех, кто голосовал против ПЖиВ, не читали Навального, не ужасались происшествию на Ленинском проспекте. У каждого из них случился какой-то свой персональный Ленинский проспект". Новая газета - Novayagazeta.ru (in Russian). 2011-12-06. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
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