Democracies failed attempt in Russia

The Soviet Union was already on the edge of disintegration in the late 1980s. The country’s economy was strained by a costly military intervention in Afghanistan, which began in December 1979. Domestic issues, such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, sparked fury among Soviet residents, who felt empowered to express their discontent thanks to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic changes. These circumstances contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. More than a dozen new democracies erupted from the ashes of the Soviet Union. True democracy has a few fundamental qualities, such as free and fair elections, the role of the media, education, the judiciary, political parties, and religious tolerance, amongst many others. This research paper will look at how democracy hyped in the Soviet Union and the commonly used tools for democracy’s timely success and giving the theoretical perspective and also looking at the factors that proved to be hurdles in the way of liberal democracy for Russia.

Soviet Union was one of the world’s largest countries in the late 1800s. It stretches from Europe’s Black Sea to Asia’s Bering Straits in the Far East.  It was difficult to govern due of its enormous size. It almost had a population of over 125 million people. Ethnic Russians made up half of the group. The rest consisted of a vast number of; Germans, Poles, Slavs, Asians. Within the Empire, there were roughly twenty different nationalities. Each had their own dialect and traditions. Many people were unable to communicate in Russian. Within this diversified community, almost every major religion was represented. The Russian Empire was politically, economically, and socially backwards in comparison to Western Europe. There was minimal industry, and peasant farmers made up the vast majority of the population. In this research paper we will try to understand the factors involved in the fall of Soviet Union and the major events leading to the rise of democracy.

The Constructivist theory can be applied on the situation of Russia and the reason why democracy failed there. As according to the constructivist everything is socially constructed and generally accepted phenomena this makes anything widely right or wrong, acceptable or not acceptable. For example ruling or governing a country is more acceptable and proper when a democratic path is chosen and wrong when any other or slightly differing way is used. The western nations try to democratise the whole globe but it’s not possible, every nation should have a form of government that is suitable for its public not something that is induced by the west. Only considering the democratised nations modern and up to date is also because of the constructivist nature of the phenomena.

The Tsar

The Tsarist state system, which was well established in the Soviet Union, had taken a long time to build. The Tsar’s authority was bolstered by a number of factors. The ‘Pillars of Autocracy’ are what they’re called. Army, civil service, Orthodox, and Church were all mentioned. There was no elected parliament in the Empire until 1905, and there were no elections for government seats. Tsarist power could not be challenged through legal or constitutional means.  


A succession of Tsars presided over this large and diverse Empire. As autocrats, they ruled the country. This meant that only the Tsar could rule over Russia: Tsars felt that they had a divine right to rule Russia, and that God had bestowed their position and power upon them. Ministers were chosen by the Tsar, he could also remove them whenever he wanted. They were usually selected from the Royal family or the nobility. The civil service assisted the Tsar in running the empire by carrying out his orders and preserving his power. Their privilege was owed to the Tsar and was based on their services. This instilled loyalty since opposing him would result in the loss of power and status. The Russian civil service was considered as backward and greedy around the turn of the century: many civil officials were underpaid, resulting in widespread bribery. Years of service, rather than competence, were used to determine promotion. A massive police system enforced the Tsar’s order, reporting suspicious behaviour and destroying dissident groups: The secret police played a crucial role in tracking down and spying on adversaries. They had the authority to detain possible threats as needed. Okhrana agents worked undercover, infiltrating groups that could pose a threat to the Tsar. They acted on behalf of the Tsar and treated citizens as they thought would be proper. Torture and murder were among their tactics. Exile to a remote part of Siberia was a common punishment for opponents of the Tsar. Thousands of people who were considered enemies of the state were deported to Siberia. They were so far away that they had no prospect of posing a serious threat to Tsarist control.

Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II controlled Russia in 1894. He and his German-born wife Alexandra were staunch supporters of autocracy. He was, however, a weak individual who considered the mundane task of a king to be tedious. He was more interested in his personal matters than running the state affairs. Tsar Nicholas II, who was unsure of himself and indecisive, was readily swayed by persuasive government workers. He was not a reformist like his grandfather neither an oppressor like his father, knowing no where to begin he invited everyone to his coronation including the peasants. Seeing free food and drinks the poor people which lead to a stampede and 1500 died and got injured, the Khodyna Tragedy happened in May, 30th 1896. Soon after the tragedy Nicholas went to a party with the French due to which he was referred to as Nicholas, The Bloody. The rule of Tsars was quickly becoming outdated and the people were in search of new form of government and. for many the solution was simple looking at the west republics, democracies and constitutional monarchies. But a small group of people rejected the idea of following the west and were more interested in giving birth to a new idea called Communism.  Bolsheviks’

The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party gathered for their Second Party Congress on August 11, 1903, and the members voted. As a result, the Mensheviks (‘minority’) and the Bolsheviks (‘majority’) divided the party into two sections. In reality, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, were a minority party that did not gain power until 1922. Differing opinions on party membership and ideology caused the party to split. Lenin envisioned the party as a forerunner of people devoted to a proletarian revolution. This helped the Bolsheviks gain popularity, and their tough stance against the bourgeoisie appealed to the younger generation.

Bloody Sunday On Sunday, January 22, 1905, everything was up in the air. Unarmed people were fired upon by the Tsar’s army during a peaceful protest led by a preacher in St Petersburg. There were 200 people dead and 800 injured. The Tsar’s subjects would never trust him again.

 The Social Revolutionary Party became the major political party, establishing the October Manifesto later that year, riding on the subsequent surge of popular outrage. The Bolsheviks were pushed by Lenin to adopt violent action, but the Mensheviks opposed these demands as compromising Marxist values. The Bolsheviks had 13,000 members in 1906, while the Mensheviks had 18,000. The Bolsheviks remained a minority group in the party in the early 1910s. Because Lenin was exiled in Europe and the Duma elections were boycotted, there was no political platform from which to campaign or gather support. Furthermore, revolutionary politics were not in high demand. The years 1906-1914 were mostly peaceful, and the Tsar’s moderate reforms deterred extremist backing. Rallying cries for national unity put the Bolsheviks’ demands for reform on the back foot when the First World War broke out in 1914.

World wars and its impact on the Socio-Politics of USSR

The Russian empire of Czar Nicholas II was one of the empires that fell apart during World War I. Nicholas was the undisputed monarch of a realm of nearly 150 million people stretching from Central Europe to the Pacific from the edge of Afghanistan to the Arctic when he declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in July 1914. Nicholas was forced to abdicate less than three years later, in March 1917, after soldiers in Petrograd joined striking workers in protest of his authority. The Romanov dynasty’s three centuries of power came to an end in July when he and his family were dragged into a cellar by Bolshevik revolutionaries and shot and stabbed to death. The Soviet Union rose quickly from the ruins of the Russian empire to become a global force. Czar Nicholas II’s Russian empire was one of the empires that came apart during World War I. When Nicholas declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in July 1914, he was the unchallenged ruler of a realm spanning about 150 million people from Central Europe to the Pacific, from the edge of Afghanistan to the Arctic. Nicholas was forced to abdicate less than three years later, in March 1917, when soldiers in Petrograd joined strikers in defiance of his authority. In July, Nicholas and his family were carried into a cellar by Bolshevik revolutionaries and shot and stabbed to death, bringing the Romanov dynasty’s three centuries of dominance to an end. From the ruins of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union rose quickly to become a global force. Historians continue to dispute whether World War I was a game-changer that triggered the Russian Revolution or merely hastened the inevitable collapse of an outmoded monarchy unfit to compete in the contemporary world. Russia was at a critical juncture prior to the conflict. “Some believe that before 1914, Russia was progressively adopting more modern political and social structures, that it had a lively culture, a highly educated elite, that it had survived the turmoil of the 1905 revolution, and that it had the world’s fastest-growing economy,” Miner adds. However, as he points out, the Czarist administration faced numerous dangers to its stability, ranging from deplorable urban working conditions to labour unrest, which the Czar’s army attempted to quell in 1912 by massacring gold miners in Siberia. To make matters worse, Nicholas II began to reverse the meagre democratic reforms to which he had consented in 1905. As a result of the archaic czarist regime’s drive to maintain power, “the Russian Empire trailed behind the rest of Europe in terms of economic and industrial strength,” according to Lynne Hartnett, a historian. As the consequences of its manufacturers couldn’t produce enough weaponry and ammunition to equip the Czar’s 1.4 million-man army, Russia became vulnerable in a conflict. The Russians had 800,000 men in uniform at the outset of the war who didn’t even have rifles to train with, and those who did had to make do with antiquated weaponry that were nearly 40 years old. Some soldiers were forced to fight unarmed until they were able to obtain a weapon from a soldier who had been killed or injured. Because Russia’s initial bullet output was only 13,000 rounds per day, they had to make every shot count.

The war swiftly devolved into a fiasco, with Russia suffering a humiliating defeat in the Battle of Tannenberg only a few weeks in. Approximately 30,000 Russian soldiers were killed or injured, and the Germans captured approximately 100,000. As the months went on, things didn’t get any better. The Russian empire had lost over one million troops by the end of the year. Russia’s ammunition supplies were nearly depleted, and the country’s infrastructure was ill-equipped to replace troops efficiently. Despite the fact that peasant soldiers suffered the most casualties, the most serious losses for regime stability were within the officer corps, when push came to shove in 1917, the army was not a reliable supporter of the monarchy. Despite the fact that Russia produced enough food to sustain its population during the war, Russians went hungry. The issue was not manufacturing but distribution and transportation, which resulted in frequent shortages. The czarist state’s inefficiencies began to erode political support. Russia had won World War I, the struggle that had brought an end to the Czarist monarchy, but there would be no peace. Later that year, civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and regime opponents. The Bolsheviks eventually won, and a treaty establishing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed in 1922.

The tale of the Soviet Union in World War II is one of many wars. When World War II began, the Soviet Union was virtually allied with Nazi Germany in a rather standard European interstate conflict. Despite the fact that the Germans did the most of the combat in Poland, the Soviet Union took control of the eastern half. The Soviet Union supplied Nazi Germany with huge supplies of crucial raw resources until June 22, 1941, when Germany began Operation Barbarossa. In addition, the Soviet Union provided Germany with access to the Far East, particularly rubber, which was transported across Siberia. It also battled Finland in the 1939–1940 “Winter War” and invaded Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and what is now Moldova in 1940. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, wanted Germany to provide greater technological assistance than it was willing to provide.  Part of Hitler’s motivation for conquering the country was to acquire its natural resources. The second war was fought over control of the Mediterranean and did not involve the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1941, the Germans launched an attack on the Soviet Union, possibly the largest single component of World War II. The Soviet Union became an ally of the United Kingdom and a beneficiary of US Lend-Lease aid almost overnight. In the Soviet Union and Russia, the “War on the Eastern Front” is known as the “Great Patriotic War.” It lasted 1,418 days, and between 26 and 27 million Soviet citizens, largely civilians, died as a result. The Soviet Union continued to engage the majority of German forces even after the Western Allies landed in Europe. The total number of Soviet soldiers killed on the battlefield was 8.7 million. Following Germany’s defeat, the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, which had begun on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The Soviet Union attacked the Japanese Army in Manchuria on August 9, 1945, and it surrendered eight days later. The Soviet endeavour, particularly the sudden turn of events in 1942 and 1943, transformed a “pariah state” experimenting with a new economic and political system into a successful proponent of the same, as well as a space-bound superpower with resurrected imperial trappings. For example, the Soviet nuclear programme began in 1942. During the Cold War, the importance of its armed forces to the overall Allied victory was overlooked in the West. However, the reconciliation effort that began in the 1980s and the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 changed this.

End to the Mighty Soviet Union

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, revolutionary Bolsheviks deposed the Russian tsar and formed four socialist republics. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed in 1922 when Russia and her far-flung republics merged. Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist revolutionary, was the first leader of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was billed as “a pure democracy,” but it was just as restrictive as the czarist monarchy that preceded it in many ways. It was dominated by a single party, the Communist Party, which insisted that every Russian citizen pledge loyalty to it. Following the Dictator Joseph Stalin’s rise to power in 1924, the state took entire control of the economy, overseeing all industrial activities and constructing collective farms. It was also in charge of all aspects of political and social life. Those who spoke out against Stalin’s policies were either jailed and transported to gulags or executed. Stalin’s ruthless actions were criticised by Soviet authorities after his death in 1953, but the Communist Party remained in power. They concentrated on the Cold War with Western countries, in which they engaged in an expensive and deadly “arms race” with the US while using military force to suppress anticommunism and establish their hegemony in Eastern Europe.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, a long-serving Communist Party official, was elected President of the Soviet Union in March 1985. He came into office with a stagnating economy and a political system that made reform nearly impossible. Gorbachev enacted two sets of policies in the hopes of making the USSR a more rich and productive country. Glasnost, or political openness, was the first of them. Glasnost removed remnants of Stalinist repression, such as book bans and the ever-present secret police, and granted Soviet citizens unprecedented freedoms. Political detainees have been released. Newspapers might publish government criticism. For the first time, elections were open to parties other than the Communist Party.

Perestroika, or economic restructuring, was the name given to the second series of reforms. Gorbachev believed that loosening the government’s control on the Soviet economy was the best way to resuscitate it. Individuals and cooperatives were allowed to own enterprises for the first time since the 1920s because he believed that private initiative would lead to innovation. Workers were given the freedom to strike in order to demand better pay and working conditions. Gorbachev was also a proponent of foreign investment in Soviet businesses.

These reforms, however, took a long time to produce fruit. The “command economy” that had kept the Soviet state afloat had been destroyed by Perestroika, but the market economy took time to evolve. Gorbachev’s initiatives seemed to have only one result: rationing, shortages, and long lines for scarce products. As a result, people became more dissatisfied with his government. Gorbachev believed that improving the Soviet economy necessitated improved relations with the rest of the world, particularly with the United States. Even as President Ronald Reagan dubbed the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and began a massive military build-up, Gorbachev declared that he would not participate in the weapons race. He declared that Soviet forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan, where they had been fighting since 1979, and that the Soviet military presence in the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe would be decreased. This noninterventionist policy had significant consequences for the Soviet Union–for starters, it caused the Eastern European alliances to “crumble like a dry saltine cracker in just a few months,” as Gorbachev put it. The first revolution of 1989 occurred in Poland, where non-Communist trade unionists in the Solidarity movement negotiated with the Communist government for more liberal elections, which they won handily. As a result, nonviolent revolutions erupted across Eastern Europe. In November, the Berlin Wall came down, and in the same month, Czechoslovakia’s Communist government was overthrown by the “velvet revolution.”

This sense of possibilities rapidly spread throughout the Soviet Union. Frustration with the dismal economy, along with Gorbachev’s laissez-faire attitude toward Soviet satellites, sparked independence movements in republics on the periphery of the Soviet Union. The Baltic republics (Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia) declared their independence from Moscow one by one. Concerned members of the Communist Party in the military and government placed Gorbachev under house arrest on August 18, 1991. The official explanation for his detention was that he was “unable to lead due to health issues,” but the public knew otherwise. The coup leaders announced a state of emergency. The military advanced on Moscow, but human chains and residents erected barricades to protect the Russian Parliament. Boris Yeltin, the then-chairman of parliament, rallied the masses by standing on top of one of the tanks. After three days, the coup failed. On December 8, a newly liberated Gorbachev proceeded to Minsk to meet with the presidents of the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine, signing a deal that separated the two republics from the Soviet Union and established the Commonwealth of Independent States. “The Soviet Union as a topic of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists,” the accord stated. After a summit in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, eight of the nine remaining republics declared their independence from the USSR a few weeks later. (Georgia became a member two years later.) Back in Moscow, Gorbachev’s star was fading, while Boris Yelstin, the man who had stood atop that tank in front of parliament, now controlled both parliament and the KGB. Gorbachev’s departure as president was unavoidable, and he stepped down on Christmas Day, 1991, declaring, “We’re now living in a new world.” The Cold War, the weapons race, and the country’s insane militarization, which have wrecked our economy, public attitudes, and morality, have all, come to an end.” The once-mighty Soviet Union had been demolished.

Democracies Failed attempt in Russia

Each of the liberal democratic canon’s features has been adopted in Russia, although in a strangely warped form. Its democracy reflected in a samovar, to quote Trotsky. Economic disintegration, rampant crime, the collapse of public morals, growing death rates, loss of international influence, and the continuation in power of most of the old communist-era elite have all accompanied its stumbling steps down the road to democracy. Western liberals generally blame these problems on Russia’s political culture or the personal traits of its leaders, rather than questioning the applicability and appropriateness of their own democratic model. Russia has failed democracy, not democracy that has failed Russia. In fact, limiting democracy to a collection of ideals and institutions using a checklist method is extremely foolish. Any consideration of politics is missing, including the struggle for resources and clashes of ideas among various social and political groupings. The premise is that once democratic norms and institutions are in place, political parties will arise to compete for votes, and sensible policies and effective governance would follow. Rather than a forum for policy resolution, democracy is considered as a source of political legitimacy. After all, according to the market democracy paradigm, the new Russian government had no choice but to liberalise the market. When you think about it, it’s a strange kind of democracy that starts by telling people they don’t have any other options.


The western nations need to learn the lesson that any political ideology is not forcibly induced upon a nation especially a country like Russia with a strong history of authoritarian regimes. Every nation has its own set of ways and rules to modernize its society and economy. For the most part, democracy in the USSR or Russia is not defined by what is contained in decent Western constitutions or university textbooks. It’s what happened once Communism fell apart in the country. Before 1991, democracy was regarded to be the best form of government. However, in Russia, elections were rigged, elderly people died hungry, tanks blew up the parliament, and colonial wars were launched. The Russians were all perplexed as to whether or not this was democracy. They looked to the West for guidance because western democratic governments were the ultimate source of guidance for them. However, due to differences in society’s upbringing and cultural norms, democracy could not flourish as much as it could in the West, and a more authoritarian regime was established.

Asifa Fida
Asifa Fida
BS hons in strategic studies