chapter  11
20 Pages

Parliamentary representation and MPs in Russia: historical retrospective and comparative perspective OXANA GAMAN - GOLUTVINA

After the adoption of the Constitution of 1936, which repealed the earlier restrictions on passive and active suffrage for some social groups and proclaimed the transition to general, equal, and direct suffrage, the composition of the deputy corps began to reflect largely, though not entirely, the age, gender, social, national, and professional structure of Soviet society. Besides that, the Supreme Soviet had symbolic functions: it symbolized representative government in the popular perception. The Supreme Soviet was not a professional parliament. The opportunities for parliamentary professionalization appeared only during the perestroika, when the constitutions of the USSR and the Russian Republic and electoral legislation were considerably amended, the institution of the Congress of People’s Deputies with the Supreme Soviets as their standing bodies was introduced, and an alternative election system was established. The social uplift of the late 1980s and early 1990s and changes in the electoral framework brought a large number of new people to parliament. The 1990 elections led to a rotation of over 93 percent of the Russian deputy corps. The key factor for electoral success in 1989-90 was the possession of symbolic capital. As in other post-Soviet states, leaders of public opinion and representatives of the oppositional intelligentsia gained the greatest public support. Administrative affiliation also played a certain role. The least important factor at that time was the possession of economic capital: The emerging economic class had not yet become a political entity and was only engaged in sporadic lobbying. This confirms a well-known tendency: During periods of radical transformation, the political elite and, above all, the deputy corps is replenished by different social, professional, and ethnic groups’ representatives, including marginal ones. Many professional Russian politicians subsequently grew out of this protoplasm. Political “dilettantes” (i.e., enthusiastic political activists without any professional political experience) predominated during the transitional period of Russian parliamentarianism; they were subsequently supplanted by political “entrepreneurs” (i.e., politicians by occasion who considered politics as an episodic means of obtaining business success) and by professional politicians (according to Weber’s famous definition). This evolution of political professionalization (political “dilettante” → political “entrepreneur” → professional politician) corresponds to the general European trend. The emergence of public politics as a sphere of professional activity and the gradual formation of a professional political corps were the key results of Russian parliamentary evolution in the twentieth century. Thus, despite the complex and non-linear development of Russian parliamentarianism, the slight trend toward the professionalization of parliamentary representation has been obvious in Russia.