Collective Identities & Social Cleavages:

Social Class:

Boris Yeltsin's government contributed to the wealthy upper-class Russian's by distributing huge favors to them. During the presidential campaign of Vladimir Putin in 2000, a small but powerfull group of entrepreneurs sponsored him. In the Putin era , oligarchs came under fire for various alleged and real illegal activities , particularly the underpayment of taxes in the business's they acquired. (Wood, 118) People in Russia value equality of result over equality of opportunity. Russia has a more authoritarian type of government with Marxist ideals because Russians long for the "good old days of communist rule.

Ethnic Cleavages:

As the Soviet Union began to collapse, social disintegration and political instability fueled a surge in ethnic conflict. Social and economic disparities, along with ethnic differences, created an upsurge in nationalism within groups and discrimination between groups. In particular, disputes over territorial boundaries have been the source of conflict between states experiencing political transition and upheaval. Territorial disputes remain significant points of controversy as minority groups consistently oppose election outcomes and seek autonomy and self determination. In addition to territorial disputes and other structural causes of conflict, legacies from the Soviet and pre-Soviet eras, along with the suddenness of the actual sociopolitical change, have resulted in conflict throughout the region.

Conflicts such as the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Georgia-Ossetia, Georgia-Abkhazia, Ossetia-Ingush, and Moldova-Pridnestrovje conflicts have escalated to final stage, involving warfare . A predominance of these instances of ethnic conflict is located in the Caucasus and the Central Asian regions as a result of territorial disputes and political unrest. In addition, conflict between Russia and other former Soviet states has accounted for a large amount of present conflicts. Hostilities between Russia and groups of the North Caucasus area, such as the Chechens, are rooted deeply in historical differences, resulting in the first and second Chechen Wars . Overall, the enormous diversity of the area of the former Soviet Union, along with greater feelings of nationalism and ethnic identity, have led to an increase in ethnic tension and discrimination that remain a large part of social and political relations both among and within each state.

The ethnic cleavages appear to have the most significant impact on the political system.

Religious Cleavages:

Tsarist Russia was mostly Russian Orthodox, with the tsar serving as the spiritual head of the church. In reaction, the Soviet Union prohibited religious practices of all kind, so most citizens lost their religious affiliations during the 20th century. Boris Yeltsin encouraged the Russian Orthodox church to reestablish itself. Today most Russians identify themselves as Russian Orthodox, but they are still largely nonreligious, with only a small percentage regularly attending church services.
There are cleavages in the Caucasus area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This area is often seen as a hot spot of trouble for Muslims. The repression of Chechens, as well as intermittent violence in the entire region, was the biggest issue for Putin as he tried to cultivate Russia's role in global Muslim affairs. This region remains highly volatile today. (Wood, 117)

Regional Cleavages:

There are cleavages between the rural and urban regions in Russia. Industrialization since the era of Joesph Stalin has led to an increasingly urban population, with about 73% of all Russians now living in cities. The economic divide between rural and urban people is wide, although recent economic woes have beset almost all Russians no matter where they live. City dwellers are more likely to be more educated and in touch with western culture, but the political consequences are unclear in the unsettled current political climate. (Wood, 118)




Attitudes and Beliefs of Citizens:

Citizens are skeptical of their government. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought out much hostility toward the government that is reflected in the attitudes of the citizens today. Information about the citizens attitudes and beliefs of Russia is scarce. Most polls show that people support democratic ideals, including free elections and widespread individual civil liberties and rights. However they do not trust the government officials or institutions to make these ideals a reality. (Wood, 119) In other words, Russia's citizens do not believe the government cares what they think.




Political Socialization:

In Russia, people learn about politics through media. They regularly read newspapers and watch news on television. They also frequently discuss politics with friends and family. Despite the relatively high voter turnouts, participation in any other forms of political activities is low. (Wood,120) The government does use propaganda to influence voters. For example Vladimir Putin gets support from young people by appealing to them though pop music with songs like "A Man Like Putin".



Political Participation:

During the soviet rule in the 20th century, Russia's voting rate was close to 100% because the citizens faced serious consequences for not voting. However, elections were not competitive until the late 1980's when Gorbachev brought about the reforms, and citizens voted for candidates that were handpicked by the Communist leadership. Gorbachev created competitive elections in the Soviet Union, no alternate party existed yet so voter choice was limited to the designated party. Since 1991, voter turn out in the Russian Federation has been fairly high. In the 2008 presidential elections, voter turn out was almost 70%.

People in Russia hold rallies and protests against the government at times. For example, after the economic crisis of 2008, a series of protests were organized to criticize the governments economic policies.Other demonstrations against the government and some in support were held in several cities throughout the country, with none apparently turning violent. (Wood, 119)