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SPP 352

Author: Ellen Carnaghan
Description: Public opinion surveys among Russian citizens reveal contradictions. On the one hand, many Russians show considerable support for democratic values. But these same people also support calls for a strong state and greater order in society. The assumption behind much previous research has been that there is an inherent conflict between liberty and order and that Russians see a zero-sum trade-off between them and choose order. This paper asks whether Russians perceive a conflict between liberty and order and between democracy and a strong state. To the extent that they do not, why? Evidence comes from 47 formal in depth interviews with ordinary Russian citizens in 1998 and 2000. For at least some Russians, there is no contradiction between order and individual freedom or between a strong state and democracy. These Russians understand "order" as providing the conditions under which individual freedoms can be realized, and they see a strong government as a mechanism for accomplishing popular goals, not as an enemy of the people. For these Russians, order and a strong state are potentially compatible with democracy. But these goals may also be compatible with less benevolent forms of social organization. Insofar as understandings of order and strong government underestimate the tension between freedom and social control, Russians could be blinded to potential threats of authoritarian reversal.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland