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Currently, it is a pretty established fact that Russia isn't a democracy. According to the vast majority of American news sources covering last year's Russian elections there, they are fake. However, the Russian Constitution ostensibly is one of a democracy, from what I know of it. I know that Putin has made major changes to the Constitution.

Did the modern Russian Federation ever work as a democracy? Or, since it replaced the Soviet Union, has it always had fake elections, major de facto and/or de jure restrictions on freedom of speech, etc.?

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    With removing opinion-based fragments about elections and so on, it'll be a good question, don't you think?) It is even more interesting, if you ask was it ever in its history or not. – user2501323 Aug 22 '19 at 14:13
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    I'm inclined to vote to close as not asked in good faith - it assumes that Russia isn't a democracy. What is fair (this word is so loaded) to one person might not be fair to another. Plus, as Orangesandlemons points out above, Putin is genuinely popular enough that it's very conceivable he'd win a "fair" general election anyway. – Allure Aug 23 '19 at 8:31
  • Comments deleted. Comments should be used to improve the question, not to discuss its subject matter and certainly not for discussing subject matters which have nothing to do with the question. For more information on how comments should and should not be used, please review the article about the commenting privilege on the help center. – Philipp Nov 30 '19 at 10:59
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If we use the Democracy Index to quantify the level of democracy in a country, the answer would be no in the time from 2006 till today. The main problems nowadays in Russia are:

  • limited freedom of press
  • suppression of opposition
  • no protection or even prosecution of minorities
  • missing equality of people, for example prosecution of homosexuals
  • probably rigged elections

Sadly, I have no data prior to 2006 right now, but I assume that Russia never was a "full democracy". But by this definition, neither is the US.

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To add to the answers above, the Democracy Index ranks Russia as an authoritarian regime. Rank for how democratic a nation is.

Basically, Russia ranks as a 3.11 as of 2019, making it an authoritarian regime by the indexes' standards and below a flawed democracy like the United States or even a hybrid regime like Liberia. The index is based around "60 indicators grouped in five different categories, measuring pluralism, civil liberties and political culture". While it is not a perfect indicator, it is the closest thing I believe we have to attempts to objectively measure how 'democratic' a nation is.

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    Those index ranks are very useful! For example, pandemia readiness index from 2019: ghsindex.org/#l-section--map - it describes reality in a very 'accurate' manner. – user2501323 May 23 at 16:23
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    @user2501323 Well not all indexes are perfect, but they are some of the closest things we have to objective evidence, otherwise people can make a lot of subjective arguments about these subjects. Plus, these indexes are made by very different people and I think the GHS index is talking about pandemic readiness in terms of resources and capacity to bring in experts to handle pandemics - whether people use those resources or actually listen to their experts on how to use them when responding to a pandemic is another story... – Tyler Mc May 23 at 16:26
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    In fact, you are right - as all statistics, it is done by humans and for humans, and may or may not describe reality or their views. It would be interesting to view, for example, Chinese version of such rating. – user2501323 May 23 at 16:29
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The 1996 election, the first since the breakup of the Soviet Union, was the only Presidential election that went to a runoff. Boris Yeltsin finished with the most votes, but far short of a majority. He faced Gennady Zyuganov in the second round, and won by a 54-41 margin (with 5% voting "against all").

All subsequent elections were won by the incumbents (or their hand-picked successors) in the first round:

  • 2000: 53% Putin
  • 2004: 71% Putin
  • 2008: 71% Medvedev
  • 2012: 64% Putin
  • 2018: 77% Putin
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    Just looking at election results isn't necessarily a proof of undemocratic elections. You have to look at how those results came to be. Was the media independent from the government? Was the opposition allowed to organize and campaign without government interference? Was the voting done in a fair way? Were there no notable irregularities during the count? – Philipp Aug 22 '19 at 22:13
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    I'm sorry, but 1996 elections were nearly fully falcificated by the US. Without US support, Zyuganov would just won in the first tour. There even was a TIME journal about it – user2501323 Aug 23 '19 at 5:58
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    @KeithMcClary, exactly.) I've done answer around that, but it was removed as opinion-based and non-answering. – user2501323 Sep 3 '19 at 5:55
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    @dsollen The Russian constitution forbids a president running for more than two consecutive terms, consequently Putin asked his Prime Minister to run for the presidency, and his supporters knew this. During this time there was no ambiguity about who was really in charge. – inappropriateCode Nov 28 '19 at 15:43

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