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.?

  • 2
    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. Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 14:13
  • 6
    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
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 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
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 10:59

3 Answers 3


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 the opposition
  • no protection or even persecution 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.


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.

  • 1
    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. Commented May 23, 2020 at 16:23
  • 1
    @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
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 16:26
  • 2
    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. Commented May 23, 2020 at 16:29

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
  • 20
    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
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 22:13
  • 13
    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 Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 5:58
  • 5
  • 6
    @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.
    – user8398
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 15:43
  • 3
    @OlegV.Volkov I'm not suggesting any of this is covert or conspiratorial, it's plainly obvious. As you say Putin already is popular, but also appoints only loyalists to high office, further consolidating his influence. For example, he created the National Guard, answerable to the executive (not interior ministry or defence ministry), and their leader is (of course) Putin's former bodyguard. It's like Stalin, he was popular but also appointed only loyalists and was basically the only one making executive decisions.
    – user8398
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 21:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .