Nations in Transit 2010: Russia Declining


The prestigious watchdog Freedom House published on Tuesday the 14th edition of the study Nations in Transit, which is a comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia. The overarching conclusion is that 2009 was a year of broad, cross-regional pressures on democratic developments: scores declined for 14 of the 29 countries. Over the past five years, eight of the ten new EU states have undergone declines in their overall democracy scores.

However, with the grave situation for defenders of human rights and democracy growing worse in 2009, Nations in Transit findings show that over the past decade, Russia [pdf] has undergone the largest decline of any country in the study. In terms of population, nearly 80 percent of residents of the former Soviet Union – some 221 million people – still live in entrenched authoritarian settings where they are deprived of basic political rights.

While Russia’s internet generally retains a good deal of openness, on several fronts the authorities are insinuating themselves into the medium. The effort includes the acquisition of blogging platforms and popular websites by Kremlin-friendly companies and the emergence of commentators and provocateurs who subvert online discourse.

Russia has lost ground on its corruption score this year due to “a growing prevalence of bribe paying, the failure of the authorities to address police corruption, and the growing use of sophisticated legal and illegal means to pressure business.” The roots of corruption have grown deep in the country, and in many ways graft has become the lifeblood of the current system.

Three other indicators have undergone an especially sharp decline over the past 10 years: electoral process, civil society, and independent media. All of these spheres have been focal points for the Russian authorities’ efforts to limit political competition and dissent.

Map of Freedom

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