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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences



First Reader/Committee Chair

Pytell, Timothy


This thesis examines the historical progression of social and political transitions in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, seeking to establish the development of Putinism in an historical context and assert a definition of Putinism as a governing philosophy which exploits the rhetoric of democracy and civil society to conceal authoritarian practices. Analysis begins with Mikhail Gorbachev’s ‘moral position’ as the basis of the Gorbachev reforms and the conceptual introduction of democratic and market mechanics, followed by the rejection of the Soviet system and the mixed legacy of shock therapy under Boris Yeltsin, culminating in the ultimate ascendancy of Vladimir Putin as a response to the perceived loss of national status and social dislocation resulting from the Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras. Ultimately, it is asserted that Putinism is ideologically grounded in Chekism, fundamentally anti-democratic and inherently kleptocratic, seeking to maintain power and perpetuate a sistema centered on the Kremlin. Through vertical centralization of the state, the development of alternative mechanisms of governance, domination of political discourse, development of a personality cult, state sponsored redefinition of Russian identity and the encouragement of exceptionalist and neo-imperialist policies.