This article analyses the democratisation process in Georgia, where on 1 October 2012 citizens succeeded in changing their government through the ballot box. Did this event mark a democratic breakthrough or the beginning of another semi-authoritarian regime cycle? I tackle this question by navigating across the last decade of Georgian politics through the lens of theories on democratisation and semi-authoritarianism. I first expose the system of ‘dominant-power politics’ that allowed Saakashvili to implement much needed state-building reforms yet also atrophied political competition. I thereafter analyse the tug-of-war between the ruling party and the opposition during the run-up to last year’s elections. After recounting the culmination of this struggle, I examine Georgia’s trajectory in the aftermath of Election Day. Rather than transitioning to democracy, Georgia has developed towards ‘feckless pluralism’. This is to be expected, since Prime Minister Ivanishvili and President Saakashvili have been forced into an uneasy cohabitation under a divided-executive constitution. However, if a genuine opening is to ensue, the protagonists must »accept the existence of diversity in unity and, to that end, to institutionalize some crucial aspect of democratic procedure» (Rustow 1970: 355).
This paper advances the idea that two partly symbiotic, partly countervailing and very potent political myths – one about Russia’s historically preordained great power status, the other about the frequent inhibitions to its great power aspirations due to domestic weakness, foreign intervention and Time of Troubles – reflect and reveal major dynamics of contemporary political life in Russia. The perspective provides a key to the understanding of Vladimir Putin’s longstanding domestic popularity and legitimacy as a president. An analysis of President Putin’s annual addresses to the Federal Assembly shows how these myths have been drawn upon in contemporary Russian political rhetoric and practice during the periods 2000–2008 and from 2012 onwards.
In spite of the Cold War, the expansion of Soviet–Norwegian relations went through a positive phase in 1955 with the Norwegian Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen visiting the USSR for the first time. Soviet propaganda on the socialist state’s achievements was being greatly emphasized. Against this background, I consider a case of bilateral cultural diplomacy – the visit of a delegation of ten Norwegian women to the Soviet Union. On the basis of material from the Soviet Women Anti-fascist Committee’s archive, the article describes and analyses visits to Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. The visit ended tragically with the deaths of the delegation in a plane crash near Voronezh. Nevertheless, the organization and course of the visit itself demonstrate how Soviet power was used to create a positive image of the USSR in public opinion in the capitalist West.