The dualism of contemporary Russian politics, in which the formal institutions of the constitutional state are challenged by the arbitrariness of the administrative regime, generates a complex pattern of interactions exposed by the widespread practice of «raiding» (reiderstvo). Two cases are examined: the well-known assault on Mikhail Khodorkovsky from 2003, which saw his Yukos oil company transferred into state hands, and the attack shortly afterwards on Togliattiazot. In the first case, the raiders, including some top state officials, were successful and went on to remodel the Russian political economy as a whole, notably through the creation of state corporations at the heart of a «redevelopmental» state. In the second case, the courts and popular forces were mobilized to fight off the raiders. The latter case demonstrates that in the contemporary Russian polity spaces remain for counter-mobilization, although only in certain conditions. The Medvedev presidency (2008–12) sought, albeit half-heartedly, to utilize the potential of the constitutional state to reduce the arbitrariness of the administrative regime, above all by reducing legal nihilism, limiting criminal sanctions in business cases and pushing back against the state corporations. All this demonstrates that rather than describing Russia as suffering from «bureaucratic stagnation», the more dynamic dual state model suggests that it would be more accurate to talk in terms of «systemic stalemate».
Like all the other most significant economic powers, Russia has expressed a desire to become a world leader in the nanotechnology industry. Nanotechnology has been elevated to this level because important Russian policy makers want to effect a wider modernization of the Russian economy. The article examines attempts at employing modern industrial policy tools and asks about outcomes and possible significant barriers likely to hamper efforts at transforming Russia into an important player in the emerging global nanotechnology industry. The success or otherwise of Russia’s nanotechnology policy is considered as part of a wider desire for economic modernization that makes this policy so important to the Russian government.
The power shift in Russia in 2008 coincided with a deep economic crisis that had revealed some of the vulnerabilities of the political and economic system that had been put in place by Putin during his two terms as the country’s president. Partly in response to the crisis, but also probably to differentiate himself from Putin, President Dmitri Medvedev decided in 2009 to launch an ambitious programme aimed at modernising the Russian economy. An important element of the process was setting up an institutional framework for implementation of a policy of modernisation. The main goal of this article is to explore Medvedev’s main motivations for launching his modernisation project, which institutional framework he managed to put in place to promote this policy and what the future may be of the modernisation drive under a new president who has clearly shifted the focus of his policy, decided to change the institutional frame-work and, in addition, has been playing down the modernisation rhetoric in the public space. The article looks at the sociology of power in Russia by exploring who has played a major part in the implementation of Medvedev’s modernisation plan, and examining what has happened to this plan during the first year of Putin’s third term.