Having a political culture, is a necessary precondition for any individual or a nation, in order to enable and maintain direct or indirect connection between government, formal and informal organizations, and in some way to reconcile personal and common interest to each other. In this essay the subject of discussion will be the cultures of the US, Russia, and their origins. In the first part you will read about the core values shared by US citizens and the constitution model in States. In the second part of the essay, the attention will be paid to the Russian political culture, the impact of the past and their drawbacks on the path to a true democracy. To the final bit of the work, you will attempt to make a contrast and comparison of the two countries, based on the noted arguments.
Political Culture in USA
Political culture in United States was forming over the past few centuries. And what we have today, is due to the existence of constant evolution. According to (Ushistory.org, 2016), the United States is recognized worldwide as a democratic and pluralistic state, in which political discourses between representatives of the various parties are conducted within boundaries of tolerant Interdependence. National identity in US society is based on commitment of democratic values. Democracy, liberty, equality and justice are core values equally important for every US citizen, and the main factor that shapes the US Political culture.
Main objective of liberal democracy in United States is provision of a guarantee for observance of the individual rights, fair process of elections and effective control behind their implementation, in line with the concept of US liberal democracy. Thus, the essence of the US concept of democracy, consists in granting conditions for the honest competition, and also balance between views and ideologies of social groups and ethnic communities.
Vast majority of people in United States believe in the right to be free, as long as another’s rights aren’t abused.
It should be noted that the US experience of nation-building and national identity of the US citizens, have been on the principle of political and civil equality, despite the long-term preservation of slavery and ethnic segregation. Therefore, the principle of equality means that all human beings are born free and must have the equal opportunity to participate in political and social life, and all are equal before the law.
The idea of justice implies that there is higher principles, according to which anyone must be defined, including the government and its actions. US liberals believe that the rule of law should apply to everyone and all shall be equal before the law, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
These are the most core ideals by the vast majority of US people that shapes US Culture, but obviously no wonder if I add that; these values are not common for all US citizens and still not all of them share the same views.
Design of Constitution
Given the fact that United States consist 50 different states, one major problem for the US government was how to transfer power from the states to national government to make it effective. According to (McKeever, 2012), the problem was solved in the following way: All the states were given equal representation in the Senate. Regardless any conditions, each state was able to have two senators. Besides, state legislatures were given the power over the choice of the Senate, therefore states were able to have control in case to block any unwanted actions by the national government. Also has to be noted that; while senators are representors of a state, House of Representatives are directly elected by the US citizenry.
The separation of power is another major democratic element in United States constitution. The separation of power in government helps the government to prevent any type of despotism. According to (McKeever, 2012), based on the treat of the despotism, the Founding Fathers, split the power of the US government in three main forces, which are: legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
• Executive branch: The President, chosen by Electoral College
• Legislative branch: The Congress, the House of Representatives
• Judicial branch: The Supreme Court, the supreme court.
Checks and balances
These three separation of powers would be complicated if there was no further impositions of checks and balances system on each of those institutions. The US president was given the power to veto over any actions made by congress, however, the veto still could have been reversed by a two-third majority of the parliament. Such a political mechanism makes the US government to run effectively and prevents any branch to become dominant to the point of tyranny.
Political Culture in Russia
The political culture of Russia is historically very unique due to its geographical, ethnic and confessional factors. The Orthodox Church has played a significant role in formation of the multinational Russian Empire, which has become an integral feature of the political culture.
In the previous century, Russia has achieved two big revolutionary cataclysm. First, when tsarism collapsed and paved the way to the communist regime, and second at the beginning of the 90s, after fall of the communism, which had to be the opportunity for the country to a liberal democratic regime and market principles. According to the (Remington, 1999), such past experience has had a big impact on modern Russian political culture.
Since the mid-50s, the country start the processes of liberalization, which has become a prerequisite for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it would not be surprising if I add that; such a past, even today prevents the full democratization of Russia, and this is the reason why Russia is seen as the carrier of the totalitarian regime.
Authoritarian Tradition and Suppressing Opposition
According to (Denton, 2006), Russian government is made up by an informal clan-based groups, which in turn are the founders of “sovereign democracy” concept, and also aggressive and retrograde nationalism based narrative. Therefore, opposition groups in the country are largely decorative function performers. All the media including television networks, newspapers and the Internet platforms are controlled by the Kremlin, directly or indirectly. It has even been claimed that, to the present era, the true democracy has not even yet taken hold in Russia, as Russian citizens themselves are “co-conspirators” in the rejection of democratic values and practices.
According to (Baker, 2004), the Russian federation has a centralized government, where the absolute power is concentrated to the president and prime minister of the country. “Putin would appoint all governors to create a “single chain of command” and allow Russians to vote only for political parties rather than specific candidates in parliamentary elections. Putin characterized the changes as enhancing national cohesion in the face of a terrorist threat, while critics called them another step toward restoring the tyranny of the state 13 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.”
Several bodies have performed the monitoring of the human rights in Russia (White, 2000). The main attention was paid to political amnesty to ensure the fair and prompt trial of political prisoners. The research revealed that four people had died of malnutrition after being forced to perform heavy manual tasks, two had been beaten before their death, and many of them in different parts of the body had been amputated, as a result of freezing temperatures. It really shows that human rights for Russian government, is not as important as it is suggested by the developed modern democracy.
Besides, According to (EurActiv | EU News & policy debates, 2015), Russia claims to have the right, not to perform decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights. Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed the law according which, Russia has the right to refuse any opinion of the European Court’s decision, if it prevents the needs of the country.
From the arguments noted above, we can conclude a few important differences between the two countries:
1. Based on the past, Russia has always been an autocratic state, compared to the United States. The Authority in US is diffused from people, and flows up, while in Russia, authority is centralized and the flow is directed down. Russia is a more centralized state, and most important issues are decided just by the political elite.
2. United States is a representative democracy. Russia claims to be direct democratic country. The economy of the US is driven by private free market, when in Russia major part of the market is owned by the government, directly or indirectly.
3. Each US state has its constitution, and the power of the nation is regulated by the checks and balances system, while in Russia, despite the constitution and the law, the fate of the country is in a hands of the few man.
4. Also has to be noted that, the ex-president of the USA, Richard Nixon resigned from the post in 1974, in order to be avoided the expected impeachment caused by the Watergate scandal. Such a thing has never happened in the history of the Russian Federation.
5. The US has western European roots. Russian cultural roots are based on both, Europe and Asia.
The essay tells about the political cultures of the United States and Russia. The US culture is based on the values shared by the vast majority of the citizens; such are democracy, liberty, equality and justice. In addition, another important factor that shapes out the US culture is the separation of power, and the checks and balances system, which includes vote power for president. Secondly, Russia also has its political culture, which is largely due to the revolutionary events of the previous century, from which arise the issues that hinder the development of democracy in the state; such are: authoritarian traditions, suppressing opposition, centralized government and human rights. If we compare the political cultures of these two countries, regardless that they both claim to be democratic states, we will see a huge differences in the performance of constitution. More specifically, in fact the quality of democracy in the US is far developed comparing to Russian Federation.
- McKeever, R. (2012). Politics USA. 3rd ed. Hemel Hempstead: Pearson Education Limited, pp.16-17.
- org, (2016). American Political Culture [ushistory.org]. [online] Available at: http://www.ushistory.org/gov/4a.asp [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016].
- Remington, T. (1999). Politics in Russia. New York: Longman, p.67.
- Baker, P. (2004). Putin Moves to Centralize Authority. [online] Washingtonpost.com. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17838-2004Sep13.html [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016].
- Denton, A. (2006). Russian Political Culture Since 1985. [online] Sras.org. Available at: http://www.sras.org/russian_political_culture_since_1985 [Accessed 11 Jan. 2016].
- White, S. (2000). Russia’s new politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, p.275.