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Crafting Democracy. Now Novgorod Has Coped with Rapid Social Change



"This is a truly unique book, addressed to readers in both Russia and abroad. Its author is not just another scholar and writer interested, as others have been, in the processes of transformation in the Russian provinces. From the outset he pursued a specific goal — to use the Novgorod region as a mirror to reflect on political reforms in Russia.... Nicolai N. Petro has spent a considerable amount of time in Novgorod, observing how average people lived, and how they became active participants in a new social system."
 NIKOLAI GRAZHDANKIN, Mayor of Novgorod the Great

"Through a subtle, revealing examination of Russian regional politics, Nicolai N. Petro makes a compelling case that Western aid providers should give much greater atten­tion to local cultural values and traditions when seeking to build democracy abroad."
thomas carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"When it comes to Novgorod, Nicolai N. Petro is clearly in a league of his own. His nuanced and important book is based on extensive fieldwork in the region and close access to many key individuals. Petro brings his research to bear on existing theoretical approaches, mounting a critique while generating an original theory."
— richard sakwa, University of Kent at Canterbury and author of Putin: Russia's Choice and Russian Politics and Society

"Challenging the conventional wisdom of 'how Russia went wrong, 'Nicolai N. Petro's work on Novgorod explains how one Russian region got reform right. Culture and institutions do matter — and Petro's lessons apply not only to Russia but any country in the midst of political transitions."
— nikolas K. GVOSDEV, executive editor of The National Interest and senior fellow at The Nixon Center, coeditor of Civil Society and the Search for Justice in Russia

"In approaching the Russian response to the Soviet collapse from a regional perspective, Nicolai N. Petro adds an important dimension to our understanding of political, eco­nomic, and social processes in that country. Novgorod, representing an unusual case even within the Russian context, deserves attention and investigation in its own right. Petro has managed to integrate complex sources and arguments into a coherent and provocative presentation." — Blair Ruble, Director, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies

Cornell University Press Ithaca and London www.cornellpress.cornell.edu

Crafting Democracy

How Novgorod Has Coped with Rapid Social Change



THE NOVGOROD REGION OF RUSSIA is a sparsely populated area about the size of Ireland better known for its medieval archaeolo­gy and folklore than for anything else. Although Novgorod began the post-Soviet period with no unusual endowment of natural or human resources, it has attracted a large amount of for­eign investment. Its dramatic economic success and political innovation have impressed observers. Local governments deliver benefits and services reliably, and the regional govern­ment responds quickly to citizens' needs and demands. Something noteworthy is happening in Novgorod that does not square with familiar headlines about contemporary Russia: oligarchs and oil, ethnic tensions and corruption.

Nicolai N. Petro attempts to explain the Novgorod phenomenon by seeking answers at the regional level. Novgorod is, he finds, a model of effective democratic consolidation. Petro sug­gests that the region owes its unexpected recent success to its political elites, who have identified key cultural symbols and used those symbols to promote democratic development. Drawing on comparisons with other regions and countries, Petro finds that these cultural tactics often yield better results than do Western-style institutions and educational training programs.

«Current efforts to promote democracy focus too much on structural changes and not enough on the conditions needed to sustain them», Petro writes. «For the rule of law, free markets, and free and fair elections to gain broad public support, they must first make sense within the local cultural tradition». The unexpected success of regional democratic development in a country not known for its democratic traditions suggests that local governments can transform the burden of the past into an ally of change, a finding with implications for democratic development initiatives in other areas of the world.

Nicolai N. Petro is Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island. He is coauthor of Russian Foreign Policy: From Empire to Nature-State and author of The Rebirth of Russian Democracy: An Interpretation of Political Culture.



List of  Figures and Tables


Note on Style



1. Defining Democracy

The Many Meanings of Democracy

From Authoritarianism o Democratic Transition

From Transition o Democratic Consolidation

From Consolidation to Mature Democracy

The Case for Regional Democratic Development

Democratization Theory in Disarray

2. Democratic Development in Russia: The Novgorod Model

A New Constitutional Order

Economic Success

Voluntary Associations

3. How We Missed Novgorod’s Democratic Consolidation

Criticisms of Novgorod as a Democratic Model

The Most Common Failures of Democratization Theories

Explaining Away the Differences between Novgorod and Pskov

How Current Democratic Theory Overlooks Democracy


4. Three Keys to Understanding Rapid Social Change

What Works and What Doesn't When Studying Transition

Why Cultural Analysis Is Best for the Study of Transition

What is Missing from Cultural Analysis?

Should There Be a Metafield of Symbolic Politics?

5. Novgorod in Russia's Memory
The Republic of St. Sophia
Novgorod's Enduring Message of Freedom

The Image of Novgorod in the Twentieth Century

6. Symbols at Work
Activating die Novgorod Myth

How Symbols Promoted Democratic Consolidation in Novgorod

Symbols and Myths as Political Resources Elsewhere in Russia

How Different Is Russia?

The Variety and Power of Symbols

7. Crafting Democracy

The Russian Idea versus Regional Myths

What Symbols Can Do for Democratic Development

The Cultural Audit

Training for a New Type of Development

Opportunities and Pitfalls






2.1. Growth of territorial housing fellowships in Novgorod the Great, 1997-2002

2.2. Trust in public institutions in the Novgorod Region, 1995-1999

2.3. Annual foreign direct investment in the Novgorod Region, 1993-2003

2.4. Annual donations to the "Christmas Marathon", 1993-2003

2.5. Poverty trends in the Novgorod Region, 1995-2002

2.6. Civic and voluntary associations registered in the Novgorod Region, 1991-2002

2.7. Registered political parties and associations in the Novgorod Region, 1994-2001

3.1. Monetary income per capita for the Novgorod and Pskov Regions, 1985-2000

3.2. Percentage living below poverty level in the Novgorod and Pskov Regions, 1997-2002

3.3. Industrial production in the Novgorod and Pskov Regions, 1990-2000

3.4. Percentage of Novgorod and Pskov regional budgets provided by federal subsidies, 1994-2001

3.5. FDI in the Novgorod and Pskov Regions, 1995-2000

6.1. Elite values compared to popular values in the Novgorod Region, July 1999

6.2. Increased popular interest in Novgorodica, 1980-2000


2.1. Matrix for measuring progress toward democratization in Novgorod

2.2. Anticipated election participation in Novgorod, 1995-1999

2.3. FDI inflows among transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe, 1996-2000

2.4. Most numerous types of voluntary associations in the Novgorod Region, 1997 and 2001

2.5. Most rapidly growing types of voluntary associations in the Novgorod Region, 1997 through 2001

3.1. Selected sayings of Governor Prusak

3.2. Comparative indicators for the Novgorod and Pskov Regions

3.3. Percentage division of basic factory assets in the Novgorod and Pskov Regions

7.1. Two development paradigms



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