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Serfs Up! Is there a Russian Mindset Against Democracy? - Democracy in Russia from the Czars to Putin

The Russian Bear now goes hairless and shirtless, but the teeth of the beast have grown back and its once subdued appetite has now returned with a raging hunger.

The Russian Bear now goes hairless and shirtless, but the teeth of the beast have grown back and its once subdued appetite has now returned with a raging hunger.

Never Full Frontal Democracy - Only the Bare Torso

I love taking shots at Vladimir Putin, but probably only because I'm sitting here in my living room in California, and not halfway around the world in Moscow, where perhaps I wouldn't be so bold. Anyway, if I ever flirted with joining the Putin fan club all that changed after this man turned his Cossacks loose on the all-girl punk rock band Pussy Riot in Sochi. In my opinion, the deadly charade that is playing out in the Ukraine doesn't come nearly as close as bullwhip wielding Cossacks attacking girls in ski masks toward demonstrating that Russia has a long way to go before it achieves what we in the West define as a true "democratic" society.

Russia rubs elbows with Europe geographically, yet remains light years away politically and culturally. While nearly every other European country has finally achieved stable democracy Russia still teeters on the brink of the dark ages and really is not much better off in terms of human rights and the rule of law than it was during the time of the Czars.

In a country that has produced so many phenomenal achievements in the arts and sciences I find this almost impossible to comprehend. Yet every time that we in the West think the Russian Bear is finally going to show us full frontal democracy all we get is its unsettling, hairless bare torso strutting around on a tank turret or charging in half naked on a horse to try to scare its weaker neighbors to roll over and stand aside.

Pussy Riot

In 2012 the punk band Pussy Riot staged an unsanctioned protest concert in a Moscow cathedral; but unlike Vladimir Putin they kept their shirts on.

In 2012 the punk band Pussy Riot staged an unsanctioned protest concert in a Moscow cathedral; but unlike Vladimir Putin they kept their shirts on.

Serfdom

The progress of Russian democracy was delayed significantly by the abolition of serfdom, which did not take place there until 1861. To paraphrase the various online definitions, serfdom is a condition in which peasants are held in perpetual bondage to the land on which they live and are required to perform services for the lord who owns their land and lives. In contrast to Russia, serfdom in Western Europe largely disappeared roughly around the end of the late 15th, early 16th century, when the Black Death resulted in a sharp decline in the labor force and increased bargaining power for workers. The end of serfdom led to the growth of a middle class that increasingly demanded and through several bloody revolutions eventually gained participation in the political process. In other words, Russia is roughly three and a half centuries behind Europe in political experience and is still experiencing the growing pains that rocked Western Europe for a few centuries after the emancipated peasants began to demand their rights.