Russia: Late-Take Off Society in the Whirlwind of World Politics

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-11-42-52
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation


Russia is regarded as a “late take-off” society (other participants in this “cohort” – Germany, Japan, Italy), the modernization of which was guided from above, by the state and its agencies, indirectly reflecting the lack of alternative, spontaneous modernization option. The author, while exploring the phenomenon of modern Russian society in the unity of historical, economic, sociocultural and political forms of existence, tries to identify the similarities as well as differences between the domestic society, on the one hand, and the “classical” West, that is Northwest Europe, on the other. The comparison demonstrates: Russia is the most complex organism among the “late take-off” societies, in the modernization of which the state has played and continues to play a pivotal role in its various historical and political forms and manifestations. The paper outlines the main stages of the “guided” transformation of Russian society. Fundamental to the modernization of Russia were: Peter and Catherine’s societal transformations, the first industrial revolution in the country (1850–1890s), emergence of the “organized capitalism” system in Germany, Japan, and later in the USA, the October Revolution, World War II, Soviet-American bipolarity. The accelerated transition of Russia from rural to industrial society was accompanied by deformations (deviations from the West European “standard”), return movements (“counter-reforms”), and impediments to reception of representative institutions and practices by the masses. External pressure reinforced the tendency of state domination over society, which subsequently transformed into paternalistic behavior patterns. Migration flows were not accompanied by social and professional diversification of Russian society. From now on, the logic of the accelerated development of Russia was shaped by competition with the West that was undergoing the industrial revolution. This competition endangered the homeostatic equilibrium of traditional society. The World War I revealed the peripheral, subordinate position of Russia in the international system. The most radical approach to regaining a major power status in world politics was proposed by the Bolshevik Party, who led the October Revolution of 1917. The Communist model has become instrumental of advancing transformation of traditional/rural society into a modern, urban one. Subsequently, the exhaustion of the communist model’s internal resources gave rise to a painful search for a new modernization and development paradigm. Currently, Russia’s existential task is to accelerate the pace of economic growth, help society enter the trajectory of sustainable development and, consequentially, participate in the world system on the basis of “strategic autonomy” that is unconditional sovereignty.

Acknowlegdements. The article has been supported by a grant of the Russian Science Foundation. Project 14-28-00097 “Optimization of Russia’s External Investment Links amidst Worsening Relations with the EU”.


Russia, modern society, society of the “late-take off”, modernization, industrial revolution, industrial society, different-stadiality of world development, October Revolution, bipolar world


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For citation:
Volodin A. Russia: Late-Take Off Society in the Whirlwind of World Politics . Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2020, vol. 64, No 11, pp. 42-52.

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