RUSSIAN POLITICS GUIDE
Russian Government System: Federal Semi-Presidential Republic
Since gaining its independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Russia has faced serious challenges in its efforts to forge a political system after nearly seventy-five years of Soviet rule. For instance, leading figures in the Legislative and Executive branches have put forth opposing views of Russia's political direction and the governmental instruments that should be used to follow it. That conflict reached a climax in September and October 1993, when President Boris Yeltsin used military force to dissolve the parliament and called for new legislative elections. This event marked the end of Russia's first Constitutional period, which was defined by the much-amended Constitution adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1978. A new Constitution, creating a strong Presidency, was approved by referendum in December 1993.
With a new Constitution and a new Parliament representing diverse parties and factions, Russia's political structure subsequently showed signs of stabilization. As the transition period extended into the mid-1990s, the power of the national government continued to wane as Russia's regions gained political and economic concessions from Moscow. Although the struggle between Executive and Legislative branches was partially resolved by the new Constitution, the two branches continued to represent fundamentally opposing visions of Russia's future. Most of the time, the Executive was the center of reform, and the lower house of the Parliament, the State Duma, was a bastion of anti-reform Communists and Nationalists.
Russian politics are now dominated by a tandem of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, under the umbrella of their United Russia Party. In December 2011, in the nation's largest anti-government demonstrations of the post-Soviet era, tens of thousands of Russians rallied across the country to protest alleged fraud in a recent parliamentary election and to demand Putin's departure as Prime Minister. The protests were ignored, however, and Prime Minister Putin was elected to a new six-year term as President in March 2012 (outgoing President Medvedev had already been elected Prime Minister in the December election).