Skip to Main Content
Shocking Mother Russia

Shocking Mother Russia: Democratization, Social Rights, and Pension Reform in Russia, 1990-2001

Andrea Chandler
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 260
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Shocking Mother Russia
    Book Description:

    Examining the reform process of the old age pension system in Russia, from its Soviet origins to the Putin era,Shocking Mother Russiaadds significantly to the growing body of literature on comparative social policy and the political challenges of pension reform. Andrea Chandler explains why Russia's old-age pension system went into decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, even though it was a prominent issue in the political arena at the outset of the post-communist transition.

    While tracing the roots of the system's difficulties to the Soviet Union's first efforts to establish a national social welfare system after 1917, Chandler nonetheless devotes the bulk of her study to the period from 1990 to 2001. While political factors impeded reform for much of this eleven-year period, ultimately Russia's striking policy reversals provide a case study for developing nations. In 1990, a new Russian pension law was adopted during the Soviet reform process ofperestroika. The system was again significantly altered in 2001 when a market-reform-oriented package of pension legislation was passed.Shocking Mother Russiaplaces the Russian experience in comparative perspective, and suggests lessons for pension reform derived from analysis of the Russian case.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7991-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Chapter 1 Russia’s Social Welfare Crisis in Theoretical Perspective
    (pp. 3-23)

    Despite its incoherence, the quotation above reveals a strong ambivalence in Russian political life regarding the high social cost of postcommunist reforms; it also demonstrates the emotional resonance of the plight of the elderly in Russia. In Russian political discourse after the break-up of the USSR in 1991, pensioners became a powerful symbol of the adverse consequences of change. Like the leaders of other postcommunist countries such as Poland, Russiaʼs first president, Boris Yeltsin, had decided to pursue a rapid economic reform strategy known as ʻshock therapy.ʼ As the term implies, shock therapy, which began in 1992, involved the rapid...

  5. Chapter 2 The Elderly in a Revolutionary Society: The Soviet Pension System, 1917-1956
    (pp. 24-43)

    To understand the post-Soviet pension crisis, we must consider the historical context of Russiaʼs pension reform: the social welfare system of the Soviet Union. As the worldʼs first socialist state, the USSR throughout its history propagandized the quality of its social welfare system as proof of its progressive historical role in improving the well-being of its citizens. The market-oriented pension reform proposals of the 1990s threatened the well-established principles of the Soviet pension system, and the Russian opposition showed a strong attachment to the communist-era values of the welfare state. It is quite true that after the Russian Revolution of...

  6. Chapter 3 Pensions and the Pressures of Democratization in the USSR under Perestroika, 1986-1990
    (pp. 44-59)

    After the 1956 reform, the Soviet pension system continued to operate as a reasonably comprehensive social welfare institution. The pension mechanism was capable of meeting the basic needs of retiring workers. It contained an underlying assumption that socioeconomic conditions could improve, but not worsen, under socialism. The Soviet pension system changed little for decades. The long tenure of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev (1964-82) later became commonly referred to as the ‘years of stagnation’ because plodding authoritarianism and minimal reform were dominant themes of that era. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as the General Secretary of the Communist Party...

  7. Chapter 4 The Origins of Post-Communist Russia’s Pension Crisis, 1990-1993
    (pp. 60-71)

    When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, the Russian Republic (renamed the Russian Federation) suddenly became an independent state. Under President Boris Yeltsinʼs leadership, the countryʼs government had to scramble to adjust to the new demands and responsibilities of independent statehood. Notwithstanding the adjustments that accompanied Yeltsinʼs economic reform program of ʻshock therapy,ʼ the countryʼs pension system could have been relatively well equipped to handle the transition. While still a constituent Soviet republic in 1990, Russia had adopted a reasonably well-intentioned and foresightful reform, and the old-age pension system consistently remained at the top of the political and legislative...

  8. Chapter 5 Institutional Structure of the Russian Pension System, 1992-2001
    (pp. 72-86)

    As we have observed, the Soviet Unionʼs incomplete reform effort destabilized Russiaʼs pension system just as ʻshock therapyʼ was making basic goods less affordable to pensioners. The government disagreed with parliament over how best to improve the lot of pensioners in the short term. But while politics played an important role, a significant cause of Russiaʼs emerging pension crisis was its weak institutional base, including the blurry delineation of federal responsibilities for maintaining consistent universal pension standards across Russiaʼs eighty-nine republics and regions. These organizational problems existed in the early years of the post-communist transition and were perhaps an inevitable...

  9. Chapter 6 The Politics of Pensions and the Evolution of Russian Parliamentarism, 1994-1999
    (pp. 87-108)

    The pension crisis highlights the role that the Russian legislature has played in that countryʼs post-Soviet political transition. In the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachevʼs reforms emphasized the importance of the rule of law, albeit more in principle than in practice. Since parliaments are by definition representative institutions that make law, strengthening the legislatureʼs role was generally seen as crucial to democratization, since it would make government less arbitrary and more responsible to the public.¹ Somewhat competitive elections in 1989 and 1990 ensured that Soviet legislatures gave voters more of a choice in their elected representatives than...

  10. Chapter 7 Russian Laws on Old-Age Pensions and Veterans’ Rights: Contending Understandings of Social Justice
    (pp. 109-123)

    In June 1997, Russiaʼs parliament adopted a law on the calculation and indexation of old-age pensions. This law provoked so much discussion in the country that it was commonly referred to simply by its number, FZ-113 (federal law 113). It was basically technical in nature, as its objective was to recalculate pensions for some senior citizens and to define the formula for calculating pension increases. The very essence of the law was such that at first glance, it could be regarded as a milestone in the establishment of rule of law in the pension system. This long-awaited piece of legislation...

  11. Chapter 8 The Evolution of Pension Reform in Russia, 1995-2001
    (pp. 124-153)

    The ongoing struggle over pension indexation, and the prevalence of pension arrears, led to the development of a broad-based political consensus that pension reform was necessary in Russia. To this end, laws on indexation and personal insurance records and the legalization of private pension funds were important, but these were only the first steps towards a more fundamental reorientation of the pension system. But how could Russiaʼs political actors agree on the substantive details of pension reform? And if pension reform was to be geared toward fiscal restraint, how could cost effectiveness be consistent with the broader notions of ʻsocial...

  12. Chapter 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 154-162)

    Russia shares with many other countries the challenge of a rising pensioner population relative to the size of the working population whose taxes support pension expenditures. Pension reform is a difficult problem for any society, in terms of both its political fallout and the challenges of policy design. As Paul Pierson has pointed out, pension reform is a formidable task to accomplish even in democratic countries because it inspires intense opposition from those who might be directly affected by cutbacks in benefits.¹ In 1994 the World Bank published a study with comprehensive proposals for softening the financial difficulties confronting many...

  13. Appendix A: Detailed List of Sources for Figures 6.1-6.2: Chronology of Pension Indexation
    (pp. 163-168)
  14. Appendix B: Detailed List of Sources on Special Pension Benefits and Exemptions (l'goty)
    (pp. 169-172)
  15. Appendix C: Disputes over Finances
    (pp. 173-176)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 177-224)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-238)
  18. Index of Names
    (pp. 239-241)
  19. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 242-246)