The estate origins of democracy in Russia: from imperial bourgeoisie to post-communist middle class

This talk is based on the author’s newly published book, The Estate Origins of Democracy in Russia: From Imperial Bourgeoisie to Post-Communist Middle Class. The book argues that the Bolsheviks failed to obliterate the social structure of Tzarist Russia, and that these divisions continue to have implications for understanding popular support for autocracy in Putin’s Russia. The author makes this argument by analysing the transition of Tzarist Russia’s educated proto-bourgeoisie into modern high human capital status groups. In doing so, the book challenges the notion that the Soviet Union destroyed the social structure of the past and built a new, Soviet, society, with a new party and nomenklatura elite. It also argues that Soviet society is in many ways an extension of Tzarist society and its structure of estates (in Russian sosloviya) of aristocrats, clergy, the urban groups of merchants and meshchane and the overwhelmingly illiterate or poorly educated mass of peasants.