September 2016 archive

RPP #4- Article Summary

The 2001 article by Mathew Hyde addresses the structural reforms in the Russian Government that incoming President Vladimir Putin put in place at the turn of the century.[1] The author addresses the ways in which Putin consolidated federal power through legislation and executive decrees, and does so partially by comparing Putin’s actions to that of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. [2] The author makes two main and almost contradictory assertions with regards to Putin’s reforms. The first is that Putin has had relative success in changing the status quo and reversing the immense power shift that occurred, with the devolution of power to regional governments under Yeltsin.[3] However the author also argues that because of the already entrenched regional powers, Putin, much like Yeltsin, will be forced to compromise and tolerate a slow transition and lack of drastic change in government behavior.[4] The author conducts a small-n analysis using five of Putin’s 2000 reforms as his cases of study.[5] The author used a variety of data sources to aide in his analysis, including an analysis of regional and federal laws, as well as the analysis of governmental critics in Russia, the statements of Russian leaders themselves, and a variety of secondary historical documents used to establish government structures and politics, before and after the reforms.[6] This article provides insights into the legislative steps Putin has taken to solidify his power, how these actions differ from Putin’s predecessors, and the resistance they have and will likely continue to face.[7]




Hyde, Matthew. “Putin’s Federal Reforms and Their Implications for Presidential Power in Russia.” Europe-Asia studies 53, no. 5 (2001): 719-43.


[1] Matthew Hyde, “Putin’s Federal Reforms and Their Implications for Presidential Power in Russia,” Europe-Asia studies 53, no. 5 (2001),

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 735.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 720.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

Research Portfolio Post #3: Philosophical Wagers

When looking at the term ontology I find it most helpful to think back to the diagram created by Jonathan Grix from Dr. Boesenecker’s powerpoint, in which ontology is the discipline or area of study to which all others come.  I understand the term as containing what was described in class as the “fundamental first ideas on society.”  In a sense, ontology is the scholarship that provides recognition of what can in fact be studied, the simple acknowledgment of things that need to be explained.  Methodology meanwhile represents the processes we can actually use to draw concrete understandings of the entities recognized by ontology and epistemology.  Methodology contains the knowledge of how to properly conduct the research process.  While not necessarily dictating how one should go about their observations of the world, methodology provides the framework to understand the ways in which you can.

As Oren stated “American political scientists do not stand apart from this historical process,” or in a more broader sense, researcher are invariably part of the world to which they study. I do not believe however that all cases necessarily require a researcher’s presence to alter the reality to which they observe.  Anytime personal interaction between researchers and subjects or even the knowledge of the researcher is known, they may be partly “producing reality,” however there are many observational methods that would allow for researcher to not personally interfere with realities natural state.  Where it is almost impossible to prevent ones own presence from interfering with objective observation, is in interpreting and analyzing the observations collected.  Reality can exist in some states undisturbed, however every person will bring in their own lens, bias, and perspective.  With this one may argue that then in fact an unaltered reality is irrelevant, for the only way any observation can be conducted would be to eventually compromise some level of objectivity by involving the “human element.”

I believe that the observable in not limited to visual observation, but allows for a far wider range of understanding, especially with regards to interactions.  While initially I thought I would side with the positivists, looking back at Abbott’s definitions such as being “[occurrences/actions] replicable by different people” while interpretivists focus on interactions, I can not help but be swayed a little closer to the latter, especially after seeing the concept employed by Oren.  I can honestly find little that you could not research and make claims about in some way.  While not all things can be observed in the same way or tested using the same methodology, I would venture that quality, and scientifically sound scholarship could be presented on nearly any phenomenon.  If anything, where the challenges lie is in the “claim making” for as many have said, IR Scholarship has a relatively week track record with prediction.

Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

This Monday, September 12th, I met with my mentor Dr. Ali Erol for approximately 25 minutes.  I found this meeting to be very fruitful and they were able to help me focus in on a central issue that I wanted to explore.  As Dr. Erol pointed out, I brought a concept into our meeting that was actually five separate and distinct research topics and questions.  While I entered our conversation with questions regarding Russian corruption, the powers of the Russian President, the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation with regards to its continued authoritarian state, and others; I came out with a far more focused concept thanks to Dr. Erol.  As of now the direction I hope to head is that of writing a paper aimed at examining the formation of the position of Russian President, culminating in the creation of the powerful position it holds today, with the use of Vladimir Putin as a case study.  I hope to use Putin as the case study in order to exemplify the power that is currently wielded by the President of Russia, and I believe my research will help answer if that power is strictly inherent to Putin himself or in fact endowed to the position of President.  My only concern at this point lies with Russia’s relationship with transparency and information sharing.  Especially where power is involved there is often a veil of secrecy surrounding the inner workings of any government, and thus I am slightly concerned that I will struggle to find credible proof as to the actual power displayed by Putin, when compared to what should be possessed by the President “on paper.”  Dr. Erol and I discussed how to go about future research and they mentioned multiple high quality sources, including looking at the Russian Constitution or other formative documents.  I plan to follow this advice and begin to create a timeline of political and governmental events starting with the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991.  I hope to eventually use this to construct a chronological narrative of the evolution of the Russian Presidency which will be the central facet of my final product.

Research Portfolio Post #1: Research Interests

My main research interest has slightly evolved since the beginning of the Olson process, back in the Spring.  I originally was interested in identifying the elements that were present in societies that lead to authoritarian regimes and dictatorships, specifically those involved with “cult of personality” leaders, rising in Eastern Europe.  However with the advice of my mentor, I went forward making my interest more specific, and in doing so my interests shifted slightly.  I now want to look at how how Putin’s role as President of Russia, a role that has granted him significant authority and power, coincides with his role as an oligarch and potentially one of the richest men in the world.  Questions that have come to mind are those revolving around the activities of state-controled companies such as Gazprom, and Putin’s involvement with said companies.  This is extremely significant as Putin is suspected as having massive private ownership shares in many of these companies that are in reality, fully state-run.  Therefore Putin, as the leader of the government, can manipulate these companies using the governments’ shares to his desires, which might not always be to the benefit of the citizenry.  I am currently reading Kremlin Rising by Peter Baker, and it is providing a great basis to understand Putin’s rise from a humble civil servant and “unimpressive” KGB agent, to the most powerful man in Russia and one of the most influential on the global stage.  This has far reaching implications, for many foreign policy decisions are based on the presumed motivations and desires of international leaders. However, if decisions are to use these elements as part of their decision making, it is essential that the true motivation of Vladimir Putin is understood, and what personal drives are the leading causes of his specific decisions.  Is Putin primarily a business man using the government’s control of certain industries to increase his personal wealth, or is he first and foremost a power-driven world leader who just so happens to enjoy billions of dollars in augmented income from shares in companies that happen to have come under state ownership?