Inside the Belly of the Beast

The entrance to the Russian State Duma, decorated for New Year’s.

This semester I took an elective course in English about Russian Political Parties. As a sort of grand finale, our professor took us on a private tour of the Russian Duma, the national legislative body. She is an adviser to the Just Russia Party (“just” as in “fair”). It was surreal being at the heart of the might Russian government… which like governments everywhere turned out to be just a lot of offices!

Nevertheless, I’m so glad I went, as it is yet another thing I have done this year which I never thought I would do!

The most interesting part was the displays that the different political parties put up near their office headquarters. I noticed that many of the photos focused on the man who founded the particular party, and that there was usually a picture of the leader shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even for opposition parties, it is best to associate themselves with the president because of his continued popularity.

A display for United Russia, Putin’s party.
A display for Just Russia, a Democratic Socialist party
Literature from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. It says, “Russia-USA; The Russian state as the target of global capital”
Leader of the LDPR in a poster near their offices

United Russia, i.e. Putin’s party, i.e. the party of power, holds the vast majority of seats in the Duma. They thus control laws around campaigning, elections, press coverage of politics, and funding. Because of this silent control, my professor is pessimistic about her own party, or any others for that matter, ever mounting a legitimate challenged to United Russia in the foreseeable future. Her glum attitude and the hollow political displays added to the surrealism of being in a political center that doesn’t have a lot of politics happening in it, at least, not in the way I’m used to.  However, I hope for the best for my welcoming host country, and I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look. Even if it will probably make the background check for any government jobs I apply for really complicated!

Russian word of the day: голосовать (guh-luh-sah-vat) to vote, from the word golos, meaning “voice”

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