№ 1, 2022
Informal Structure of the Elite Space in Russia (Evidence from Network Analysis)
This paper aims to examine the elite structure in Russia. Given the widely recognized dominance of personal relations over formal institutions in the political and economic spheres in Russia, to explore this question, the authors turn to the concept of the informal network and Social Network Analysis (SNA).
Modelling an informal network requires operationalization of two elements: nodes and edges. The nodes are represented by the individuals who occupied top 50 positions in the “100 Most Influential Politicians of Russia” ranking in March-April, 2020. In contrast to the majority of the researchers who employ network approach to study elites, when deciding on edges (links) of the network, the authors take into account not only politicians’ ties that were formed during their previous career steps, but also other sources of their personal connections (outside work), and assess the relevance of the established connections in politicians’ biographies.
The resulting informal network highlights the peculiarities of the organization of the Russian elite, which are quite curious in their multidirectionality. On the one hand, its structure has an obvious center in the person of Vladimir Putin, who is far superior to other players in terms of the number of connections, degree of closeness to all elite actors, and his intermediary role. On the other hand, the level of centralization of the network is rather moderate. The reason is the variety of horizontal ties between the rest of the elite. On the one hand, there are several clearly identifiable communities in the network. On the other hand, there are more connections between such communities than within them. Almost all representatives of law enforcement agencies belong to the same network community. However, there are practically no horizontal ties within the law enforcement network community. In general, the informal network of the Russian elite demonstrates a high level of coherence, with the dominance of complex, multicomponent ties that manifest themselves in different formats of personal relationships. This level of integration can play a significant role in minimizing intra-elite divisions — the “Achilles heel” of authoritarian regimes.
Ivanov Ye. A.
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