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By Stephen White, John Gardner, George Schopflin, Tony Saich


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At the same time the media, and cultural life generally, began to experience a greater degree of openness in the treatment of social issues such as drugs and prostitution as well as in the discussion of the Soviet past and the crimes of the Stalin period. Political reform more particularly was launched at a Central Committee meeting in January 1987 at which the slogan of 'democratisation' was officially adopted. The electoral system, first of all, was reformed so as to permit a choice of candidates.

It is less often realised that nationalism in various forms Histories, Societies and Political Cultures 45 has always been and still remains a central element in the political culture of the Russian people themselves. In part this was a matter of official doctrine, summed up in the celebrated formula 'Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationality' which was propounded by S. S. Uvarov, later Minister of Education, in 1832, and which was taken as the basis of official political doctrine until the revolution of 1905, if not beyond.

One consequence of the weak development of representative institutions in pre-revolutionary Russia was the tendency to conceive of political authority in highly personalised terms, as a link between Tsar and people unmediated by parties, the Histories, Societies and Political Cultures 41 rule oflaw or elected bodies of any kind. This 'naive monarchism', as it had been called, may have been discreetly encouraged by the Tsars themselves, and it was certainly in decline by the late nineteenth century and particularly after 'Bloody Sunday', 22 January 1905, when the St Petersburg police fired upon a crowd of unarmed demonstrators who were approaching the Winter Palace with icons and the Tsar's portrait to beg for help and the redress of grievances.

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