No Compromise - No Democracy. Pacts, Threats and Nested Games as Approaches to the Belarusian and Russian Transitions
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Belarus and Russia entered simultaneous transitions as the Soviet Union broke down at the end of 1991. As most other former Soviet republics Belarus and Russia did not end up with democratic regimes as a result of transition. However, the Russian regime can be regarded far more liberal in character than the Belarusian. The main question to be answered is why one can observe this difference in regime type in two otherwise similar countries. This question is addressed by applying actor-oriented transition theory and game theory to analyse the interaction about regime type during transition. I conclude, by focusing on actors, that the main explanatory factors for this observed difference can be found in the variation in the games of social interaction about the issue of constitution occurring during transition. Belarus experienced a lower pressure for change amongst elites and the population than Russia. Furthermore, Belarusian elites hindered the impact of the phase of liberalisation, leaving the country worse prepared for transition than Russia. Due to various reasons no compromise which could have secured democracy or a liberal regime was reached in either of the countries. This left them with sub-optimal conflicts outcomes as a result of transition. None of the countries managed to escape the sub-optimality of the transition through cooperation or pacts. In Belarus an inconclusive compromise about national independence hindered cooperation about regime type resulting in a situation of nested games. In Russia a compromise was hindered by disagreement about the threatening power of the ruling fraction during transition leaving the actors in a situation of sub-optimality.