Russia’s transition to a market economy has been accompanied by serious, and in some ways unanticipated, disruptions of the existing social welfare system. The social policy dilemma has become a contentious issue in the national political arena. This paper examines the debate on the relationship between social welfare and democratization in post-communist Russia, exploring the case of pensions for the elderly. Although the causes of the pension crisis are complex and rooted in institutional difficulties, the state’s fiscal weakness alone does not explain the difficulties and controversies associated with Russia’s pension crisis. Analysis of the assumptions and principles of pension policy during the Soviet era and perestroika reveals that Russia today is caught between contradictory and competing discourses over citizens’ entitlement to pensions: Is an old-age pension to be considered a reward distributed by a prosperous society, or a basic and inviolable human right? Although the Russian government has used an argument that in effect makes pensions conditional on government resources, citizen and opposition protest has to some extent compelled the Russian government to be increasingly sensitive to demands for guaranteed pensions.
Canadian Slavonic Papers
Department of Political Science

Chandler, A. (2001). Democratization, social welfare and individual rights in Russia: The case of old-age pensions. Canadian Slavonic Papers, 43(4), 409–435. doi:10.1080/00085006.2001.11092288