Is Russia a Militocracy? Conceptual Issues and Extant Findings Regarding Elite Militarization

Type of Work




Journal Title

Post-Soviet Affairs

Journal ISSN


Journal Volume


Journal Issue


First Page


Last Page





The dominant paradigm for understanding contemporary Russia holds that Vladimir Putin's tenure in office has been accompanied by a massive influx of former KGB and military personnel – so-called “siloviki” – into positions of power and authority throughout the polity and economy. Claims of extensive elite militarization, however, are largely based on the analyses of only one research program and, moreover, the validity of the estimates produced by that research program is open to question on numerous grounds. In this article, we review existing research on elite militarization in Russia; discuss a series of conceptual and empirical issues that need to be resolved if valid and meaningful estimation of military–security representation is to be achieved; introduce new findings; and evaluate the totality of existing evidence regarding whether the Russian state under Putin deserves to be labeled a militocracy. We find that the most straightforward reading of existing data indicates that the percentage of siloviki in the political elite during Putin's first two terms as president was approximately half of that which has been widely reported in both scholarship and the media, and also declined during the Medvedev presidency. In addition, our analysis of a broader cross section of the elite estimates military–security representation during the Putin presidency to have been lower still. Overall, existing data paint a less alarming picture of the depths to which siloviki have penetrated the corridors of power since 2000 than has been commonly portrayed and thereby cast doubt on Russia's status as an “FSB state.” On the other hand, past trends also provide some basis for expecting that the numbers of siloviki will once again rise during Putin's current presidential term.

Hamilton Areas of Study

Government, Russian Studies, World Politics