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Russia- the 2024 Presidential Election

Updated: Mar 16


Russia's geography and population makeup are intertwined with its history, economy, and geopolitical dynamics. Its vast territory, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage shape its identity as a global power. Despite demographic and environmental challenges, Russia asserts influence on the world stage, leveraging abundant resources and strategic position. 


Spanning Europe and Asia, covering approximately 17.1 million square Kms, and bordering 14 countries, Russia's strategic geopolitical position is evident. Its borders extend over 7,500 Kms with Kazakhstan, 4,200 Kms with China, 3,500 Kms with Mongolia, 2,000 Kms with Ukraine, 959 Kms with Belarus, 894 Kms with Georgia, 1,300 Kms with Finland, 294 Kms with Estonia, 260 Kms with Abkhazia, 270 Kms with Latvia, 210 Kms with Poland, 196 Kms with Norway, 338 Kms with Azerbaijan, and 227 Kms with Lithuania.


The country faces border disputes due to its complex geopolitical landscape. Crimea's annexation in 2014, NATO expansion plans, separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, worsen tensions. Georgia disputes Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent, fueling conflicts over territorial integrity. Baltic states like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have strained relations due to Russian-speaking minorities and fears of Russian influence. The Kuril Islands dispute with Japan, seized by the Soviet Union in World War II, remains unresolved. Disagreements with Norway persist over maritime boundaries in the Arctic and the Barents Sea. 


However, Russia has resolved some border disputes, promoting regional stability. It reached significant agreements with China in the 1990s, easing tensions and delineating boundaries. A 2010 agreement with Norway settled maritime disputes, enhancing cooperation. Treaties with Finland resolved border issues, establishing clear boundaries. 


The legal framework governing international borders includes domestic legislation, international treaties, and agreements with neighboring states. Russia is also a party to international conventions and organizations that address border-related issues, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for maritime borders and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for transboundary rivers and waterways.


With one of the largest active-duty military forces in the world, Russia's armed forces consist of approximately 900,000 active personnel and around 2 million reservists, supported by a vast array of military equipment and hardware. The Russian military boasts a formidable arsenal, including over 20,000 tanks, more than 2,900 combat aircraft, and a diverse range of naval vessels, including submarines, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. She possesses a robust nuclear arsenal, with thousands of nuclear warheads capable of being delivered by land, sea, and air, making it one of the world's preeminent nuclear powers. This military strength is complemented by Russia's advanced defense industry, which produces cutting-edge weaponry and technology, including sophisticated missile systems, advanced fighter jets, and state-of-the-art cyber warfare capabilities. 


Russia has 85 federal subjects. These include 22 republics, 9 krais, 46 oblasts, 3 federal cities, 1 autonomous oblast, and 4 autonomous okrugs. The largest federal subjects by area include Sakha (Yakutia), which is both the largest republic and the largest federal subject overall, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the vast expanses of the Far Eastern regions. Moscow, the capital city and a federal city, is the most populous urban center, followed by Saint Petersburg.

Its diverse topography, from expansive plains to towering mountain ranges like the Ural Mountains dividing Europe and Asia, the Siberian Plateau, and the Caucasus Mountains in the south, influences its climate, ranging from arctic conditions in the north to temperate and subtropical climates in the central and southern regions, respectively. Rivers Volga, Ob, and Lena traverse the landscape, with Lake Baikal, the world's deepest and oldest freshwater lake, situated in Siberia. This varied landscape shapes Russia's economy, heavily reliant on abundant natural resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, timber, minerals, and metals, playing a crucial role in its global influence.


Regions


European Russia comprises 75%, Siberia 20%, Far East-3%, Urals- 1.5% and North Caucasus- Approximately 0.5% of the total area.


European Russia, the western part of the country, is the most densely populated region. It encompasses major cities like Moscow, the capital, and St. Petersburg. These urban centers serve as economic and cultural hubs, attracting a significant portion of the population.


European Russia is characterized by fertile plains, favorable climate conditions, and historically established infrastructure, all contributing to its high population density.


Siberia, covering a vast expanse of Russia's territory, is known for its harsh climate and sparse population. Despite its large landmass, Siberia has a relatively low population density compared to European Russia. The region's population is unevenly distributed, with more populated areas situated along the Trans-Siberian Railway and in resource-rich zones like the oil and gas fields of Western Siberia.


The Far Eastern region of Russia includes areas such as Vladivostok and Sakhalin Island. It has a lower population density compared to other regions due to its remote location and challenging environmental conditions. However, the Far East holds strategic importance for Russia, particularly in terms of its maritime access to the Pacific Ocean and its proximity to countries like China and Japan.


The Ural Mountains serve as a natural boundary between Europe and Asia, dividing Russia into two distinct regions. The Urals region is known for its industrial centers, including cities like Yekaterinburg. While not as densely populated as European Russia, the Urals have a moderate population density, with urban areas serving as focal points for economic activities.


The North Caucasus region is characterized by its ethnic diversity and mountainous terrain. It includes republics such as Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, each with its distinct cultural and demographic makeup. The population density varies across these republics, with some areas experiencing higher concentrations of people due to historical settlement patterns and ethnic composition.


Russia's population is estimated to be around 145 million people. Russia is home to a mosaic of ethnic groups, with over 190 recognized ethnicities contributing to its rich cultural tapestry. Ethnic Russians constitute the majority of the population, comprising around 80%, while significant minority groups include Tatars, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvash, and Chechens, among others. The country's population is predominantly urban, with major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg serving as hubs of economic, political, and cultural activity. However, rural areas continue to play a vital role in agriculture and certain industries. Population density varies widely across the country, with the western regions, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, being more densely populated compared to the vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East. Demographic trends pose challenges to Russia's population dynamics, including declining birth rates, high mortality rates, and emigration. To address these issues, the government has implemented policies aimed at incentivizing childbirth and attracting skilled migrants.


Population Distribution


Russia's population distribution is shaped by a complex interplay of geographical, historical, and cultural factors. The country's vast territory encompasses diverse regions with distinct demographic characteristics, while its religious landscape reflects centuries of historical development and interaction among different faith traditions. 


Russian Orthodox Christianity comprises 65%, Islam- 15%, Other Christian Denominations 5%, Buddhism- 1%, Judaism- 0.5% and Other Religions- 0.5%. 


The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religious institution in Russia. Russian Orthodoxy is particularly prevalent in European Russia, where churches and monasteries are prominent features of the landscape. Besides Russian Orthodoxy, there are other Christian denominations present in Russia, including various Protestant groups and Catholics.


Islam is the second-largest religion in Russia, with significant populations in regions like the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan. 


Buddhism is practiced by some ethnic groups in Russia, notably in regions like Kalmykia and Tuva. These areas have Buddhist temples and monasteries that serve as centers of worship and cultural preservation for Buddhist communities. Buddhism in Russia reflects the historical ties between Russia and Buddhist regions of Asia, such as Mongolia and Tibet.


Russia is home to a small but historically significant Jewish population, primarily concentrated in urban centers like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Despite facing periods of discrimination and persecution in the past, Jewish communities in Russia have preserved their religious and cultural traditions, with synagogues and Jewish cultural centers playing vital roles in community life.


Russia also has smaller communities practicing other religions, including Hinduism and Sikhism, primarily consisting of immigrants and expatriates from South Asia. These communities are relatively small compared to the major religious groups in Russia but contribute to the country's religious pluralism and cultural diversity.


Elections


The electoral process in Russia has been characterized by a combination of formal democratic structures and significant constraints on political competition. While elections are held regularly for various levels of government, including the presidency, State Duma, and regional offices.


The presidential elections were won by Boris Yeltsin's in the first direct election in 1991, followed by a re-election in 1996. Vladimir Putin's rise to power in 2000 ushered in a period marked by promises of stability and order, echoed in his landslide victories in 2004 and 2018. Dmitry Medvedev's presidency in 2008, seen by many as a proxy for Putin's continued influence, gave way to Putin's return in 2012.


Vladimir Putin's leadership played an important role in shaping electoral dynamics in Russia for past two decades. His electoral victories are not merely a reflection of personal popularity but are also facilitated by a myriad of systemic factors. Putin's electoral dominance is sustained by a meticulously crafted environment. 


Putin's leadership during times of crisis has been instrumental in cultivating an image of strength and stability. His decisive actions in response to events like the Chechen Wars and terrorist attacks have bolstered his reputation as a resolute leader capable of safeguarding Russia's national security interests. This narrative resonates strongly with many Russian voters, particularly amid perceived threats to the country's sovereignty and geopolitical standing. Thus Putin's electoral successes are not solely a testament to his personal appeal but are also a consequence of a carefully constructed political landscape.


As the designated dates of 15th to 17th March 2024 draw near, Russia prepares for its presidential election. 


This event grants eligible citizens, aged 18 years and above, the opportunity to participate in shaping the trajectory of their nation. Participation extends to Russian citizens and certain categories of non-citizens, such as those holding permanent residency status. However, it is pertinent to note that certain restrictions apply, barring individuals who have been deemed legally incompetent by a court, those currently serving specific criminal sentences, and select categories of public officials from engaging in the electoral process. Furthermore, Russian citizens residing abroad maintain their voting rights provided they are duly registered with Russian consular offices and diplomatic missions.


The political landscape leading up to the election is characterized by a mosaic of parties, each espousing distinct ideological positions and visions for the country's future. Foremost among them is United Russia, the ruling party closely aligned with the incumbent President Vladimir Putin, advocating centrist policies and exerting considerable influence within the State Duma. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), champions nationalist sentiments. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) steadfastly upholds socialist ideals and advocates for worker rights, while A Just Russia emerges as a coalition of leftist and social democratic factions, emphasizing social justice and welfare policies. Yabloko stands as a bastion of democratic reforms and civil liberties, often providing a critical voice against governmental actions. Additionally, Rodina (Motherland) promotes nationalism, cultural preservation, and social equity, adding further diversity to the electoral choices available to Russian voters.



The incumbent President Putin remains the frontrunner for victory, owing to the absence of significant opposition, continuous successes in Ukraine and his firm grip on political power. 



Published by


Amit Sharma

Proprietor @ ASSA | Leadership, Security Management and Vigilance


Russia's Presidential Elections: A Geopolitical Overview


Russia's complexity and diversity shape its identity as a global power. Covering vast territory spanning Europe and Asia, Russia boasts a strategic geopolitical position, bordered by 14 countries. Despite ongoing border disputes and regional tensions, Russia wields significant influence on the world stage, leveraging abundant resources and military might.


With one of the largest active-duty military forces globally and a formidable nuclear arsenal, Russia asserts itself as a preeminent military power. The country's demographic makeup, comprising over 190 ethnic groups, contributes to its cultural richness and societal complexity.


As Russia prepares for its upcoming presidential election, the political landscape reflects a diverse array of parties and ideologies. While incumbent President Vladimir Putin remains a frontrunner, the presence of various opposition parties offers a spectrum of viewpoints and choices for Russian voters.


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