Politicians in all types of regimes require bureaucracy to extend their rule over society. To prevent administrators from becoming too powerful and publicly signal independence, they seemingly arbitrarily criticize public officials. But when and how do political leaders blame bureaucracy – and when do they praise it ? This study uses Russia as a case to illustrate the complex and ambiguous politics-administration relationship in non-Western regimes. We argue that public statements about bureaucracy accommodate two different legitimation strategies. We provide a content analysis of 311 public statements, from 1917 – 2017, on the role of administration in the country’s development. We find that attention to administrative affairs coincides with major political changes and periods of political instability in the history of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. Over a century, the rhetoric of Russian leaders oscillated between blaming and praising bureaucracy to secure stability and overcome obstacles in implementing governing strategies. The strategic interplay between assertive rhetoric and praising bureaucracy is part of an effective political leadership survival strategy.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Political Science, Local Government and Administration