Democracy in Norway and Russia

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Comparing Democracy in Norway and Russia

Democracy was claimed to be the most powerful political idea in the twentieth century. Nowadays it demonstrates troubles in some of the countries of the world. People choose to live in a democratic country due to many reasons. Statistically, democracies are rarely involved in wars, have or little no corruption. As a rule, they are richer and more developed than states with the other systems. More than 40 % of the population in the world live in countries where they choose their representatives through fair elections and are free to express their opinions (The Economist Intelligence Unit 2017). However, the idea of democracy only looks democratic in some countries. It has a government and elections, but in practice it becomes autocratic. Each country has the reasons for this, which this paper will try to analyze comparing two countries. The country which has democracy and occupies first place in the list is Norway. The other one is Russia that during its history had a chance of rebuilding but started to follow the autocratic ideas. Statistical data shows the difference in their development, society, and morality.

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The purpose of the research paper is to analyze the possible reasons for a democracy success that took place in Norway and democracy failure in Russia. The empirical-analytical group of methods was used for the research. Observing the information provided by the statistical websites helped me understand the actual status of the chosen states. Combined literature and statistical research have shown that Norway has higher rates in the educational level of the population, the majority of whom are protestants. In their turn, Russians are non-believers with a lower but generally high rate of literacy. The theory about possible reasons for the democracy appearance is taken from a book by Boix and Stokes as a basic resource.

The Oxford handbook of comparative politics (2009) by Boix & Stokes gives an insight into the democratic approaches which may be overviewed. The main two are historical and political past of the country. The additional ones are development, participation rate of population, and literacy. The preferred regime is required by an individual and general behavior of the citizens. The book generates all possible reasons which may serve as the basis for numerous theories.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (2016) provides full information on the ideas of democracy around the world. It connects five issues together which draws a full picture of scenarios appearing around the world. The countries are divided into parts according to the geographical location and rate. This helps find patterns in successful political ideas. The four kinds of democratic and non-democratic regimes are named, and all the countries are divided on the basis of this characteristic into tables.

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Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (n.d.) explains the term of democracy as free society with a number of aspects to follow. There are pieces of advice on how to rise the quality of the state to make its environment easy to work in, live in, and express thoughts.

An article Norway vs. Russia (n.d.) provides information about literacy rate by gender. Religions described by percentage here are useful in order to discover their impact on political organization.

Articles Index of economic freedom: Russia and Index of economic freedom: Norway dated 2017 give an up-to-date information about the economy in the chosen states. The rank of economic freedom in countries and their region is provided. Norway has higher mark than Russia with the rates of 74 and 57 accordingly.

Democracy is a political system that claims to provide equal rights for all citizens. The dignity of people and freedom is valued most of all. According to Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, it is possible to call institution and government democratic if they follow some principles. Firsts of all, it is inclusiveness or, in other words, the right of individuals to participate in political life of the country they live. Their opinions should be counted, and made decisions should be easy to understand for every person, regardless the place of living and educational level. The transparency issue is important, too. Considered judgment leads to the individuals awareness and collective decisions, which have been made. Elements that make democracy successful are strong society, unrestricted press, fair legal system, and elections. However, democracy is much more than elections and representative government. Nowadays most people around the world are not happy with their political system or principles. They do not agree with the decision-making and ways of choosing politicians. Thus the democratic systems should change their work according to the citizens wish. Emerging societies are waiting for the right to vote and are ready to stand for a better life which they see in a democracy. At the same time, developed democratic societies are facing a crisis of confidence. Voter turnout and membership of political parties is generally declining. Thus a commitment to the democratic ideals is strong.

The reasons for democratization are not clearly defined. Boix and Stokes (2009) argue about the connection between economic development and democracy. Richer country has a democratic organization usually with the developed natural resources industry such as oil. The country with a high rate of educated population is more likely to turn into a democracy. Religion background plays a vital role as well. It is considered that Islam and authoritarianism are more widespread. Muslims are far from democracy because of the womens treatment. All in all, authors discuss two main approaches: the historical, which pays attention to the time of the democracy appearance, and the type of regime that democracy replaces.

Democracy Index

The Economist Intelligence Unit provides information about the Democracy Index among 167 independent countries around the world. It is based on five categories: level of elections and pluralism, civil liberties, work of the government, political participation, and political culture. Due to the analyzed data, four types of regime were identified. Authors counted that there are 19 full democracies, 57 flawed democracies, 40 countries with hybrid regimes, and 51 states with authoritarian regimes. Norway is the first full democracy in the list with the overall index of 9.93 out of 10 possible. It has 10 points out of 10 in such categories as electoral process and pluralism, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. In its turn, functioning of government is 9.64 points. In comparison, Russia occupies the 134th place with the overall mark of 3.24. Electoral process and pluralism is 2.67 points, functioning of the government as well as political culture 2.50, political participation 5.00, and civil liberties 3.53 out of 10. The country has authoritarian regime (The Economist Intelligence Unit 2017).

Historical Reasons

As it can be seen from the world history, early democratic societies appeared in the countries with a capitalistic economy. Countries with high levels of state ownership and productive natural resources received democratizations later. While a politician owns state occupancy, it allows him not to pay taxes. That was a reason for the collection of wealth by political leaders and their supporters. Democracies after the Second World War occurred in different ways, but almost all of them had to change regime into a universal suffrage democracy (Boix & Stokes 2009).

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Starting from 1397, Norway was in the union with Denmark during four centuries. Then, in 1814, a new constitution was adopted. Shortly afterwards, Sweden invaded Norway, but agreed to let the country keep its constitution. 1905 was a year of receiving independence through a referendum. From 1940 to 1945, Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany. Later, in 1949, Norway became a member of NATO. In 1972 and 1994, referendums rejected joining the EU. More than a hundred years the independency provided total changes in the political organization of Norway. Referendum was a voice of public which gave a push to the improvement of the county to democracy.

Speaking about Russia, from the 12th century to 15th centuries, Dynasties were trying to absorb surrounding principalities. Later, Russian Empire broadened its boundaries in Europe and Asia. However, The Revolution of 1905 led to the appearance of a parliament, and in 1917, the imperial system ended. Vladimir Lenin and his followers-communists formed the USSR. Communism was at its peak only because of Josef Stalins power. However, for economy and society, it was time of decline. General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev tried to restructure and modernize the system. Nevertheless, the decay of the USSR happened in 1991. Since then, Russia has had a centralized semi-authoritarian regime. National elections, populist appeals by President Putin, and economic growth are the governmental ways of making the actions legitimate.

Economic Issue

Economists discuss the relationship between development and democracy. Status of Norwegian economy is defined as mostly free, and it takes the 25th place in the world. Its market openness and law system with high rates allowed this country to have 74 points of economic freedom score which is higher than the European average. Russian economic status is mostly unfree. Its place comparing to the other countries in the world is 114. Government integrity together with unopen market influenced low economy freedom score which is 57. The global commerce of Norwegian market which is regulated fairly in accordance with law encourages entrepreneurial activity. Judiciary is independent and powerful while money is stable and well protected from falling. With population of 5.2 million, the GDP of Norway is $356.2 billion (The Heritage Foundation 2017b).

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In its turn, Russian economy has a lot of problems. The government is corrupted, and the corruption grows all the time. Financial sector increases because of the large state-owned institutions. The meddling in the private sector remains high, and the political environment is repressive. The protection of property rights makes weak prospects for dynamic economic development. Population counts 143.7 million of people, and GDP of the country is $3.7 trillion (The Heritage Foundation 2017a).

Social Factors

Economists also claim that more educated population with a high rate of urbanization requires equality that leads to more active political participation. Providing two measures of the degree of urbanization, the percentage of the total population living in the urban areas and a rate of urbanization, the differences between countries will be settled. Russian urban population is 74% of total population in 2015 while a rate of urbanization comprises -0.13% annual rate of change. In its turn, Norway has 80.5% of total population in the same year and 1.35% annual rate of change. According to the above mentioned information, Norwegians have democracy comparing to Russians. Speaking about literacy rate, it is high in both countries. 99.7% of Russian population have knowledge of reading and writing while Norwegians are 100% educated (Norway vs. Russia n.d.). Even this small difference shows that Norway is s country with a high level of literacy.

Boix and Stokes give the insight into the fact that the fate of democracy depends on ordinary peoples intrinsic vision of democratic features. They believe that there are two assumptions. First, mass tendencies in individual beliefs have a great impact on the political culture. Second, mass beliefs are relevant in shaping the emergence and functioning of the defined political systems. In fact, most of the research has been limited to analyzing orientations and beliefs at the individual level. Their report finds that mass beliefs have an aggregate effect on the emergence and survival of democracy. Norway citizens have a number of religions, but the main part goes to Church of Norway which is Evangelical Lutheran one (82.1%). Christians counts 3.9%, Muslims 2.3%, Roman Catholics 1.8%, and the others 2.4%. There are also some religions which are called unspecified, and they comprise 7.5%. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who are non-believers. Speaking about Russia, the main church here is Russian Orthodox. It numbers 15-20% from all the Russian population. Muslims comprise 10-15%, and other Christians 2% (Norway vs. Russia n.d.). The big number of Muslims, comparing to Norway, partly influenced the failure of democracy here.


The research summarized possible reasons for influence of economy, public, and history on the political regime. The theory about rich country with educated people, developed economy, not aggressive religion, and beneficial history connects together in Norway. The mentioned reasons made it a successful democratic country with bright future. Russia, on the contrary, became a country with democratic organization. Previous regime is the first reason for this. Russians have corrupted law system which is hard to replace. Educated rate is high here, but most people are not religious which is a result of communism. In order not to lose a fight for money and power, Russian government needs to change its direction.

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