The article presents an analysis of “informal institutionalization” in post-Communist Russia in theoretical and comparative perspective. It is devoted to critical analysis of existing explanations of the dominance of subversive institutions – that is, those rules, norms, and practices that at first sight partly resemble institutions of modern democracy, good governance and rule of law, but in fact inhibit them. While “pessimists” focus on cultural and historical embeddedness of subversive institutions in Russia, “optimists” draw their attention to patterns of post-Communist state-building, and “realists” point out the major role of special interests groups in turning growing pains of informal governance in Russia into its chronic deceases.

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