Political institutionalization of party systems in transitional countries: A comparative analysis of the Baltic states, Russia, and Ukraine

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Ronald H. McDonald


Institutionalization, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Party systems, Transitional countries

Subject Categories

Political Science


The dissertation addresses the problem of building democratic institutions in post-communist countries. The purpose of this project is two-fold. First, it challenges a stereotypical approach which currently dominates the study of political institutions in the nations which emerged after the break-up of the Soviet Union. This approach tends to neglect significant differences among the post-Soviet countries and still treats these nations as parts of essentially the same unit which demonstrates a similar pattern of political development. Second, the dissertation attempts to understand and explain the variations in the degree of institutionalization of party systems in the Baltic states, Russia, and Ukraine.

The first part of the dissertation develops a detailed set of conceptual criteria and operational indicators of political institutionalization, and then measures autonomy and stability of party systems in the five post-Soviet states. Analysis of the recruitment patterns into the top legislative and executive bodies, regional strength of party identification, electoral volatility, and other indicators, shows striking variations in the extent to which party systems in the Baltic states, Russia, and Ukraine have been institutionalized.

The second part of the project attempts to explain different levels of political institutionalization achieved in the five countries under study. I identify three factors which seem to determine the fate of the political party system in the Baltic states, Russia, and Ukraine: (1) the role of the old Communist elites during the initial stage of the formation of the party system; (2) the type of government, i.e., presidential, parliamentary, and mixed forms; (3) the electoral system, including proportional representation, majoritarian, and mixed PR/majority voting formulas.


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