How does language influence politics? Usually when this question is posed, it is understood to concern relations within a polity among communities whose members speak different languages. Our concern, however, is what contribution politicians’ language may make to the choice between authoritarianism or democracy. Of course, we reject any reduction of that determination to language alone.
The study of change in political Russian during the Soviet and post-Soviet era has concentrated on the consequences of variation in content. As Meyer observed, during the Soviet period scholars mainly evaluated the degree to which “routine thinking in terms of the official doctrine … [exerted] an effect on actions taken or not taken…” Remington called attention to the existence in the Soviet period of “two interdependent but opposed codes,” one for “the ritualized world of public life” and the other for private interaction—a difference that, as early as 1960, Tucker had traced back to origins in tsarist Russia.