The Lands Autocracy Won’t Quit

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MOSCOW — Let the Middle East and North Africa be buffeted by populist discontent over repressive governments. Here in Lenin’s former territory, across the expanse of the old Soviet Union, rulers with iron fists still have the upper hand....

Nearly two decades ago, the collapse of Soviet Communism offered the promise that power would soon be wielded differently in this region: The newly independent former Soviet republics, sprung from the shackles of totalitarianism, would embrace free elections, multiple political parties and a vigorously independent media.

But those hopes now seem premature, or perhaps naïve. In the 1990’s, the Soviet breakup sowed chaos — most notably in Russia — and a corps of autocrats arose in response, pledging stability and economic growth. The brand of democracy that is advanced in the West emerged discredited in many of these countries.

And so even as upheavals in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world have garnered attention across the former Soviet Union, the region’s leaders express confidence that they are not under threat....

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