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Authoritarianism and its Effect on Nationalism within Russia and Mexico

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The 20th century marked turning points for many nations in terms of governance and governmental structure. Two nations that were no exception include Russia and Mexico. Both of these nations went through a revolution; Mexico in 1910 and Russia in 1917, which led to vast changes in their governments. Although the Mexican revolution resulted in a constitution and and outline for democratic principles, the nation quickly became a one party state. After the 1917 revolution in Russia, the Soviet Union was established and was structured to be run under single party rule via the communist party. Through new governmental set-ups, an authoritarian acting single party state emerged in both nations. The impact of authoritarian rule trickled down and had a vast impact on nationalism in both countries.

During times of authoritarian rule, leaders consolidate state control and focus on the larger function of government in the process. Until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia, and until the year 2000 in Mexico, there was a single political authoritarian party in central control of each of these governments. In both of these nations, the government controlled most aspects of daily life, including, but not limited to, authority over food, military dominance and all branches of local governments. Each area of the government being so saturated with one party led to little opposition to the single party in these nations for decades. The Mexican and Russian people came to know no other government than the one under a single party and posed little resistance to their rule. Once the citizens of these nations got used to, and comfortable with, these parties and their over dominance in everyday life, they did not have the understanding that would lead to a desire for a more democratic system of government. For decades, the government took control, and the people did not worry about who would rule next or laws that should or should not be proposed. This complacency led to a cycle of nationalism within Mexico and Russia that advanced under authoritarian single party governments. The cycle kept occurring, and due to the authoritarian governments of both Mexico and the Soviet Union during the 20th century, nationalism rose sharply and led to further support of these authoritarian governments.

Some might think the Mexican government would be a complete democracy based on how it was laid out in the constitution of 1917. It would shock most people to hear that Mexico is not considered completely free, but only “partly free,” due to high levels of corruption within the government (Freedom in the World 2019). During the height of the 20th century, the Mexican state was developing through state-led development and an ISI model of trade in order to reduce dependence on other nations within their market. The Mexican government essentially controlled all aspects of the nation and did so under a single party rule. From the central government all the way down to local governments, almost every elected official was of the PRI party, and each was typically chosen as the sole candidate by the federal government. Due to this, local states were weak and relied on the central government for stability. There was little violence around elections, as the people were ignorantly content at this time with single-party rule and the circulation of elites taking power. As a result, military intervention becoming rare and was not often needed for internal conflict in Mexico. Regular presidential elections occurred every six years, and presidents could only serve one term, making elections seem fair and democratic.

Mexico spiraled more deeply into nationalism due to voting public that feared change.The PRI party kept getting elected at high margins until the 1990s, and they did not lose a single election between the revolution of 1910 and 1997. The people and the government were used to single-party rule, and when this changed in 1997, it permanently changed Mexican politics and government. Meanwhile, across the world in the Soviet Union of the 20th century, similar authoritarian trends in government were occurring.

Starting in 1922, when the Soviet Union was constructed, and continuing until 1990, the government was under a single party socialist rule. The government and the economy within the Soviet Union were highly centralized and under government control. For many years during the 20th century, the country was under the control of Joseph Stalin, and he further consolidated authoritarian rule. Even more so than Mexico, the central government of the Soviet Union during this time period was completely in charge of the economy. In relation to the economy, all aspects relied on the function of the central government (O’Neil 2018). The authoritarian one party state being so in control, and the Soviet people were, for the most part, completely reliant on authoritarian rule. This utter dependence on the government led to increased support, as the people within the nation saw that the stability of their lives was tied to the stability of the government. It was not until 1990 that the Soviet Union switched to a federal semi-presidential form of governance and attempted to transition to a less authoritarian regime (O’Neil 2018). During this time, the economy plummeted, and people’s standards of living, including life expectancy, decreased at an alarming rate (Mandelbaum 2019). The people feared a loss of stability within their nation and their lives. Causing great backlash, an increase in nationalism and vehement backing of the previous single party government.

Within all societies there is an ultimate justification of how the general welfare of the values and beliefs of the people should be maintained. Some governments are more actively involved with the direct lives of their citizens while others prefer to let lives play out with little government interference. One-party states emerge in societies in which traditional authority has been seriously weakened (Rothman 1967, 682). One-party states are those that are very actively involved in the welfare of their citizens and typically have a large role to play in constructing what their society will look like. When citizens of any nation revolt against the government, many times it will result in a change of governmental structure, this happened in the case with both Mexico and Russia.

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A social revolution is more likely to result in a single party state at the end than a political revolution. This plays a large part in fact because when people of a nation are wanting social change, the government then gets more actively involved with society and the well being of their people. Thus, this creates a more authoritarian leadership style and begins to evolve around one party that shapes the society into what they believe is best for the people. When the citizens of Russia and Mexico in the early 20th century revolted for social change, it resulted in a single party authoritarian state, at an attempt to control and manage the ever disruptive societies. When recently coming out of a revolution as Mexico and the Soviet Union had experienced, a single party state can bring about stability. The stability comes about as the people of that nation no longer have to worry about who will be in power, what is being controlled by the government, and it is all simply controlled by one party. This leads to an increase in reliance on the single party, but also in increase in stability whereas the people know who and what makes up their central government.What typically follows these revolutions in addition to nationalism is modernization.

Modernization has always been seen as something to strive for within a society with limitless potential. This also depends on the forces that are present within a nation, “The forces of modernity could not have created modern nations unless there had been something there for them to act on, some ground in history on the one hand and human nature on the other,” thus, modernization alone is not what drives the nations forward that are seen today, but several key pieces. When people within a given society feel compelled to act upon something, bring about change, etc. they are usually pushing for a cause that they believe to be worth stepping forward for. The cause in which is uniting people brings forth nationalism and unity within a society followed by modernization. Thus, an increase in modernization does lead to a higher rate of nationalism typically as stated by Nodia. However, scholars typically down play nationalism and express that it mainly has negative connotations. Scholars state that nationalism clashes with modernity even though the two typically coincide with one another. However, this increase in nationalism and increase in modernity leads to more modern nations which also tend to have increased nationalism and more centralized governments.

With greater modernization occurring in Mexico and the Soviet Union after their revolutions, it condensed the central government into a stronger more centralized authority. When a nation is recovering from a time after a revolution they typically rely on stability and unity within the nation to prevent a similar instance from happening again. People grow attached to a strong national government and become okay with them controlling more aspects of their lives as it makes people feel comfortable and more at ease in their nation. However, the more reliant people come on their central government, the more power it gives to these authoritarian regimes. This increased reliance, also leads to the increased nationalism that is seen in both Mexico and the Soviet Union. This creates a cycle that allows for authoritarian governments to stay in power for decades as their support does not falter and the nationalism within the nation stays high. Especially in the Soviet Union, the cycle of authoritarian rule is still working today.

In 1991 when the Soviet Union fell and was replaced by the Russian Federation, there was the goal of a more democratic form of government. However, in 1999 starting with the reign of Vladimir Putin, the nation again went into their authoritarian cycle. Putin had a key goal of restoring the Russian state both at home and abroad, thus increasing nationalism within the nation as a result (Lanskoy, Myles-Primakoff 2018, 76). The nation evolved into a state where Putin’s party was the leading party in every election on almost all local and national levels. This increased the power that Putin’s party had within Russia and consolidated the authoritarian rule that began to re-evolve. Russian’s rallied around Putin and re-elected him at high margins multiple times, because they enjoy the united Russian presence that Putin pushes so hard to achieve. On the other hand, the cycle may have been broken within Mexico.

When Mexico began to elect political leaders on the national stage with a different political party than the reigning PRI, it chipped away at the authoritarian rule that had been in place for so long. The Mexican people still had large amounts of nationalism, however, they were now uniting together in hopes to have change and get out of their previously complacent government. One president since 1997 has been of the PRI party, however, he was democratically elected and not essentially chosen from a pool of political elites as the party had done for the majority of the 20th century. The Mexican people were no longer under the single party rule that they had fought to get out of and in 2018 elected their newest president in hopes of a new age of Mexican populism. Authoritarian rule it seems has left the central Mexican government, however, there is still large amounts of nationalism within the people and how they view their own democratic principles.

Lastly, both Russia and Mexico have seen their fair share of authoritarian governments and it changed their nations in many ways. The rise in authoritarianism that became ever so present in the 20th century within these nations resulted in higher nationalism in the countries and allowed for continued rule of single party authoritarian leaders. Although, this cycle continued for decades, it at least temporarily was toppled in both Mexico and Russia, giving hope that the harsh reign of authoritarian single party states can be changed around the globe.

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Authoritarianism and its Effect on Nationalism within Russia and Mexico. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/authoritarianism-and-its-effect-on-nationalism-within-russia-and-mexico/
“Authoritarianism and its Effect on Nationalism within Russia and Mexico.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/authoritarianism-and-its-effect-on-nationalism-within-russia-and-mexico/
Authoritarianism and its Effect on Nationalism within Russia and Mexico. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/authoritarianism-and-its-effect-on-nationalism-within-russia-and-mexico/> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2022].
Authoritarianism and its Effect on Nationalism within Russia and Mexico [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/authoritarianism-and-its-effect-on-nationalism-within-russia-and-mexico/
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