Political “Investments” by Businesses in Russia, or Why Does Business Finance Election Campaigns?

Barsukova S.Yu.,

Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics, sbarsukova@hse.ru

elibrary_id: 249916 | ORCID: 0000-0002-2696-4882 | RESEARCHER_ID: L-6773-2015

Denisova-Schmidt E.V.,

Research Associate, University of St. Gallen (HSG); Research Fellow, Center for International Higher Education, Boston College, elena.denisova-schmidt@unisg.ch

elibrary_id: 841180 | ORCID: 0000-0001-8234-4437 | RESEARCHER_ID: R-8957-2016

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2020.03.08

Rubric: Russia Today

For citation:

Barsukova S.Yu., Denisova-Schmidt E.V. Political “Investments” by Businesses in Russia, or Why Does Business Finance Election Campaigns?. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No. 3. P. 110-125. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2020.03.08

The study was carried out as part of the project “Informal Practices of Organizing and Conducting Election Campaigns in Modern Russia” with the support of the Khamovniki Social Research Foundation.


This paper discusses the influence business has had on election campaigns in Russia. Based on expert interviews with political strategists, representatives of legislative and executive authorities, and entrepreneurs, the study identifies several types of political ‘investments’ made by businesses in modern Russia. They might be either passive (forced) or active (voluntary). Passive ‘political investments’ are treated by businesses as a form of informal taxation or a political tribute. In this case, the business can act as an official sponsor, transferring funds to the election fund account, and finance the shadow part of the election budget. Businesses might pay for bogus services from firms that play an active role as the shadow ‘wallet’ of election campaigns. Moreover, businesses might provide transportation, volunteers, or premises for election events; this can be forced upon them lest their relations with the government be negatively affected. Active ‘political investments’ might take the form of supporting a particular person without any formal or obvious obligations and associations with interested businesses. Businesspeople themselves might even stand as a candidate for elected posts. The first strategy, however, might be risky, as once elected, a candidate might terminate any informal agreements later on; hence, many businesspeople go into politics themselves to establish security, useful contacts, and options for their business development. The study outcomes suggest that it is almost impossible to do business in Russia without participating in these types of ‘investments.’ Moreover, the electoral process is ambivalent for businesses: it might be a heavy burden and a window of opportunity at the same time. 

financing of election campaigns, political investments of business, shadow budget of elections, participation of entrepreneurs in elections.


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Content No. 3, 2020

See also:

Zorin M.A.,
Metaphors of Elections (With the Election Campaigns of the “Yabloko” Party and of the Right Forces Union, as Example). – Polis. Political Studies. 2004. No5

Murphine R.,
Technology of Election Campaigns in the USA. – Polis. Political Studies. 1991. No3

Barsukova S.Yu., Zvyagintzev V.I.,
Mechanism of Political Investment, or How and What For Russian Business Takes Part in Elections and Covers the Expenses of Party Life. – Polis. Political Studies. 2006. No2

Golosov G.V.,
Dimensions of Russian Regional Electoral Rules. – Polis. Political Studies. 2001. No4

Pshizova S.N.,
Financing Political Market: Theoretical Aspects of Practical Problems (1). – Polis. Political Studies. 2002. No1



Introducing an article

Polis. Political Studies
5 2009

Sheynis V.L.
Russia’s national security. Durability trial (Part 1)

 The article text


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