Kremlinology is the study and analysis of the politics and policies of Russia[1] while the term Sovietology means the study of politics and policies of the Soviet Union and former communist states more generally.[2] These two terms were synonymous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In popular culture, the term is sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or events, by interpreting indirect clues.[citation needed]

The founder of kremlinology is considered to be Alexander Zinoviev.[3][4] The term is named after the Kremlin, the seat of today's Russian and then-Soviet government. Kremlinologist refers to academic, media, and commentary experts who specialize in the study of Kremlinology. The term is sometimes sweepingly used to describe Western scholars who researched issues of, or specialized in, Russian/Soviet law, although the correct term is simply Russian law scholar. Sovietologists or Kremlinologists should also be distinguished from transitologists, scholars who study legal, economic and social transitions from communism to capitalism.


During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as "First Secretary", the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

To study the relations between Communist fraternal states, Kremlinologists compared the statements issued by the respective national Communist parties, looking for omissions and discrepancies in the ordering of objectives. The description of state visits in the Communist press were also scrutinized, as well as the degree of hospitality lent to dignitaries. Kremlinology also emphasized ritual, in that it noticed and ascribed meaning to the unusual absence of a policy statement on a certain anniversary or holiday.[5]

In the German language, such attempts acquired the somewhat derisive name "Kreml-Astrologie" (Kremlin Astrology), hinting at the fact that its results were often vague and inconclusive, if not outright wrong.

After the Cold WarEdit

The term "Kremlinology" is still in use in application to the study of decision-making processes in the politics of the Russian Federation.[6] In popular culture, the term is sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or events, by interpreting indirect clues.

While the Soviet Union no longer exists, other secretive states still do, such as North Korea, for which Kremlinology-like approaches are still used by the Western media.[7] Such study is sometimes called "Pyongyangology", after the country's capital Pyongyang.[8]

Notable Kremlinologists and SovietologistsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""Kremlinology" definition". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 16 February 2015. Definition of KREMLINOLOGY: the study of the policies and practices of the former Soviet government
  2. ^ ""Sovietology" definition". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  3. ^ Yury Solodukhin (2009). "The Logical Doctrine of Alexander Zinoviev" (Alexander Alexandrovich Zinoviev). Moscow: ROSSPEN. p. 133-152.
  4. ^ Karl Kantor (2009). "The Logical Sociology of Alexander Zinoviev as a Social Philosophy" (in Russian).
  5. ^ Lawson, Eugene K. (1984). The Sino-Vietnamese Conflict. Praeger. pp. 8–9.
  6. ^ Poland is in the Eurasian Union: the mythology of Russian-Polish relations. Eurasian Club East - West, October 2012 Archived 2012-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Salmon, Andrew (2 January 2012). "'Kremlinology' used to watch North Korea". The Washington Times. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  8. ^ Nakagawa, Ulara (29 September 2010). "The Art of 'Pyongyangology?'". The Diplomat. Retrieved 25 January 2019.