In Italy, just like in the majority of southern European countries, the
economic crisis that got underway in 2008 soon translated into a serious
political, social and institutional crisis whose consequences led to major
changes in the party system. Without a doubt, the most important change came
in the 2013 elections with the breakthrough of a new political party that
managed to capitalise on the protest vote against the system: the MoVimento
Cinque Stelle (M5S, Five Star Movement), founded by the comedian Beppe
Grillo. M5S then entered government after the 2018 general election. The
consolidation of the M5S as a governing alternative has had at least two
major consequences for Italy’s political system. In terms of elections, the
emergence of the M5S has led to the end of a kind of bipolarism based on
competition between left and right coalitions that has defined the Second
Republic in Italy. Ideologically, the discourse of the M5S has largely
shaped the political agenda of the leading parties in Italy on both ends of
the political spectrum.
This chapter explores the reasons for the state of surprise, sketching them out from the starting point of the significant impact of the collapse of the USSR on Western understandings of Russia. It also explores the practical ramifications for the decline of Russia as a political priority on the wider political stage. The chapter outlines some of the problems of the current mainstream discussion of Russia, which is drowning in a discourse of speculation and rumour, 'Putinology' and historical analogies. Despite the dominance of transitological/regime question approach and the perceived eccentricity of Kremlinology, for many it has remained a truism of Russian political life that the final decisions are made behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. In fact, the collapse of the USSR has had serious ramifications for the study of Russia in the West, resulting in a major reassessment of Soviet studies, often bitter and acrimonious.