Political leaders have used referenda for over two thousand years to fulfill their goals, and Russia's elites used these votes in the 1990s for strikingly similar purposes. The dictionary defines a referendum as the submission of a proposed public measure or actual statute to a direct popular vote; 1 its synonym plebiscite originates in the Roman plebes, or commoners, polled by Julius Caesar in order to subvert the decisions made by the Roman Senate. Often cast as an aspect of democratic politics, in reality the referendum can blur the line between democracy and authoritarianism depending on how it is used and manipulated by political leaders.