Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Former Heads of Russian Federation Subjects No Longer Non-Persons

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 28 – One of the most unfortunate inheritances the Russian Federation has received from the Soviet Union is the nearly universal notion that any official who is ousted from a position by his superiors cannot hope to play an active political role in the future.

            As a result, officials then and to a large extent still often desperately have tried to retain their position lest they become non-persons and thus lose their inviolability to prosecution and their ability to protect their relatives and closest friends, a struggle that leaves politics more a zero-sum game than it is in Western democracies.

            But a new study prepared by the Petersburg Politics Foundation released today provides some evidence that this may be changing at least at the level of governors and that those ousted sometimes can and do remain extremely popular and thus have the opportunity to resume a prominent role either in political life or in the economy.

            That study, which is described in an article in today’s “Kommersant” (which also includes a hypertext link to the original document, considered the fate of 94 heads of federal subjects who were replaced over the last decade and provides both specific data on each and certain generalizations about the group as well (

                Seven have died, four are under investigation, but only 24 of the 83 others have disappeared from public view, the usual fates of ex-officials in the past.  Eleven, the study says, have the chance to return to active politics in their regions, while nine have moved into the corporate world.  Only 14 still live in the regions they once headed, while 48 are in Moscow.

            The return of these former governors to public life would, the study concludes, “significantly enliven political life in the regions,” a life that has become duller given the absence of “bright and passionate figures.”  And for some of them, who continue to enjoy popularity, such a return is at least a possibility.

            Mikhail Vinogradov,  the lead investigator, told “Kommersant” that “the investigation showed that a significant portion of the ex-governors remain political figures and as a rule preserve their influence on regional politics.  About a third of them,” he said, “will take direct or indirect part” in future elections.”

            Another analyst, Aleksandr Kynyev was less optimistic about the return of the former governors to office.  Some may do so but “everything will depend on the format of the voting … If there will be a repetition of what we saw on October 14,then there are very few chances that some of the former governors will even run.”

            But the paper said, the political scientist “did not exclude that ‘if the federal center moves toward a definite liberalization of the gubernatorial elections,” then some of these “former” people will return.  While Kynyev doesn’t say so, that may be one of the most important reasons why there is unlikely to be the liberalization of which he speaks

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