Staunton, September 26 – When Muscovites talk about who might come after Vladimir Putin, they generally assume it will either be “an even harsher incarnation of ‘Orthodox siloviki’ like Rogozin or Shoigu or dream as do liberals that it will be Navalny or someone like him, Aleksey Roshchin says.
But such debates, the Russian political analyst says, seem to him “extremely naïve” because they are like those which might have occurred in early 1991 between those who thought Mikhail Gorbachev would be succeeded by Gennady Yanayaev and those who might have hoped for Valeriya Novodvorskaya (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5604E9D3EE746).
Such debates, Roshchin continues, reflect the tendency of people to project into the future whatever trends they see or would like to see rather than consider whether there are factors that may cause other trends to emerge and even become predominant. If one thinks more generally about Russian politics, at least one of these alternative trends becomes clear.
“In essence,” he says, “the last 15 years in the life of Russia has been an unrelenting struggle of the Center with the regions, in which the regions have suffered defeat after defeat.” According to many “’experts,’” that is the way it has always been and “the fate of Russia will thus be defined in a narrow circle of ‘the capital’s elite.’”
Given that perspective, Russia’s future choice is limited to either “the Muscovite Rogozin or the Muscovite Navalny.”
But “the Center cannot get stronger forever,” Roshchin suggests. “More than that: if one looks carefully, one sees that in fact this trend has already changed, with the turning point becoming not ‘Crimea’ but 2011-2012,” when in the wake of mass protests, more parties were registered and gubernatorial elections again allowed.
This trend is still “weak and little noted,” he says; and that means that it is a mistake to think that the only choices will be between a Navalny or a Rogozin. Instead, it is entirely possible, although perhaps not yet likely, that the individual who succeeds Putin will come from beyond the ring road.
That happened once in Russia not so long ago, Roshchin points out, when Boris Yeltsin succeeded Gorbachev. And it is a mistake to assume that it cannot happen again or that such a change would not have equally dramatic consequences.