Sunday, October 30, 2016

Russians Turning Against Putin Regime Thus Making Revolutionary Change More Likely, Solovey Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – Deep background sociological research is showing that Russia is at the beginning of “a significant transformation of mass consciousness” that will eliminate much of the loyalty to the regime that the populace now shows in a way tht will recall what happened at the end of Soviet times, Valery Solovey says.

            And this shift, the MGIMO professor continues, “will take plece [first] in the heads” will involve less a willingness of people “to come out against the authorities” but rather to consider them as not “deserving obedience and respect” and thus causing them to loose whatever legitimacy they have (

That does not mean, Solovey says, that there will be a violent revolution – the end of the Soviet Union wasn’t violent either and the Russian people don’t want it – but rather that the situation will change in such a way that the current rulers will likely have to exit the scene if they cannot radically change their own policies and approaches to the population at large.

In an interview with the Moscow newspaper “Gazeta,” Solovey discusses a wide variety of themes he has addressed in his new book, “Revolution! The Bases of Revolutionary Struggle in the Contemporary Era,” that will be released in the coming month. 

He argues that the events of five years ago failed to lead to this kind of change because they were a moral rather than an economic protest, because the opposition parties were so weak, and because they were the work of a middle class not yet radicalized by its loss of its economic as well as its political position.

Now the members of the middle class have suffered and are ready for harsher action, and the lower classes are angry as well, although most of them are satisfying their anger with “deviant behavior like alcoholism and petty hooliganism.” But over time, the two groups are coming together with regard to the regime.

“Five years ago,” Solovey says, “Russia was close to a so-called velvet revolution in which the authorities most probably would preserve part of their positions.” But the events of the intervening period mean that “now the development of events in the case of a revolution will proceed according to a harsher scenario,” albeit not necessarily a “bloody” one.

What needs to be recognized, however “paradoxical” this may sound, is that “in Russia there are no forces which are interested in the defense of the powers that be,” just like in 1991 with regard to the Soviet hierarchy.  The current powers look strong as a result of their brutality, but in fact, they are incredibly weak, Solovey argues.

The bureaucracy and the middle class don’t like the current regime and know that any succeeding regime will have to make use of their talents. The siloviki are not best pleased either and they will be concerned during a crisis in the first instance to save themselves rather than save the system that elevated them.

The regime could save itself by making reforms and reaching out to the population, but once again as so often in Russian history, it is a case of “’too little too late.’”  That doesn’t mean there will be an apocalyptic destruction of the regime or the country, but it does mean that it is at risk of imploding as the Soviet system did.

And because the authorities continue to make “mistake after mistake,” the situation is only getting worse and something will almost certainly happen in the next year or two, and not 20 years from now as some in the Kremlin think, especially because ever more groups will conclude that they have nothing to lose by ignoring those in power if not actually fighting them.

Russians don’t want another violent revolution, and they don’t have the youth-dominated demographic structure that such transformations usualy have. But they are being pushed in a revoltutionary direction by their common demands for justice whether they believe that “Crimea is ours” or not.

If protests do break out, the likeliest scenario is that the supporters of the regime will stay at home, even as its opponents take to the streets. The forces on which the regime relies will see this and act accordingly because they will want to protect themselves in the future, the MGIMO professor continues.

Had the last 15 years been used constructively, he concludes, all of this might have been avoided. But they weren’t. The issues of justice have reemerged. And the regime is rapidly losing its legitimacy even though most people out of fear or indifference or inertia are prepared to tell poll takers otherwise.

And in a country that has not engaged in lustration or build real institutions, the consequences for radical change, call it revolution or not, should not be underrated, Solovey concludes.

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