Staunton, August 9 – Russian political discourse frequently gives new meaning to words in common use elsewhere, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says. Since the start of 2017, it has talked a lot about “young technocrats” who are not technocrats but rather a symptom of the vacuum of ideas at the top of the country’s political system.
The Kremlin uses the term “young specialist” to designate a group of former governors who have been assigned to head regions or simply young governors who have been in office for a long time but are relatively young, the Yekaterinburg political analyst says. But they are not technocrats (snob.ru/selected/entry/127756).
With rare exceptions, these people have worked in the political system most or all of their lives and thus are not the technocrats in the usual sense. But identifying the cadres in this way allows the Kremlin to answer the question as to why they have been appointed and also to suggest that the regime is moving forward by focusing on technical effectiveness.
Moreover, the term suggests that these people are “apolitical,” a positive thing in two ways. On the one hand, that suggests to many people that these people aren’t pursuing any agenda. And on the other, it means that the regime can count on them to obey any future twist and turn in the Kremlin line.
In many ways, Krasheninnikov says, this represents a recapitulation of the practice adopted at the end of Soviet times when leaders chose younger people whom they believed were effective because they weren’t ideologically committed to any one position. Mikhail Gorbachev was thought to be one of these, and in the Russian Federation later, Vladimir Putin.
This reliance on technocrats,” the analyst continues, “is a sign of self-complacency of a collapsing political system,” one that signals that there has been a loss of faith in the previous ideological and political arrangements but no identification of new ones in which younger people can place their faith.
Given “the unqualified dominance of the federal government in all spheres and the emptiness of regional budgets, there is no real reason to expect miracles from any of the Kremlin-backed promotions: these people will hardly take any risks” by challenging the party line from above.
But this arrangement doesn’t always work as its creators expect, Krasheninnikov says. Some of these young people may decide to break with their elders if they fear that otherwise they will share the same fate. That happened at the end of Soviet times, and it could easily and unexpectedly quickly happen once again.