Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Apocalypse Not – Faith Alone Won’t Make Russia a Democracy, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 6 – As Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers have slipped and protests about raising the pension age have spread, ever more commentators in Moscow have suggested that the Putin regime is living through its last days and now faces an approaching apocalypse in which it will be swept away in favor of liberal democracy.

            Such views have been offered by Lev Shlosberg, Liliya Shevtsova, and Andrey Illarionov among others, US-based Russian historian Irina Pavlova says, but all such people, she argues forget that “in Russia today, there is not a single precondition for democratic development” (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2018/08/blog-post.html).

At best that means that Putin might be swept away but then rapidly replaced by a dictatorship not terribly dissimilar to his own; at worst, it means that he will continue to rule and that all the talk about an apocalypse or revolution will prove to be an empty distraction from the main course of Russian political life.

What is truly unfortunate, Pavlova says, is that those who offer these pictures of the dawning future seem to believe as Zinovy Kamenev put it directly that “it is necessary only to believe” in order to win (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B67235A07D45). Such views are not only self-serving but self-deceiving as well.

A longtime skeptic about Russia’s democratic possibilities and an analyst who has argued repeatedly that Putin is a continuation of the Stalinist authoritarian statist tradition, Pavlova has more often than not been proved right about Russia’s trajectory even though her words inevitably come as a dousing of cold water on the passionate.

One can hope that at some point she will be proved wrong and Russia or its successor states will become democracies; but that will be possible if and only if those who want to see such an outcome recognize that believing in such goals is far from enough. They must first recognize what they are up against, and then work hard to change it. 

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