Staunton, January 21 – There has been “a very serious shift” in public attitudes in Russia over the last year, Valery Solovey says, one that has opened a break between society and Vladimir Putin and the rise of negative attitudes not only to the Kremlin leader but to the powers that be as a whole as show in the September gubernatorial races.
Few, including himself, expected the situation to develop in this direction so rapidly, the MGIMO professor says; and now Russia faces the prospect that these attitudes will be lead to mass demonstrations or altrnatively many smaller ones in the coming months ( ).
“From my point of view,” Solovey says, “the crisis will extend for two years into 2021 or perhaps the beginning of 2022 and as a result, I think, a new Russian Republic will be created.” That makes all the talk now about how Putin will extend his time in power one way or another almost certainly irrelevant.
Such predictions, he continues, may appear to be something fantastic; but one should remember how things appeared in Ukraine in 2013, the Russian Federation itself in 1991, and in many other countries. When such changes occur, they tend to come to a head far more quickly than anyone thinks likely.
And there is a particular reason to think that in the case of Russia now, Solovey argues. 1991 was “a real revolution,” but it was a revolution which “was not completed,” in much the same way that the Orange Revolution was not completed in Ukraine and was ultimately followed by the Revolution of Dignity.
Russia now requires a new revolution not so much to start from scratch but to fulfill the promise of 1991, he suggests. The country desperately needs a state system which is “more effective and more, I would say, friendly in relation to the people” than the one that now exists in the Russian Federation.
An increasing number of people are inching toward that conclusion, he says, including many in the regime itself; and in private conversations at least, they are making predictions about the future which are considerably more “radical” than any they would have offered only two or three months earlier.
The Kremlin,, of course, views “everything in order,” because although it is “tense,” it is “under control.” But the further one goes from the Kremlin and the lower down the official ladder, the more worried are the expectations,” with people at that level concerned about what may happen and not doing anything that might get them in trouble after a change in regime.
That is exactly the same strategy that lower-level officials adopted at the end of Soviet times, Solovey says; and it brought the end more quickly because it ensured that the quality of governance would decline as officials made these personal calculations. Once again the administration of the country is deteriorating more rapidly than those on top admit.
Solovey cites as an example of such “re-insurance” by lower-ranking people the decision of the editors of Komsomolskaya Pravda, the only newspaper Putin is known to read regularly, to publish a summary of the MGIMO professor’s apocalyptic comments a few weeks ago. (For an analysis of that case, see ).
Exactly what the reformation of Russia will entail, of course, is unclear, Solovey says. Much of what needs two be done is to implement what the constitution calls for rather than allow things to be governed as now by “understandings.” One thing is critical, however, the regions and localities must be allowed to keep more of their own tax revenues.
With greater resources, the analyst argues, the leaders of entities at that level will become more interested and more responsible because Russians will see whether they are good stewards of the funds the people have paid in rather than simply obedient servants of the central government in Moscow.