Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Five Things have Changed in Russia in Last Year and Five have Not, Kalachev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 8 – In a wide-ranging, 5,000-word interview in Kazan’s Business-Gazeta, Moscoc commentator Konstantin Kalachev says that over the last year, five significant things have changed in Russia, but five equally significant ones have not, a pattern likely to continue in 2019 and make the situation worse (business-gazeta.ru/article/408753).

            The five things he says have changed include:

1.      A growing sense among all Russians that the old model of the system based on confrontation with the West and of Russia as a besieged fortress has exhausted itself without a new model having been put in place or even thought up.

2.      Russians feel that the views them with hostility, that there is among powerful a sense of “we” versus “they” – and ordinary Russians feel they are very much the latter.

3.      For Russians, Putin is no longer a “sacred” figure and the notion that he is a good tsar surrounded by bad boyars is not believed.

4.      Russians have come to believe that elections matter and can change the situation, something few believed in in the past.

5.      Russians had hoped that Putin could refocus from foreign policy his passion to domestic issues affecting them but no longer believe he can.

The five things Kalachev says have NOT changed include:

1.      The Putin elite distrusts the population just as much as it ever did.

2.      The opposition continues to suffer because it denies that Putin has done anything positive. “For them, he is evil.” But the majority of the population does not accept that view given that they have voted for him and that he has brought them benefits in the past.

3.      The distance from protest attitudes to protest actions remains “enormous” and “when people say they are ready to protest, that doesn’t mean that tomorrow they will go out into the square.”

4.      Opposition to regional amalgamation remains as strong as ever, something Putin has effectively acknowledged by saying that it will only happen if it is approved by referendum in each case.

5.      Putin remains “the chief moral authority and holder of all the threads of real administration.”

Given this pattern, Kalachev says, it is possible Putin will leave office before 2024 but “he will maintain control over the country.”  As for what will come in the next 12 months, he continues, “pessimists say that it cannot get worse, but optimists say they can. I am an optimist,” the Moscow analyst says. 

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