Sunday, February 3, 2019

Toward a Tipping Point? Regional Leaders Now Almost as Popular as Putin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 2 – One of the moments when it became clear that the Soviet Union was headed for the dustbin of history was when the leaders of the national republics, often having won elections for their positions even when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had not, became more popular than the incumbent in the Kremlin.

            Something similar has not yet happened in the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin remains more popular than the heads of the federal subjects in most polls, but the decline in his standing means that he is no longer head and shoulders above them, something that must be of concern in the Kremlin (

                However, it is likely that this shift now does not mean what it did in 1989-1991. That is because, as Kazan political analyst Ruslan Aysin points out, at present even more than at the end of Soviet times, “all government institutions – courts, parliaments, executive organs, fiscal services and political parties are rapidly degrading” (

            The rating of the president is falling rapidly, and consequently, his ability to moderate the struggles of informal structures like clans which have assumed the role of formal institutions in the past has been significantly reduced. Hence the arrests of the Arashukovs, a measure of the center’s weakness rather than its strength.

            This all means, Aysin says, that “the uncontrolled scenario of the transfer of power is sharply increasing. The systemic crisis is deepening, and soon we will be almost in the position of Venezuela and Maduro.” Somewhat ominously, he adds, “the current political construction [in Russia] is finally and completely worn out.”

            The models of state and society that were appropriate in the past no longer work now despite the assumptions of many, the Kazan analyst says. “It is already past time to view things as they are. Russia, of course, has ‘a special path,’ but in this case, that is clearly insufficient” to ensure that it does not face disaster.

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