Monday, June 10, 2019

Putin’s Russia is ‘a Business Project Not a State,’ Yavlinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – “Russia is a business project not a state,” Grigory Yavlinsky says. “The system is structured as a corporation. And the basic goal of any business is the maximization of profit and to avoid landing in jail in the process.” Consequently, the only way to change the corporation is to seize its leadership.

            Unfortunately, the Yabloko Party leader told an audience in Moscow this week that at present “there are few chances” of doing so as there are too few people informed by passion and prepared to take the risks involved. But understanding the nature of the situation prevents those who are from misdirecting their efforts (

            According to Yavlinsky, it is important to recognize that just as no subordinate employee can redirect a business, so too no subordinate political official in Russia can redirect the business that is Putin’s Russia. And consequently, opposition figures should focus on change at the top rather than trying to achieve “victories” at lower levels.

            On the one hand, this is a recognition of just how powerful Putin’s power vertical remains and how few options political figures have at the regional or municipal level not to speak of the federal one. But on the other, it is a justification for avoiding the kind of political effort that could lead to the growth of opposition sentiments from below.

            Indeed, as Tolkovatel’s Pavel Pryanikov points out in his report about Yavlinsky’s presentation, if the Yabloko leader now wants to abstain from any political activity except at the presidential level, one is entirely justified in asking why his political party even bothers to continue to exist.

            At the same time, he continues, Yavlinsky is not without courage and deserves to be admired for that compared to other Russian politicians and liberals. The Yabloko leader called for a new referendum on Crimea, one that would allow free campaigning for the possibility that the peninsula could remain Russian, be returned to Ukraine or become independent.

            And he called for an end to Moscow’s direct participation in and support for secessionist forces of the Donbass, for that region’s return to Ukrainian control, another position many Russian liberals hold but are, according to the Tolkovatel editor and blogger, afraid to express in public given the risk of sanction by the Kremlin.

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