Saturday, August 17, 2019

Putin will Be Followed by a New Putin, Excluding Chance of Russia’s Democratization Anytime Soon, Volkov Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 15 – A week ago, Russian historian Sergey Volkov attracted attention for declaring that he saw little or no chance for democracy to emerge in Russia anytime soon because it lacks important preconditions (

            If Russia doesn’t disintegrate or somehow “radically softens,” he wrote, “within a few years some new Putin will arrive on the scene” almost immediately. But if it does break apart and remains much as it is, then it will remain under the same kind of ruler for a long time to come at the very least “for decades.”

            Not surprisingly, Volkov’s pessimistic assessment of Russia’s chances for democratization drawn fire; and in response, he has now explained the basis for his assumptions in a new blogpost that Novyye izvestiya has reposted ( in

He says that Russia could move toward democracy only under conditions which do not now exist – “an establishment which had been in place for sometime and was free from the fear that it would lose its property,” something that would allow it make the kind of concessions to the population that could allow democratic arrangements to arise.

Because of its history, Russia doesn’t have such a group of people “and for a long time ahead won’t” either. Consequently, some new Putin will appear, a development that may or may not be disastrous depending on how he behaves. As Volkov points out, “the real Putin at various times has behaved differently.”

There is a very simple reason why “our ‘democrats’” can’t take power or remain democrats if they do.  They don’t have anyone of their own who will carry out their orders. They need “their own ‘police’ but don’t have anywhere from which to get one. And if they came to power, the 1990s would return with bandits in place of police and the population desirous of a new autocrat.

“’The force structures,’” the historian says, “always stand at the advanced edge of the regime and even if they are not its essence, their preservation or replacement always serves as an inerrant indicator of ‘whether there was a revolution or not.’”  When there is, they are replaced; when there isn’t, they aren’t.

When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia and the ayatollahs in Iran, they cleaned house, replacing the siloviki of the old order with their own. “It is completely impossible to imagine” that the Bolsheviks would have been willing to count on the tsarist police to protect them and enforce their wishes.

Any new power needs “a corresponding contingent of people who are ready to kill and die for this power,” Volkov says. “The Bolsheviks and the Iranian mullahs in the form of the Red Guard and the Guardians of the Revolution had such a contingent, and there they did not have any problems with staffing their own ‘police.’”

“The psychology of ‘the siloviki,’” he continues, “by its nature means that they are prepared to subordinate themselves to the accustomed authorities or their representatives … are ready to subordinate themselves to some new ‘forceful people’ … but are not under any circumstances ready to take orders from ‘the lousy democrats.’”

They might have been willing to take orders from Aleksey Navalny, someone who has the reputation as “a secret nationalist and populist.” Indeed, fears that they might explain why the Kremlin reacted to him as it has, Volkov suggests.  But Navalny has faded and no one like him has arisen to take his place.

As a result, the historian concludes, “’a new Putin’ will emerge out of that part of the elite which will organize a new perestroika or out of the opposition which will take shape after the appearance” of the results of such a development of events.

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