Staunton, October 5 – Those at the top of the Russian political pyramid are not interested in modernizing the country but only in ensuring that the 2024 transition be smooth and secure for themselves, Denis Volkov and Andrey Kolesnikov say; and they find equally acceptable both the scenario in which Putin remains and the one in which he leaves but a successor is put in place.
In a study published by the Moscow Carnegie Center, the deputy director of the Levada Center and the head of programs at Carnegie report the results of their interviews with those near the top elite, others involved in training elite cadres, as well as people working in business (carnegie.ru/2019/10/03/ru-pub-79975newtimes.ru/articles/detail/185972?fcc).
Those with whom Volkov and Kolesnikov were unanimous in declaring that “changes for the better are impossible.” They report that “none of our interlocutors had any illusions about the readiness of senior people in the government for democratization of the political system, liberalization of the economy and the modernization of the state and society.”
At the same time, the two analysts report, none of those with whom they spoke offered “apocalyptic scenarios of revolution or the collapse of the country as a result of the ineffectiveness of the system of state capitalism and political autocracy build over the last 20 years.”
There was complete agreement among their interlocutors as well that to secure “’stability’” in the course of this process of transition, “absolute loyalty” is more important than effectiveness and that “all appointments will be agreed upon by the force structures,” Volkov and Kolesnikov continue.
Loyalty is viewed as so important because so many areas have to be managed directly rather than according to set rules and also because of “the negative view of state bureaucrats by the population, the fear of losing a high positiona nd reputation as a result of unpredictable assessments, limitations on property, and incomes and pay lower than those in business.”
“But ‘loyalty,’ in the opinion of respondents, is creating a problem: bureaucrats feel responsible only to the federal bosses and not to the citizens.” To try to prevent this from becoming a source of popular anger, those in the hierarchy resort to using statistics of various kinds to suggest they are focusing on the population’s needs.
According to the two analysts, “the Putin system seeks to preserve the social and political balance until the end of the political cycle and beyond.” That system is based “on the presumption of the all-knowing and all-powerful state and its bureaucracy and on the absolutization of state control.”
It represents a kind of “’imagined’” or collective Putin, one in which Putin himself makes only “a small percentage of all decisions taken in the country” but others make the decisions that he would if he were to address himself to their issues. Thus, Putin’s departure depends on whether he can find someone who will continue his system and do nothing to threaten him.
In short, “for the transition of power, it is important for Putin to find by “2024 the very same kind of figure that he himself was for Boris Yeltsin. But the problem for the elite is to arrange things so that power and property will remain tied together and that they can leave both to their children.
And they conclude, “the present Russian political regime has assumed an identity: conservative values, imperial consciousness, militarization, anti-Westernism, a special path on the basis of mythologized ideas about history, and memory about the Great Fatherland War as the basic idea of the nation and the method of legitimization of the authorities.”
None of that is likely to change either.