Friday, September 11, 2020

Russians Identifying with Non-Systemic Parties Seek Regime Change Rather than Any Specific Program, Belanovsky and Nikolskaya Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 10 – Sociologists Sergey Belanovsky and Anastasiya Nikolskaya interviewed 60 Russians who identify with the non-systemic political parties in order to determine “the range of ideas that, in the event of radical changes in the existing government, could shape a new agenda.”

            What they found, they say in a report on the Riddle portal, is that such people focus almost exclusively on regime change – the ouster of Vladimir Putin – rather than on the development of a specific agenda they can offer as an alternative to his policies (

            As a result, Belanovsky and Nikolskaya say, “there is a danger that, in the event of sudden democratic transformations, the discussion of specific steps will drown in a stream of insoluble political conflicts,” leading to chaos, yet another crisis, and “a massive return to the idea of ‘a strong hand’ to restore order,” leaving the country possibly even worse off.

            “The ideological platform of most representatives of the democratic opposition is vague,” the sociologists say. “Most call themselves liberals but prefer to avoid the question as to whether they are right-wing or left-wing liberals.” Thus, most favor a smaller state but greater state support for medicine and education.  “As a rule, they aren’t concerned with economic issues.”

            Their ultimate goal is democracy but they do not have much “understanding of issues concerning state structure, economics, and other spheres of public life,” and they do not form “a real assessments of the current situation.” Instead, they are inclined to “postpone until later” after democracy “wins.”

            This stance, the two say, “leads to an atmosphere of expectation of a social miracle that will supposedly come true when the existing regime is replaced by a democratic one. And it is this expectation that is what really unites ordinary representatives of the democratic opposition in Russia today.”

            That sets the stage for disaster even if Putin leaves the scene. Instead, Belanovsky and Nikolskaya say, the opposition needs to articulate a program aimed at achieving “a national consensus at least on key issues” and “to seek contacts with the unspoken opposition that exists within the state apparatus” and take their experiences and views into account.

            Many officials are ready to take part in such an effort because they are currently carrying out policies they don’t believe in. The two sociologists point to the situation in Khabarovsk where ousted governor Sergey Furgal changed policies without having to change that many people as a case in point.

            Unfortunately, they suggest, there is little evidence that the rank-and-file opposition  is thinking in these terms or that their leaders are trying to move in that direction either. 

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