Staunton, May 16 – The current policy of the federal authorities is reproducing the situation of Soviet times, “when regions were better off to be recipients” than producers and when governors were more likely to be successful and be promoted if they were lobbyists for funds from Moscow than if they actually develop their regions, Nikolay Kulbaka says.
Just how dangerous that approach is, the economist at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says, can be easily seen if one considers three senior members of the Soviet regime at the end, all of whom had been obkom secretaries and learned how to behave (vtimes.io/2021/05/16/tolkachi-perestroiki-a5027).
History associates the collapse of the Soviet machine with the names Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Yegor Ligachev, Kulbaka says. “All three were active participants in the events of the last years of the life of the USSR, two became presidents, and the third, according to rumor could have been CPSU general secretary in place of Gorbachev.”
But all three shared one thing in common: Before coming to Moscow, they had headed regional party committees where they were successful or not less in terms of the work they did locally than in terms of their lobbying Moscow for more assistance. At that time, Kulbaka says, obkom secretaries weer in fact the chief tolkachi of their regions.
Those who extracted the most from the center did the best and thus were the most likely to rise, leading to a situation in which former obkom secretaries dominated the CPSU leadership. In that place, they continued to work as they had: lobbying for resources both domestically and abroad rather than managing development.
Many expected things to change after 1991, and for the first few years, it looked like they might. Strong regional leaders emerged “who could have become serious and up-to-date presidents.” But that wasn’t fated to happen. Instead, Russia became once again a presidential republic, who reduced regional heads to supplicants for federal largesse.
And this means, the economist says, “that we are moving along the same vicious circle” and that when the current rulers leave the scene, they will again be succeeded not by managers but by lobbyists, the very group who thirty years ago contributed so much to the collapse of the Soviet Union.