Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Bukovsky Deluded about Chance of Rapid and Radical Change in Russia, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 9 – Vladimir Bukovsky has attracted attention by suggesting that a rising tide of protest in the regions this spring will overwhelm the Kremlin’s ability to cope and quicklylead to the collapse of the existing system and radical change in the Russian Federation (

            But in making that argument, Irina Pavlova says, Bukovsky “despite his dissident past and experience of life in the West” shows himself only to be the latest member of “a long line” of people who “are prisoners of the illusion of the rapid collapse of the system” and not just the change of the faces of leaders (

            Bukovsky’s prediction, Pavlova argues in an essay posted on the portal this week reflects his belief that at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, “the decisive role in the destruction of the communist system was played by the Inter-Regional Deputies Group supported by massive strikes of miners.”

            And the former Soviet dissident has continued to believe that despite the fact that “today one must consider demonstrated as a fact that perestroika was a planned special operation of the KGB directed at seizure of power of the party apparatus by the apparatus of the special services in order to privatize state property, that there was no popular let alone democratic revolution in August 1991, and that the mass enthusiasm and protest movements were used and then quickly channeled into the necessary direction.”

            Moreover, Bukovsky ignores the fact that during the events of 20 years ago, “the mechanism of communist rule was preserved” as certain contemporaries like Simon Kordonsky have recalled, in which “’dozens of petty bureaucrats of the former Central Committee of the CPSU who served the reformers on Staraya Square [were primarily concerned about] the preservation of the information and support infrastructure of the Central Committee, its flow of documents and much else.’”

Bukovsky’s failure to understand the events of 1991 contributes to his failure to understand what is happening in the Russian Federation at the present time, Pavlova argues, and she makes four points in this regard.

First, she says, Bukovsky like many others hopes that the West is about to “begin a broad struggle against Russian shadow capital” and thus undermine the current regime.  But he and others “know very well just how much the Western world has lost its balance regarding the defense of its fundamental values and how occupied it is with its own problems” even as its elites are “corrupted by their cooperation with the Kremlin.”

            Given that, she continues, “it is difficult to expect from Western leaders any serious and consistent pressure on Russia even after the adoption of the Magnitsky Law.” Indeed, Pavlova says, “it is still very unclear just how this law will be implemented” and what the consequences of its implementation will be.

            Pavlova observes that recent studies about “Soviet influence in the American establishment of the 1930s and 1940s” show just how effective Moscow can be in promoting its influence. And she suggests that the current situation may be in some ways worse since “representatives of the Western elite openly travel to sessions of the Valdai Club and then particulate as highly paid advisors who form the opinion of the rulers in their own countries.”

Second, she continues, anyone speculating about the collapse of the system needs to ask the question “is protesting Russian society interested in this or not?” Bukovsky assumes that it is. But in fact, the protesters so far have been seeking only the ouster of President Putin and the reduction of corruption.

They have not, Pavlova stresses, “called into question the keystone principle of the system, its commitment to great power status. Thus, the ideologues of the protesters speak only about an anti-criminal revolution and not about a reconsideration of the long-term great power strategy of the Kremlin, the principles of its foreign policy and actions toward the independent states on the post-Soviet space and also about its plans for the militarization of the country.”

Were it otherwise, she says, “it would be impossible to explain why such opponents of the regime as Dmitry Bykov, Aleksandr Golts, Dmitry Oreshkin, Kirill Rogov, Georgy Satarov and many others have joined the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy” or why many of these figures are so openly contemptuous of the West.

Moreover, according to Pavlova, the protesters have ignored “the main goal of the great power strategy of the Kremlin – the weakening of the West and in the first instance of the United States and the taking of revenge for [Moscow’s] defeat in the cold war and the disintegration of the USSR.”

It is worth noting, the analyst says, that the regime is quite prepared to use Westerners against the West.  Even as he signed a law banning the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans, Putin approved another one that “extended the visas of businessmen and those who will work in Skolkov from one year to five.”

This will allow Western businessmen to work with their Russian counterparts and help realize “the long-term strategy of the Kremlin. They are already toiling in that direction, just as under Stalin. But in place of de-kulakized peasants and prisoners, immigrants re to be used to build new gas and oil pipelines.”

 Third, Pavlova argues, the arguments of Bukovsky and others like him “ignore the fact of the complete dependence of the Russian population on the authorities.”  At the present time, “in essence the people of Russia are hostages” to the regime and they are kept in line by the special services and internal troops, especially outside the capital city.

And fourth – and this clearly strikes Pavlova as among the most serious actions of the regime that Bukovsky and others have failed to take into consideration – “the Kremlin has achieved the extraordinary devaluation of the free word.”  Words in Russia had always meant a great deal, and in Soviet times, people searched for them, even in samizdat and tamizdat.

But today, “thanks to the clever and cynical policy of ‘the pluralism of opinions’ in Russian publishing, people have become extremely disoriented not only in their assessments of the existing situation in the country and the world and in their conception of their own historical past but also with regard to their moral principles.”

“For Russia, this is a new situation” which affects everyone and is indeed “the greatest problem for those who are seriously thinking about the future of the country.”  Unfortunately, at least so far, Pavlova implies, Bukovsky and others like him who suggest that some deus ex machina will save the situation do not appear to be doing so.

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