Sunday, October 13, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Drive to Create ‘Neo-USSR’ Recreating All Soviet Problems -- Including Prospect of Collapse, Akhmedov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 13 -- Vladimir Putin’s effort at the construction of “a neo-USSR” carries with it “in a natural way all Soviet problems” from stagnation to limitations on freedoms and to “the search for enemies to mobilize the masses and distract attention from unresolved problems and corruption, according to the editor of Kazan’s “Zvezda Povolzhya.”

            Truly, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce,” Rashit Akhmedov says:  Today’s Russia even has its own “analogue to the Soviet Olympiad.”  Still worse, he suggests, the current Russian regime represents the convergence of the worst shortcomings of socialism and capitalism (

            Academician Andrey Sakharov called for the combination of the best elements of the two systems, but because of the shortcomings of the moral position of the current rulers in Moscow, Russia has become a model of what happens when those in power choose the worst of each because they benefit that elite at least in the short term.

            According to Akhmedov, it is not even theoretically possible to overcome this until there is a crash.  And the independent Kazan editor argues that “whether we want this or not, the course of events is unceasingly moving toward the disintegration of the country.” 

            “Any firm has three business plans, an optimistic one, a mid-range one, and a pessimistic one,” Akhmedov continues. At present, the Russian Federation is approaching a situation in which “even the optimistic variant,” one that involves the rise of a middle class and greater political activism, points to collapse and disintegration.

            “The most revolutionary class, the mover of all change, is the petty bourgeoisie, and it is increasingly opposed” to the Kremlin. The recent vote in Moscow showed that. The average standard of living there is ten times better than in the rest of the country and still 40 percent voted against the regime’s candidate for mayor.

            By so doing, “the capital of Russia, the wealthiest city of the country, confirmed its status as an anti-Putin city and as a center of intensifying anti-Putin attitudes.” The next elections there will thus be an even bigger failure for the regime, and the members of the regime are very much aware of that.

Currently, Tatarstan, “which more than all other regions has suffered from Putin’s power vertical, nonetheless remains one of the pro-Putin bastions.  This is a political paradox.”  In the capital of the empire, people are inclined against the empire, but in Tatarstan, people remain among the most “imperially” inclined in the country.

“This recalls the situation of the peasants of Russia in 1812 who unleashed a partisan war and thus defended serfdom,” Akhmedov suggests.     

Given the rise of anti-Putin attitudes in Moscow, the Russian president can hardly afford to continue to put pressure on the republics let alone call for their suppression. That gives the republics a change.  “A policy of soft sovereignization is returning at a new point in the dialectic spiral” as the republic elites recognize that they and not Putin are in a winning position.

Tatarstan remains the most loyal region for Putin and thus must seek a privileged position for him. If he doesn’t give it to that republic, then its support will be “conditional and unreliable” because “as the American presidents used to say, détente is a two-way street” and as Lenin said “one can build capitalism only on the basis of personal interest.”

“Considering the growing level of passion of the Tatar people, for Putin to argue with the Tatars would be equivalent to sawing off the branch on which he is sitting.”  Moscow is no longer his city, and jokes about his being “president of the republics” and about his moving the capital are no longer as funny as they once were.

According to Akhmedov, “The Tatars typically have been behind the curve of the political process. They were not able to mobilize during the October revolution, although history offered them a chance to become an independent state. This opportunity also passed Tatarstan by during the period of the collapse of the USSR.”

Tatarstan in 1991 was “inches from independence; it almost became a union republic [just before the end of the Soviet Union] with all ensuring consequences.” It made some progress under Mintimir Shaymiyev, but then the opportunities passed. Now the window is opening again and “it is necessary to be ready.”

“Moscow must once and for all understand that its relations with Tatarstan can only be on the basis of equality,” Akhmedov concludes and Russians must know that “Tatarstan is not again the all-possible strengthening of Russia and its transformation into a developed European country.”

“On the contrary,” he says, “Tatarstan is interested in this in all possible ways because a free Russia is a condition of a free Tatarstan.”

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