Staunton, October 14 – A revolution is taking place in Russia, but it is not in the streets but in the halls of government where the Putin regime is bringing into positions of power a new generation of officials who are more like the Soviet-era nomenklatura than like the people they are replacing, according to Vladimir Pastukhov.
And this change, one largely taking place without fanfare, will have far-reaching consequences for how Russia is ruled well into the future, even if few at the present time are talking about it, the St. Antony’s College Russian historian says in a Polit.ru commentary today (polit.ru/article/2014/10/14/new_generation/print/).
That Putin’s immediate entourage consists of his friends and supporters, Pastukhov says, is no surprise: any ruler will do that. But Putin over the past 18 months has been installing young people aged 25 to 35 in positions where they are set to become the heads of departments or other institutions and where their values will be the deciding ones.
And these people not only are quickly driving out their older predecessors but bringing to these jobs very different values, Pastukhov argues. Among their commonalities, the historian says, are first, that they are “people without deep roots,” who have come to the capital from the provinces, have been relatively poor in the past, and are “ready for anything” now.
Second, he points out, “a significant fraction” of these new people are “directly or indirectly connected with the Russian special services. Third, “the new cadres are in principle apolitical.” They are not entering government service because they have an agenda but rather because they are prepared to pursue the agenda of the leadership, whatever it turns out to be.
And fourth, Pastukhov says, their professional skills are not the basis for their selection. Some of them may be very talented, but most appear to have been selected not on that basis but precisely because they are prepared to be loyal to those above them, an attitude that sets them apart from those they are displacing.
The exact role of the Presidential Administration in all this is difficult to specify, the St. Antony’s scholar says, but clearly those being selected are “psychologically closer” to Putin and his entourage than were their predecessors and because of where they now are in government structures can be counted on to carry out the will of the top.
“Within the essentially feudal Russian state apparatus is gradually being formed a new ‘regular bureaucracy,” which recalls the Soviet nomenklatura much more than did its [immediate] predecessors” and which is thus likely to act and respond in many of the same ways, Pastukhov says.
Its re-appearance, he continues, will put an end to the often individualistic approach of those who entered the bureaucracy in the 1990s. It will behave more collectively because such an apparatus “can have only one brain.” If over the last 15 years, the bureaucracy had behaved like a flock of sheep, now it will live “according to the rules of the ant heap.”
The “gravediggers” of the old Yeltsin elite are based “not on Bolotnoyev but at Staraya Square,” where today is taking place its replacement by “’Putin’s peoples commissars.’” And that “’Putin guard,” he continues, will be just as “pitiless” to his and its opponents as the communist nomenklatura was in Stalin’s times.