Saturday, January 9, 2016

Russians Thinking about Future after Putin Too Often Include Putin Elements in It, Kashin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 9 – Ever more Russians are thinking about a future for themselves without Vladimir Putin, a positive development because it shows that they no longer imagine he will be as eternal as he thinks and because it is allowing them to consider many issues now that will have to be addressed once he’s gone, Oleg Kashin says.

            But even as they look beyond Putin, their visions of the future often include aspects of Putin’s approach, either because they observe what the current Kremlin leader is doing and decide they must do the opposite or because they assume the only way to move beyond him is to use some of his methods (

            That pattern is nothing new: after the demise of the Soviet system, many in Russia and the former Soviet republics adopted an approach that some labelled “anti-communist Bolshevism” because they wanted to use Soviet methods to achieve anti-Soviet goals, without recognizing the ways in which these means often subverted the ends.

            Russians now living “remember how 1989 differed from 1984 or even how 1957 did from 1952,” the journalist says. “Once five years pass, Russians burdened with concerns about the new time … will only laugh at what seemed important in 2015.” A post-Putin Russia will come and now one can only argue about how soon that will be.

            “People dissatisfied with Putin are beginning to draw a picture of the future, but so far this is too difficult for them: they portray Russia without Putin and they get Putin,” given how long he has been in power and how “even the most progressive Russians simply don’t know how a non-Putin Russia can look.”

            That is clear from the efforts of Vladimir Ashurkov whose project “Remediation of Law” would impose some of the same odious methods of existing Putinist legislation to achieve very different ends.  But it is even more obviously on display in the writings of opposition figure Garry Kasparov about what he would do after Putin.

            He wants to impose a Putin-style dictatorship to “cleanse” Russian society, an approach that subverts itself and that appears to confirm what many supporters of the current regime believe: “yes,” they say, “Putin is bad in many ways, but there is the risk that without Putin things will be worse.”

            “To lay on Russians responsibility for Putin is the same Stalinist logic according to which were sent to the camps those who were prisoners of the Germans.” It is “unfreedom in exchange for no freedom, no freedom, no freedom in the name of no freedom, senseless and absurd cruelty.”

            Such an approach is wrong, Kashin says. Not only has the bestiality of the Putin state not reached the levels of Hitlerite Germany, but “more more important, the Putin regime over its 16 years never was the result of the free choice of Russians.”  He was appointed, and blaming Russians for him is just as cynical as “Putinist ‘sociological polls’ about Crimea’s energy.”

            Such proposals suggest, he continues, that the opponents of Putin share the same fear which he undoubtedly has: “a fear of losing power, a fear of being face to face with an uncontrolled political process.”

            “The temptation to replace a ‘bad’ dictator with a ‘good’ one is idealism and shamefulness at one and the same time. There won’t be any good dictators” because the supporters of a “good” dictator will use methods that even he would not approve or, if he approved, would subvert his proclaimed goals.

            “If the image of the future that Russian opposition figures have is limited to a model of ‘a liberal Putin,’ who only in details must be different from Putin … then why do we need a new one?” Kashin asks.

            “An opposition which is afraid of democracy and the people is a bad and worthless opposition,” he argues.  And that is just what an opposition is if it begins by looking for “loopholes” that will allow it to do what Putin has done but only better.

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