Thursday, April 28, 2016

Can Russia, However Much Sub-Divided, Ever Escape Its Past? Krasheninnikov Asks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 27 – When the Soviet Union disintegrated, those who came to power in most of the successor states were members of the second or third-tier of the Soviet elite; and they quickly reproduced at the level of the new states systems which reflected their origins and experiences.

            That raises a serious problem for the future, one that few people have wanted to face: If the Russian Federation disintegrates, can any of the “successor” states avoid the same fate, with the new group of leaders coming almost exclusively from the same elite that has driven that country into its current disaster?

            One who has is Fyodor Krasheninnikov, a Urals writer and activist who has just issued the second edition of his 2008 book, “After Russia.”  In a review of it on the Rufabula portal, Vadim Shtepa, a Karelian regionalist now living in exile in Estonia, provides insights into the Urals writer’s ideas (

            Krasheninnikov’s vision of the future, one that reflects his experience of having lived through the disintegration of the USSR, is dark. He casts it in the form of a dystopian novel in order to avoid criminal charges since, unlike Shtepa, he continues to live in and thus be subject to Russian laws.

            His book is based on the premise that the Russian Federation breaks apart into several regional states. “But then,” Shtepa summarizes, “in one of the central-Russian republics power is seized by a former policeman who dreams of ‘the greatness of power,’ and to his surprise easily takes Moscow and begins from there a campaign for ‘the rebirth of Russia.’”

            But while this imperial project does not succeed across the entire space now occupied by the Russian Federation, the attitudes of the new rulers continue to have a large and typically negative impact on almost all of the new states, in much the same way that the attitudes of the rulers of most of the new post-Soviet states have.

            It could hardly be otherwise, Krasheninnikov argues in his book. These people were part and parcel of the previous regime; and they simply acted in the same way that they had on a larger stage on their new and smaller ones. His view is so bleak, Shtepa says, that it could almost be Kremlin propaganda which suggests that however bad things are, they could get worse.

              Shtepa in his writings has also discussed what a post-Soviet future might be like. And like Krasheninnikov, he recognizes its dark side, having talked about what would happen if Russia simply divided “like an amoeba” with each of the new parts reproducing all of the old in miniature (

            And also like the Urals writer, Shtepa has acknowledged that if this happens in the next round of imperial devolution, the outcome may be even worse because “the Kremlin ‘vertical’ will not disappear but only multiply in dozens” of mini-states “with no less dictatorial approaches.”

            But in contrast to Krasheninnikov, Shtepa holds out the possibility of a more optimistic outcome at least for portions of the post-Russian space. He says that if the successors can agree on a treaty-based federation or confederation, the controls built into those systems may prevent the values of the past from being reproduced.

            But he gives the last word to Krasheninnikov who says that he wrote his novel not to describe what he wants to see happen but as a warning about what could if nothing is done. He suggests he does not see the future as unbearable because it may be radically different than the present but because it may be exactly the same.

            That is what the disintegration of the USSR taught him, the writer says.  The future can be exactly like the past.  Had he written that “in place of Russia suddenly would appear a multitude of flourishing democratic states … that would have been a utopia.  “Unfortunately,” he adds, he “does not see any preconditions” for that.

            Nevertheless, Krasheninnikov concludes, he does not consider his book “a sentence or even more a prophecy. This is precisely an anti-utopia, more about today and about how that threatens our future.”  Russians need to think hard about how to avoid that and thus avoiding falling in the trap of a vicious and ever-repeating circle.

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