Monday, February 12, 2018

Rybka-Gate Scandal Highlights Rise of Negative Selection Process within Putin Elite

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – None of the figures in what is coming to be known as the Rybka-Gate scandal comes off as the brightest bulb in the box, but Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch at the center of it, looks especially dim-witted, and that is prompting many Russians to ask how could he be so rich if he is so completely lacking in outstanding abilities.

            Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, says on his Facebook page that no one should be surprised by Deripaska’s elevation: He conforms not to what people expect successes to look like but to what the Putin regime, via a process of “negative selection,” has elevated (

            “The social elite” of any country can be formed by “individuals who do not have any outstanding positive qualities,” the commentator says, although each system has “its own subjective demands” that those hoping to rise to the top must meet. In some countries, one thing is needed; “but in another a totally different” requirement is imposed.

            “In one society, success in politics or business requires above all entrepreneurial talent, creative abilities, and eloquence. In others, it is given tot hose who can fit into the system, please the bosses, and avoid attracting attention.”  And “in still a third, cruelty and decisiveness” and the ability to bend others to one’s will.

            According to Eidman, “the real requirements … may often be quite different from the officially declared notions about ‘what is good and what is bad.”  In Russia, for instance, “a unique selection of social selection has been established” under Putin, one in which those hoping to rise need not display any particular talents. They don’t need to be Elon Musks, but Deripaskas.

            As a result of this “negative” selection, “the typical representative of the ruling Russian strata has the world view of a huckster on the make, the esthetic tastes of a wealthy pimp, and the moral principles of a pickpocket at a railroad station.” And people with those qualities fit in the herd at the top of the current regime.  One could hardly expect otherwise, Eidman suggests.

            A second Russian commentator, journalist Sasha Sotnik, addresses the same issue but seeks to put it in an even broader context.  “All empires” from Rome in classical times to the USSR a generation ago to Russia now, he argues, “before their collapse drown in debauchery” (

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