Friday, October 19, 2018

Putin Elites’ Overriding Fear of Innovations Putting Russia at Risk, Agora Report Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – The powers that be in Russia are afraid of any changes, technical or social, that they have not explicitly sanctioned in advance, experts at the Agora Analytic Center say in a new report, because any and all changes will entail the loss of their power and wealth.

            In an 18-page report entitled The Neophobia of the Russian Powers that Be, Pavel Chikov and Damir Gaynutdinov say that these fears limit Russia’s progress in all areas except those the powers hope will keep them in power: the monitoring of the population, propaganda and censorship (

            This pattern, they say, explains why Russia is lagging ever further behind in medicine and biotechnology but moving ahead with programs to control the Internet and the media. In the latter, Russia is at the cutting edge, something that is often ignored given its backwardness in other areas, the two specialists on media say.

            The Agora experts note, however, that Moscow has not yet achieved what it hopes for as far as media control is concerned and predict, as New Times stresses in its discussion of the new report, that the Kremlin will soon sanction updated versions of jamming which the Soviet authorities used to block Western radio stations (

                The policies the Putin regime have adopted with regard to medical innovation and care reflect not only its own views, Chikov and Gaynutdinov say, but also “the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.” 

            Since 2015, the Putin regime has cut back its expenditures on medical care and research, less because of budgetary stringencies, they imply, than because it does not see them as necessary to the regime’s survival. Instead, they have focused on the installation of more devices to monitor the population.

            In Moscow alone, they have installed more than 100,000 cameras on the streets, an expensive move that allows the authorities to monitor protests. Moreover, Russia has made important advances in facial recognition technology and the blocking of Internet sites, means to control the population rather than to innovate as such.

            Such an approach may bring the powers that be short-term protection, Chikov and Gaynutdinov say; but this “fear of the new” not only distorts government spending but interferes with Russia’s economic development and thus its longer-term prospects, something some in the regime have to recognize even thought they are carrying out these policies. 

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