Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Russia Currently Lacks Prerequisites for Positive Changes, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 23 – Russia’s rush under Vladimir Putin toward authoritarianism and imperialism in recent years should not have come as a shock to anyone, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, because “Russia does not have the prerequisites need for positive changes” in a different direction.

            In a presentation to the Russian diaspora in California, the Russian economist and commentator says that Moscow’s aggressive policy toward its neighbors and the world reflects not just Putin’s preferences but “the very logic of the formation of Russia as an empire” (

                Unlike other European countries which had consolidated their statehood before building empires, Inozemtsev says, “Muscovia at the time of the beginning of its colonial expansion was only a borderland of the Kyivan state” and thus “Russia as a state was formed as an empire ad this imperial identity replaced a national one.”

            Another important factor holding Russia back is the enormous waves of emigration from Russia over the last 200 years.  Russians thus prefer to change their individual fates by leaving rather than change their country by remaining. That position is “quite logical” under the circumstances for individuals but it works against the country as a whole.

            Under conditions when collective protest doesn’t have any chance for success, people see the most effective means of achieving their goals” an individual approach which involves “either emigration [for large numbers] or conformism [for even more],” Inozemtsev continues.

            At the same time, he argues, immigration from the territories of the former Soviet space has had a negative consequence for Russia’s development as well. Most of those who have come from the now independent countries to Russia firmly support the course of the powers that be in Moscow foreign or domestic.

            The drive for “imperial revenge,” Inozemtsev says, began under Boris Yeltsin who backed separatism in Transdniestria, faked the outcome of the 1996 elections, and talked about the “Russian” nature of Crimea and the Donbass throughout the 1990s. These things didn’t just come out of nowhere once Putin became the Kremlin leader.

            Russian attitudes today are a delayed reaction to perestroika, “’the fear of normality,’” and a desire to return to the past, he suggests.

            Indeed, Inozemtsev says, “the existing political system [in Russia] lacks the resources for democratization or for economic modernization.”  “Modernization is possible where the population and elites do not want a return to the past,” he adds.  But in Russia today, “the past is being idealized.”

                Worse, Russian elites are living off the wealth built up in the past or from natural resources. They haven’t learned that they could earn even more from modernization and show no signs that they are about to. Instead, they believe that they are in the best of all possible worlds and work hard to suppress any competition, exactly the reverse of what Russia needs.

            “Of course,” the economist says, “this will not last forever but one should not expet changes in the nearest future. The system is horrible, corrupt and ineffective but despite that it has a large reserve of strength. The majority of the population in Russia isn’t seeking serious change.” 

                Thus, the most one can say,” Inozemtsev suggests, is “that this system will collapse only when it is completely exhausted. Sooner or later this will happen but it is important to understand that Russia in the form in which we know it will not survive the collapse of this system painlessly.”

            What we can be certain of, he says, is that “Putin will not go voluntarily” but instead simply seek ways to present as “legitimate” his remaining in power for the rest of his life. Those may range from the transformation of Russia into a parliamentary system or the annexation of Belarus to make the union state a reality with the need for a “new” president.

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