Saturday, December 29, 2018

Pension Reform has Hurt Putin the Way 1905’s Bloody Sunday Did Nicholas II, Krichevsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 28 -- The most significant development of the past year, economist Nikita Krichevsky says, is “the de-sacralization of Vladimir Putin” among Russians, their increasing willingness to criticize his actions and hold him responsible rather than view him as someone standing above the fray.

            In this regard, the economist argues, the situation now resembles what happened in Russia after Bloody Sunday in January 1905. Russians lost confidence in the tsar and whatever steps he took, even if they were good, could not wash away the blood shed when Russian troops fired on people trying to petition Nicholas II (

            Raising the pension age was “a watershed,” Krichevsky says. Not only did it undermine the implicit contract between Putin and the people, but it has meant that the people have viewed all subsequent Putin actions through its lens, focusing on the ways in which they give money and power to the rich even when they on occasion do some good for the population. 

            And such attitudes are spreading into portions of the elite who feel that they are not getting what they are due while others are. At present, these are “the hidden opponents of the powers that be,” people who are important because “Russia is a country of palace coups, despite the several revolutions which occurred in the 20th century.”

            The situation promises to get worse in 2019 and ensuring years, likely leading to a real crisis in the mid-2020s, Krichevsky says.  Oil and sanctions are problems but nothing compared to “the destructive actions of the government.” It may try to save itself by making concessions, but those will be viewed as insufficient given the pension reform-induced mental transformation.

            Russians “have lost trust in the government: we will see sabotage of the actions of the authorities. Now, people will say:  give us money and leave us alone. The population already now is showing social apathy and rejects any initiative of the powers that be, however good it may be.”

            And “just as after Bloody Sunday,” whatever actions the regime takes will be viewed in the context of the pension reform betrayal, the economist says.  It is likely that dissatisfaction will grow: “People are not ‘the new oil;’ people are ‘a Molotov cocktail.’” And that is something the regime has not yet recognized.

            Soviet leader Yury Andropov once observed, Krichevsky says, that “we do not know the society which we have built.’” He turned out to be a prophet: the regime acted in ways that ignored the nature of the society its own policies had created.  Something similar happened after 1905 and it is happening again.

            “I will not advance any analogies,” Krichevsky says, “but already now it is obvious that the present-day growing instability will lead to cardinal changes throughout Russian society.”

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