Staunton, October 14 – The new Putin nomenklatura now faces exactly the same problem, that of transferring power and property formally from fathers to sons, the old Soviet one did and tried unsuccessfully to solve by organizing or at least not opposing the destruction of the Soviet system in 1991, Moscow commentator Dmitry Milin says.
In Soviet times, he writes, the nomenklatura consisted of “the narrow circle of people who had access to political and economic power,” that is, those who controlled the offices of the party state and economic enterprises (newizv.ru/article/general/14-10-2019/dmitriy-milin-novaya-nomenklatura-gotova-peredavat-vlast-i-dolzhnosti-po-nasledstvu).
There were only two ways to join the nomenklatura, more rarely by displaying personal skills but increasingly often, especially at the end, “thanks to ‘the ties’ of family or friends.” It had its own sources of supply of deficit goods and “stood above the law,” in that the authorities closed their eyes to “crimes committed by members of the nomenklatura and their children.”
There was just one thing which the nomenklatura couldn’t do at least directly: it couldn’t “transfer Soviet property by inheritance.” It could leave apartments or dachas or similar kinds of possessions to them but not, at least not easily, its positions in the party state or over this or that factory or industry.
Milin notes that those inclined to conspiracy theories argue that the nomenklatura organized the collapse of the Soviet system “with the goal of obtaining the right of private property to the means of production of the USSR which belonged to them de facto but not de jure.”
Most of the Soviet-era nomenklatura wasn’t able to make the transition to a market economy and gain the power to leave it to their offspring by inheritance; “but part of the Soviet nomenklatura was able to do so,” and together with “the most cunning” business types in the 1990s seized the economy and enormous political power as the oligarchs.
With the arrival of Putin, these people were “removed from politics” and “for a short moment, the link of power and property appeared to have been broken in Russia,” a moment that lasted until “the new Putin nomenklatura who formally did not own state property but ran it for insane amounts of money began to take shape.”
“Families began to be formed who transferred power and the right of distribution of state and not just private property to their own children,” Milin continues. Among them are the Patrushevs, the Fradkovs, the Rogozins, the Ivanovs, and the Arashkovs, as well as many lessert figures at the regional or even city levels.
As in Soviet times, “the nomenklatura is ‘a club’ closed to outsiders,” and the power vertical works to keep it so by restricting who can run for election. But also as in Soviet times, the nomenklatura as a class stands before exactly the same problem that confronted its predecessors, the heritability of the property it controls but doesn’t own.
That and not who occupies the top job is the real “transition” problem in Russia today.