Thursday, January 23, 2020

Putin Ending Post-Soviet NEP, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – Almost exactly a century ago, Joseph Stalin ended the New Economic Policy in order to launch collectivization, industrialization, and the construction of a totalitarian state. Now, Irina Pavlova argues, Vladimir Putin is ending the post-Soviet version of NEP, thus opening the way for a renewed totalitarianism in Russia.

            Pavlova, a US-based Russian historian, says the current discussions about Putin’s constitutional amendments and his own continuance in office ignore the reality that his Presidential Administration determine what happens in Russia, just as Stalin’s Central Committee Secretariat did 100 years back (

            The Soviet constitution then and the Russian constitution now are a façade, the historian continues, and proposals about them have importance only to the extent that they can provide clues as to how those with real power view the country and its future. Otherwise, the language in the constitutions then and now is meaningless.

            Pavlova argues that the real meaning of Putin’s words can best be understood by the recent statements of his ideologists that Sergey Kurginyan that Russia must take pride in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and that Moscow must always insist that Stalinism and Nazism are in no way equivalents (

            Those in the West who want to blame Moscow for the Pact and who argue that the two totalitarian systems resemble one another are simply trying to put Russia at a disadvantage and into a box, Kurginyan argues.  And as his most recent remarks confirm, Putin fully shares that view.

             A committed great power leader, Putin “must make a transition to a new stage in its realization,” Pavlova continues. That provides the basic clue to what is going on now, which is in fact, as she notes she predicted a year ago, “the end of Putin’s NEP,” an arrangement that like its predecessor did not make Russia like the West but rather for its move in the opposite direction (

            “Just like the NEP of the 1920s, the contemporary NEP did not lead to civilizational changes of a Western type. “ Instead, it opened the way for the state to absorb ever more of the economy and society. “And just as in the 1920s, the regime used NEP for its own goals not only economically but politically. Beyond this façade, the creation of a new edition of Stalinism was taking place.”

            “The most intriguing question remains how will this new attack in the economic sphere occur and what the new dispossession of the population will look like?”  One indication of the ways in which Putin intends to move is his installation of Mishustin as prime minister. The latter is “ideally appropriate for this role.”

            Pavlova says she does not expect “any resistance” from the population. People have gotten used to the criminal state, to their own inability to change anything, and they recognize that no efforts have been taken to strengthen private property rights. And because that is the case, “today, like almost a century ago, a signal ‘from above’ is sufficient for the siloviki.”

Both will enthusiastically attack “the contemporary kulaks – the rich Russians who have been declared saboteurs and guilty of corruption.  Such attacks will fill the state treasury and allow the state to buy off the poorest strata of the population with new social benefits even as the state makes sure that its military industries continue to grow.

All this will give the Putin regime “a second breath,” Pavlova concludes. “And Putin will remain at his post – it isn’t important whether as president or national leader – for an indeterminate time.”  That is what this week has been about; not the modification of a document which does little to determine the shape of the Russian state or the decisions it takes.

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