Staunton, February 18 – Three new developments – the harsh sentences in the Network case, the discussion of constitutional amendments, and a society driven into silence by having to try to make ends meet -- might appear at first blush to be completely independent but are in fact deeply interconnected, Igor Chubais says.
And when this is understood, the Russian historian says, it becomes obvious that the right date to compare Russia’s present is not 1937 as some fear, the time of the great terror but also a new constitution but rather 1918, when “the Russian state [was] on the brink of collapse” (obozrevatel.com/russia/russkoe-gosudarstvo-nahoditsya-na-grani-kraha.htm).
Putin’s immediate entourage may feel that they have achieved a lot in restoring state power now that the military and police have been rebuilt, Russia has shown its strength relative to its neighbors, and many have accepted the idea that Stalin is their “chief hero and the father of Victory,” Chubais says.
But “from the point of view of the active and not very active part of society,” he continues, where Russia is now looks very different. “We know that from year to year our standard of living is falling, taxes and collections are growing and incomes declining. We know that the population of Russia is dying out … and that emigration is much higher than even in the years of the Civil War.”
Billions of dollars of national wealth is disappearing abroad. Health care and education are being gutted, the environment is being destroyed, and Russia is ever more isolated internationally even as the powers that be continue to deny all this and paint a picture at odds with reality.
More important, Chubais continues, “the powers do not completely understand that the gap between the Kremlin and the people is becoming ever sharper. It is characteristic tha thte master of political trolling, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, proposed introducing the new post of ‘supreme ruler.’”
Putin’s spokesman “Peskov who doesn’t know our history responded that we will consider all variants and all proposals.” Had he known basic Russian history, he would have answered differently. There once was a supreme ruler in Russia: Admiral Kolchak who in 1918 said he took on that burden because the Russian state was “on the brink of collapse.”
Such ignorance is leading the regime to take actions more broadly that are pushing Russia again toward that “brink.” Solzhenitsyn observed once that “in the 1930s, the people itself became the enemy of the people.” Today, that is happening again when Russians of conscience are being incarcerated and viewing the state in a new and far more negative way.
They may recognize that even as Stalin launched his mass attack on the population, he revised the constitution in order to make it “the most democratic in the world.” And that too will have consequences for a society whose best people are once again being put behind bars in the name of the continuation of a dictatorship that has brought them few benefits.