Monday, July 20, 2020

Putin System’s Strength Lies in Its ‘Chameleon-Like’ Nature, Serenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – The continuing strength of Vladimir Putin’s political system lies in its lack of an ideology and thus its ability to change how it presents itself in a “chameleon-like” manner depending on audiences and circumstances, Andrey Serenko says. Those in and around the Kremlin who want a more fixed ideology are the true gravediggers of the system.

            The director of the Moscow Analytic Center of the Russian Society of Political Analysts says in the absence of a specific ideology, the Kremlin can in case of need present itself as “liberal” or “Stalinist” without committing itself to either for the long term, and that flexibility allows it to parry almost any challenge (

            According to Serenko, “the Russian political system is absolutely technological: it is a chameleon system capable of changing color in order to guarantee its survival in any social context.”  If it were to lose that capacity and flexibility, it would be at risk because all its opponents would have a fixed rather than moving target to direct their anger at.

            The analyst says that despite the efforts of some in the Kremlin to push for a single ideology, there are enough people there who understand that they won’t want to cut off the limb on which they sit because at some point they will face a more serious challenge not from the streets but from within the elite – and the lack of a specific ideology protects the rulers there too.

            Street protests while dramatic “are not dangerous for the system of the Russian Federation, Serenko continues. And competition of elites isn’t either. They can help keep the Russian system up to snuff and allow it to adapt, to change color if you will, so that the powers that be can remain in place.

            Ultimately, it was a fixed ideology that led to the collapse of the USSR, he argues; and as long as the current Russian system avoids that trap, it has a good chance to outlast its Soviet predecessor.  But the temptation to establish a fixed ideology is great and perhaps especially so among Putin’s closest aides.

            As a result, Serenko says, “the region with the greatest protest threat is the Kremlin itself,” and if Putin follows their advice, he will be as it sometimes appears he already is “the most protest-oriented politician in the country.”  But despite the temptations, he will likely pull back, recognizing that “a protest in which the elites do not take part has no prospects.” 

            According to the political analyst, the most likely place where elites could get involved with mass protests and thus challenge the regime in Moscow are “those regions of the Russian Federation” where elites think they can use the population to boost their own positions regarding control of resources.

            But for the time being, and indeed unless the center adopts a single hard and fast ideology, Serenko concludes, he doesn’t “see in the Russian Federation any such regions.”

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