Staunton, September 17 – Russian politics since the 19th century has typically been discussed in terms of fathers and sons; but given the aging of Vladimir Putin and those around him, it is increasingly between grandfathers who came to power when the Kremlin leader did and grandchildren who were born under his rule, Andrey Okara says.
The two generations with the gap in between are very different, and the failure of the former to understand just how different the latter are is one of the challenges the Kremlin faces as it seeks to preserve its power and prevent a revolution, the director of the Moscow Center for East European Research says (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/09/17/1863904.html).
According to Okara, the regime’s thinking about what to do as the Duma elections approach in 2021 and the presidential ones do in 2024 is increasingly driven by this divide, one that has already played out in the voting on the constitutional amendments earlier this summer and in the just-completed regional elections.
“The main trend” in Kremlin policy, he suggests, will be to seek to lower the significance of election platforms “as such,” to make the voting “inert,” but not to move so far in either of those directions as to call into question the legitimacy which elections can provide. That in turn suggests the powers that be will try to ensure the elections appear fair but give the right result.
Okara says that “the Belarusian experience has shown that misusing this technology creates risks and challenges” for those who employ it and that the gap between the reported results and the real ones must not be so large as to spark dissent. That happened in Belarus; it must not happen in Russia, the Kremlin has decided.
To that end, it will try to ensure that only those candidates it approves of can run and use force only if compelled to, create “’new’ parties” to try to attract the grandchildren who want to see some change, and do what it can to reduce the importance of local issues as the driving forces in elections lest they become platforms for anti-Moscow action.
The Kremlin will also work to ensure that there is no linking up of protests by “’the creative class’” in the megalopolises and “’the working class’ of the company towns.” Again, from Moscow’s perspective, that is what happened in Belarus and why the situation there is so dangerous but also so instructive.
And the regime will work even harder to shut down Internet channels that present an alternative vision of the future, believing that “depersonalized” and “anonymous” outlets like NEXTA in Belarus represent nothing less than the work of outside forces interested in overthrowing the Putin regime.
The problem the Kremlin faces in this regard is two-fold, Akara suggests. On the one hand, many of these actions risk radicalizing rather than demobilizing the population. And on the other, the grandfathers really don’t understand the online world that is at the center of reality for the grandchildren.
As a result, the Moscow analyst suggests, the powers that be will constantly be playing catchup and making mistakes that the grandchildren will be able to exploit. And such actions, based on the notion that any protest after voting is the beginning of “a color revolution,” risk becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.