Staunton, February 21 – Because of the enormous presence of Russians under the age of 35 in the Navalny protests, it is not surprising that most analyses of the future of politics in that country have focused on the role that young people will play in the future. But the young may not be the most important generational factor in the next decade or two.
Russian commentator Igor Eidman argues that the generation set to become the most important player in the immediate future are those who came or age and were shaped by perestroika, people aged in their mid-40s to about 60 and who occupy positions just below the very top (forumfreerussia.org/articles/opinions/2021-02-19/putinskij-rezhim-obrechen).
Eidman argues that they are the ones set to displace not only physically by taking over the top positions now occupied by members of what he calls “the stagnation generation” who were primarily formed by their experiences under Leonid Brezhnev and who are now in their mid-60s to mid-70s but ideologically as well.
What this means, he continues, is that “the Putin regime is condemned and democratic reforms are inevitable” as can easily be understood by looking at the last such major generational change in the leadership in Moscow, when those who were shaped by Khrushchev’s time replaced those who were formed by Stalin’s.
Perestroika became almost inevitable with “the departure of the Stalinist generation of leaders (Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, Suslov, Ustinov et al.).” In their place came “children of the thaw (Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Ryzhkov, et al.)” To be sure, the difference between Ligachev and Gorbachev in age was not great, “but the first was formed as a personality already under Stalin and the second at the time of the 20th Congress.”
In the 1980s, Eidman continues, “the divide between the reformers and the conservatives in the leadership was often generational. The reformers, the children of the thaw, sough finally to bring to life the dreams and hopes of their youth. This prefigured the democratic perestroika and the then, unfortunately temporary, defeat of totalitarianism.”
“The present ruling group, all these Putins, Sechins, Patrushevs, Bortnikov’s Usmanovs et al are children of the Brezhnev-era stagnation,” the commentator says. They were shaped by it and approach power and policy in much the same way Brezhnev and his comrades of arms did in the 1970s.
At present, “it is acceptable to idealize Brezhnev’s times, but precisely then flourished corruption and total theft.” And it was out of this milieu that the current criminal state grew because those at the top of the Putin pyramid absorbed the values, including falsehood, corruption and tension with the outside world that dominated the Brezhnev era.
These “children of stagnation are rapidly aging,” Eidman points out, and they will give way to the next generation which was formed during “the times of Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s reforms … Navalny is the brightest representative of this. But far from all people of his generation are in the opposition. Many of them are already in power.” (emphasis supplied)
“Like Yeltsin and Gorbachev in Brezhnev’s time, they are conducting themselves quite modestly … but they have hardly forgotten the sweet taste of freedom they knew when they were young. They are waiting for their hour. When the old men will go to their (eternal) rest, the new leadership of the country will be formed out of these children of perestroika.”
And “it is very probable that like the previous generations of the leaders of Russia, they will turn to the ideals an dmodels of their youth, more specifically to those of the children of the thaw, and begin a new democratic reconstruction of society. Let us hope,” Eidman says, “that this attempt will be more successful than past ones.”