Sunday, March 28, 2021

‘Transition Needs Continuity, and Russian Elites Feel Themselves Temporary,’ Pryanikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 26 – For a transition to occur in business or political life, those taking part in it must feel that there exist conditions guaranteeing continuity for them and their interests. In Russia, however, elites don’t have that sense, and consequently, they will put off any transition as long as possible seeing it as a threat to themselves, Pavel Pryanikov says.

            Because neither of these elites has succeeded in strengthening its position by legalization and institutionalization, both sense that they risk losing everything and thus remain committed to keeping the current situation in place. That sense gives them an enormous incentive to back the current powers that be, the commentator says (

            This sense of danger is exacerbated, Pryanikov continues, because unlike in many other capitalist countries, the children of business elites have little interest in taking over for their parents; and because as in most countries, there is a sense that something is not right about the children of political elites doing the same.

            Not only does this younger generation want to do other things, including spending more time abroad, but it is “in general a softer generation,” one less prepared to engage in the kind of brutal battles that their parents did to gain power and property in the Russia of the early post-Soviet years.

            “Sociologists by their findings confirm what I see,” Pryanikov says, “the children do not want to be owners of empires.” There are a few exceptions but they prove the rule rather than pointing to a change in the situation that would make a smooth transition of the kind most would like to see possible.

            An aristocratic system would be one way to cope with this problem, he continues, but there is no basis for it in Russia. And any attempt to put it in place, to ensure that those in the elite would stay in the elite would not only provoke fights within the current elite but extraordinary anger among those inevitably excluded.

            Unfortunately, in recent years, there have been relatively few studies of the situation among the families of the top elites. An exception was the research of Olga Kryshtanovskaya, but she has not been followed by others. (On her research and the problem of succession, see

            One symptom of this lack of any sense of continuity that would make a transition possible is the fact that old long-term plans have now been forgotten, and new longer-term planning is not taking place. Everything has been reduced to tactics. Only when we see strategies will we know that a real transition is going to take place.


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