Monday, October 18, 2021

Russian Elections Matter Profoundly But Not as Elections in Other Systems Do, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 12 – The just completed Duma elections are a reminder that “elections have importance in Russia,” not to choose who will make policy as is the case in democracies or to mobilize the population as was true in Soviet times but rather to show how well those in power are capable of passing the stress tests they represent, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            Russian elections, the London-based Russian analyst says, “are a certain political procedure which the regime, unfortunately for itself cannot completely do away with and whichgenerate additional pressure on the system,” a test which the regime has been less and less well on (

            Such elections, “do not have a direct influence on the structure of power because the powers can’t be changed by elections, but they influence things in a systemic fashion on a large number of parameters of this regime and, from my point of view,” the analyst says, “this leads the system to change after elections.”

            According to Pastukhov, the most recent elections leave the powers that be with no choice but to continue to move in the direction of an ever tougher totalitarian regime, with broader repression overwhelming the targeted variety that has been typical up to now and mean that force rather than politics will be the deciding factor as to Russia’s direction.

            “Repressions will grow, and they will now focus on the suppression of dissent.” Things may not reach the stage of concentration camps. But it is already clear that the regime wants to prevent people not only from speaking and acting differently than it wants but also to block them from thinking differently.

            Obviously, Putin’s departure will impose “the greatest stress on the system,” and the existing system will find it hard to survive him. The current Kremlin leader has demonstrated that “in Russia it is not the legitimacy of power that is importance but the personalization of national unity,” something similar but very different.

            “In Russian culture,” Pastukhov says, “the state is not conceived of as an abstract whole.” Modern societies in the West were able to achieve that understanding, but Russia has not. And that leaves it suspended between the Middle Ages, Modernity and Post-Modernism, the analyst concludes.

            He predicts that “the system will not survive this stress,” but it is unclear in what direction things will move except for this. There is a great possibility that the longer Putin remains in power, the less likely Russian civilization and Russia as “a unified sovereign state” are likely to last.

            Putin has little choice but to experiment within the range he can operate in. He can’t easily leave because those around him are aware that if he does, the system would collapse; and he can’t name a successor very early because were he to do so, he would become a lame duck, a status incompatible with a personalized state.

            What is especially dangerous in the coming month is that some around Putin may hope to create a second Crimean consensus now that the elections have shown that the first has more or less dissipated. That makes the threat of military adventures far more likely given that only they appear to have the capacity to “dope” the Russian voters sufficiently to hold things together.

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