Staunton, July 20 – Like an earthquake, the disintegration of the USSR 30 years ago released many of the tensions that had made its survival impossible, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the name El Murid says; and “for a certain time, the situation stabilized.” But that is ending because Putin has failed to overcome the basic contradiction of the Soviet system.
Instead of moving from a command regime where centralization of decision making was required for rapid growth toward one able to cope with diversity, the current Russian leader has rebuilt the centralized state and destroyed federal arrangements that made the end of the USSR peaceful (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62D848A758A34§ion_id=50A6C962A3D7C).
As a result, the struggles likely to emerge as the system enters its death throws are likely to be a war of all against all where there are few structures in place that can contain them. The USSR fell apart into the union republics because those were real entities that the old elite could use to defend itself. Putin believes that their existence caused the Soviet Union to fall apart.
But that is not the case: they simply structured the way it collapsed and did so without the violence that otherwise would have engulfed much of the territory where various elites would have struggled not just for power over people and the economy but power over territories not previously clearly defined.
Now Putin has done two things that make prospects for the future dire indeed. On the one hand, he has restored much of the centralized command system which worked for the early part of the Soviet period but increasingly didn’t in its last decades. Indeed, then that structure got in the way of making decisions that might have saved the situation.
And on the other, the Kremlin leader has worked hard to destroy any remnants of federalism, thus creating a situation in which future borders are unlikely to follow current lines on the map and in which leaders will thus be fighting among each other as to where those borders will go.
Clearly, Putin believes that this danger will help him hold things together; and that may be true for a time. But his unwillingness to change direction away from a centralized mobilizational system to a more open and federal one means, El Murid suggests, that the basic contradiction that brought down the USSR is still in place.
And that in turn means that the coming collapse will be more ragged and violent than was the one in 1991.