Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Once Again, Western Analysts of Russia Divided into ‘Physicists’ and ‘Lyricists,’ Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 15 – Two distinct groups among Western analysts of Russia concerning the transition of Russia into its “post-Putin” era, Vladimir Pastukhov says. They may be called “the physicists” who rely on current account data and “the lyricists” who are less focused on that and instead thinks about underlying developments.

            The first, which tends to have the ear of officials, believes that while there may be a hard landing, the country will not collapse although it will be shaken.” Its members reject the idea that centrifugal forces could tear the country apart or that the elites will suddenly take Russia is a new direction, the London-based Russian analyst says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=6372AE4EDF1BF).

            These “physicists,” Pastukhov says, are thus confident that “when the dust settles, everything will turn out somehow different from what it is now but at the same time be very similar to what it was” before Putin left the scene, a perspective that seems justified but may not be given what has happened in Russia before.

            “The lyricists,” in contrast, pay less attention to the day-to-day course of events and focus instead on the various parts of the system that seem to be degrading or spinning out of control. From their perspective, a collapse is “almost inevitable,” however many facts others can point to suggesting that is not the case.

            For the latter group, “Putin is not so much the cause of what will happen as the trigger. He did not create this situation but only accelerated and exacerbated all the destructive processes” that have long been going on in Russia.” By doing so, its members believe, he eliminated the possibility of any “smooth historical transit.”

            “The physicists” counter that even if there is a crash, Russia will rebound, with its “fragments” remaining within the gravitational pull of Russian history and thus will come back “in a more or less recognizable form,” if not immediately then over time, as they can argue has been the case in the 30 years since the Soviet collapse.

            Ultimately, “the physicists” are much less optimistic than “the lyricists,” although that is not how their competing positions are usually perceived. “The lyricists,” Pastukhov says, believe that the transition is “a window of political opportunity,” one that at least theoretically “could allow social reality to be reformatted before it sinks back into the lattice of Russian culture.”

            At such a time, those who adopt this point of view argue, “you can do a lot, including trying to construction a genuinely federal, social and legal state” in Russia, something “which simply cannot arise under any other conditions.”

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