Staunton, Nov. 25 – It is premature to say what Russia will become after Putin leaves the scene because that depends on when and how he goes and what personalities and forces emerge, Vladimir Gelman says; but one thing is clear: no one should expect that the country will disintegrate.
The European University political scientist says that the range of possibilities for Russia is large but one thing can be ruled out and that is the disintegration of the country. To be sure, there will be problems in the North Caucasus, but the variety of situations there will allow for a variety of solutions (polit.ru/article/2022/11/25/gelman/).
But Gelman says that he “does not see any reasons why Pskov Oblast should become one country and Novgorod another.” Except for the republics, “Russia is sufficiently homogeneous ethnically and sufficiently strongly connected with transportation flows, economic ties and culturally as well.”
“I would say,” he continues, “that even ideas about the possible disintegration of Russia in the 1990s were very strongly exaggerated.” Some republic leaders sought to exploit this threat to extract resources from Moscow, but the center gradually figured out how to respond in ways that made such threats less credible and effective.
And now, Gelman argues, there is no reason to think that a future Russian leadership would be less effective in that regard whatever some hope or fear – although his own suggestions about the enormous range of possible leaderships after Putin would seem to leave room for a quite different conclusion if the one that emerged proved too aggressive or too incompetent.
Moreover, the political scientist suggests that the economic and psychological consequences of collapse after Putin could well be greater than those which followed 1991 and thus implicitly concludes that the center might be far less capable of managing the situation than it was 30 years ago.
And he makes another observation which only adds to that sense: he says that Russian lacks three things that make the future darker than it would otherwise be: it lacks the desire to integrate with the broader world that it had in the 1990s, it lacks institutions on which it can rely to manage the situation, and it isn’t likely to attract back any émigré who will solve the situation.