Monday, November 21, 2022

Russia’s Unrecognized Curse: Each Transformation Makes Next One More Difficult, Yershov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 20 – Russia suffers from a variety of well-known “curses” including but not limited to its size, its roads, and its enormous reserves of natural resources. But one that is generally unrecognized may be the most serious, Yegor Yershov says, and it is this: each and every transformation Russia has gone through has made the next one even more difficult.

            That can be seen in the history of the last three hundred years, the Moscow commentator says, implying that this curse is likely to remain in place and make the next transition beyond the Putin system still more difficult because of all Russia has undergone under him and even before him (

            The Petrine modernization effectively split the top and bottom of society, making it extremely difficult to create a mass society and effectively guaranteeing that grievances below would not be taken seriously by the elites but would lead to the radicalization of the society and the destruction of everything. As Yershov puts it, “we know the results.”

            The Bolsheviks did create a mass society but undercut its possibilities by over-centralization and militarization, policies that made it “extremely difficult to create a consumer society at the end of Soviet times.” Then the reforms of the early 1990s, while they led to a consumer society, did so in ways that made it almost impossible to create an information society.

            Many in the Putin elite dismiss this shortcoming, but they won’t be able to much longer. Everyone can see what it means that the Russian military is using antiquated communications technology while the Ukrainian armed forces are using the Internet and satellites. It isn’t surprising who is winning.

            Yershov provides no suggestions as to how Russia might escape this curse, leaving his readers with the impression that it won’t and that the next round of societal transformation will bear the birthmarks of all that has gone before rather than being the complete break with the past that many hope for and imagine.

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