Staunton, Mar. 5 – The period after the death of Stalin 70 years ago has two important lessons for Russia today, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. On the one hand, it highlights the near impossibility of retaining in unchanged form a personalist dictatorship after the dictator dies. And on the other, it suggests that after his death, a thaw is more likely than any new tightening.
First and foremost, the Russian commentator says, what happened in Russia after March 1953 shows that a personalist dictatorship “cannot be preserved in an unchanged form after the exit of hits creator” and that the struggle for succession will be a long “’war of all against all’” (t.me/kremlebezBashennik/32458 reposted at polit.ru/news/2023/03/02/inosemtsev/).
That was true then and will be true when Putin leaves the scene because “there is no mechanism of succession in Russia;” and so the struggle will take place without a clear set of rules, opening the way to a variety of sharp shifts and crises, whatever those involved in it may want.
But in addition, Inozemtsev continues, “the events of 1953 and succeeding years showed that in Russia, a period following ‘the tightening of the screws’ is not going to be replaced by a time of still greater authoritarianism. On the contrary, the history of the country develops like a pendulum which having swung to one extreme then moves in the opposite direction.”
That is because elites, even more than the population, grow tired with repression and want a quieter life, and therefore, it is extremely unlikely that in the future, post-Putin elites will become even more repressive and more antagonistic to the West. Instead, as 70 years ago, it is far more likely that there will be another thaw at home and a move toward peaceful coexistence.