Staunton, May 12 – In most countries, revolutions involve the wholesale rejection of the past; but in Russia, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, they have a different set of consequences. Indeed, every revolution there leads after a brief interval to “a strengthening of national traditions” and within a few years to “the rebuilding of an empire.”
The Russian economist and commentator makes these and other points in the course of a conversation with Radio Svoboda’s Sergey Medvedev. The latter observes and the former agrees that “in fact, in Russia in 1991 did not occur a revolution.” Instead, the key aspects of the former system remerged quickly (svoboda.org/a/smerti-putina-sistema-ne-perezhivet-/32408924.html).
According to Inozemtsev, “the democratic transit there occurred already in the Soviet Union” under Gorbachev. But already in 1993, with the shelling of the parliament and the adoption of a new constitution, the old system re-emerged and the national traditions began to be restored, including the drive toward empire. Putin has simply expanded this drive.
A related feature of the Russian pattern of restoring the past is that after a supposed “revolution,” the system that is then restored is then far more harsh than the one that occurred before it, with Stalin worse than the tsars, Yeltsin worse than Gorbachev, and now Putin worse than Yeltsin, the economist suggests.
Inozemtsev argues that “the only thing which justifies a certain optimism” about the future is that “a new window of opportunities will arise” because at the end of this decade, those who will play a political role will be “people who remember the previous transit” and will want to avoid the mistakes that were made then.
In the 1990s, many made mistakes precisely because they were going along a track that no one in their country had gone before and therefore did not realize how to proceed if they wanted success and so fell back on the patterns of the past, leaving Russia ever further behind the rest of the world.
Because it is so personalistic, Putin’s regime will “not survive Putin’s death.” Yeltsin recognized that his system would be replaced, but Putin, by installing Medvedev and then coming back, sacrificed that opportunity: Had he left Medvedev in place, “the system would have survived and been even more stable” than it has been.
“But Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012,” Inozemtsev says, “putting his own personal interests above the interests of his system” and thus ensuring that it wouldn’t survive him however long he remains in power.