Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Russian Journalist who Reminded August 1991 Plotters that They were Staging a Coup Doesn’t Think a Repetition is Likely

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 19 – Tatyana Malkina, a Nezavisimaya Gazeta journalist who in August 1991 asked the coup plotters whether they recognized that what they were doing was an attempted coup doesn’t think that something similar is likely now given the extent to which Putin has mobilized the coercive resources of the state.

            In an interview with RFI’s Russian Service, she says that the coup plotters of 1991 represented what is now called “the deep state” but were amazingly incompetent in their actions given the resources at their disposal (россия/20230819-востребованность-свободы-оказалась-не-такой-высокой-как-мы-предполагали-журналист-татьяна-малкина).

            Putin and his regime, Malkina, who still lives in Moscow, says are much more competent than the coup plotters and much more reliant on the siloviki. That doesn’t mean they are entirely safe from risings but the chances that any group of officials would try to overthrow him as the August 1991 did Mikhail Gorbachev are very small.

            Moreover, the popular mood is different. In Moscow at least, “the mood is not exactly depressed but one feels heavy fatigue at what is happening. And the level of apathy and indifference of Russians to that is quite high. Unfortunately, there is nothing that will dramatically change the situation,” Malina says.

            Three decades ago, the USSR suffered “a shortage of the most necessary goods, including food;” and that became a trigger for opposition to the attempted coup given that those who staged it wanted to keep the situation as it was rather than address those problems and give the population more freedom.

            But today, Malkina says, “it is obvious that the demand for freedom wasn’t as high as we expected. Freedom doesn’t really excite Russians.” Now, there is enough food; but “people understand that nothing demands on them.” Because that is so, they do not feel a sense of agency that would lead to actions that would produce change.

            Instead, they live in a political system in which nothing depends on the population and one in which anyone who is dissatisfied “ends up in prison.” Any desire for broader civilizational values such as freedom “is simply suppressed.” That makes a repeat of 1991 unlikely: the deep state doesn’t feel the need for it; and the population won’t challenge what the regime is doing.

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