Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Today's Democratic Opposition in Russia Unlikely to Play Greater Role after Putin Leaves the Scene than Its Predecessor did in 1991, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 16 – Many members of the democratic opposition in Russia believe, and this belief is shared by many outside of Russia, that they will play a major role in the country’s future; but that is unlikely, Vladimir Pastukhov says. Instead, while some of their themes may be taken up by others, they are likely to be shouldered aside by others as they were after 1991.

            “A more or less organized movement focused on liberal and constitutional valiues and principles appeared only during the thaw,” the London-based Russian analyst says; “but it existed until the very end of the USSR despite pressure from the Soviet regime” (t.me/v_pastukhov/889 reposted at polit.ru/articles/konspekty/vladimir-pastukhov-o-roli-rossiyskoy-oppozitsii-posle-smeny-rezhima/).

            As Pastukhov points out, this movement “developed both within the country and in the emigration, and both wings closely interacted with each other.” Its influence on the Russian intelligentsia “became significant, especially thanks to the work of Western media directed at broadcasting to the territory of the USSR, a program with which the dissidents cooperated.”

            But “despite these successes, the direct role of the human rights movement in the destruction of the Soviet ‘totalitarian’ regime turned out to be extremely modest, and practically none of the representatives of the dissident hierarchy became part of the new powers and on the whole beneficiaries of the democratic transformations.”

            Instead, while they provided some of the vocabulary for the new rulers, the dissidents were muscled aside by “the second tier of the nomenklatura.” And their fate is likely to be shared in the future by precisely the same people in the lower echelons of the current regime who know how to interact with the population.

            Such people may have become disenchanted with the regime and its ability to achieve its goals, but their approach will make them “understandable” to the population, Pastukhov argues; and thus “it is these people who will have the greatest chance of becoming drivers of post-Putin Russia.”

            There is only one way that such a future could be avoided and it is this: the war in Ukraine would have to go on long enough and fail spectacularly enough to be the equivalent of World War I and spark a revolution that would discredit and lead to the downfall of all the members of the current regime in the eyes of the population.

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