Saturday, May 18, 2024

Entire History of Post-Soviet Russia a Contest between ‘Foxes’ and ‘Wolves,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 14 – Ever fewer people are inclined to see the Putin years as a clear break from the Yeltsin ones, and now Igor Eidman adds a new dimension to that understanding by suggesting that post-Soviet politics has always been a contest between what he calls “the foxes” and “the wolves.”

            The Russian commentator takes as his framework the ideas of Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto who spoke about politics being a struggle between foxes and lions; but Eidman says he doesn’t like dignifying Russia’s siloviki by calling them lions and so labels them “wolves” instead (

            The wolves, in his understanding, include not only the siloviki but also the pseudo-liberal bureaucracy and favor the use of brute force to achieve their goals, while the foxes are those in the political establishment who instead favor the use of manipulation through propaganda and other means.

            “In the course of the struggle for resources and political influence, now ‘the foxes’ have forced ‘the wolves’ to work for them, and now ‘the wolves’ have put ‘the foxes’ under their control.” Both have the same strategic goals and thus a basis for cooperation: “to preserve their power and property against the claims of the unprivileged majority of the population.”

            Eidman says that in 1993, the wolves “became irreplaceable” to the survival of the regime; but in 1996, the foxes took the upper hand in securing Yeltsin’s reelection. Then, in 1998, the solves took their revenge, only to form “a temporary union” with the foxes and advance Putin, with a foot in both camps, to power.

            Since that time, the wolves have become increasingly dominant, although the foxes raised their heads again in the political crisis of 2011-2012. But by 2014, with the Crimean Anschluss, “the power of ‘the wolves became absolute,” although there are still some foxes around who continue to play a role as servants of the wolves.

            In presenting this description of post-Soviet Russian politics, Eidman also offers what he calls a discussion of the origins of Putinism in the 1990s “through the prism of ‘a class approach” arguing that what happened then and what is being maintained now was the seizure of resources by former Soviet officials rather than genuine market reforms.

            This happened because, Eidman argues, “the bureaucracy could not but use the opportunity to convert power into property,” something they were effectively able to do because of “the betrayal committed by the leadership of the democratic movement which had brought Yeltsin to power.”

            The leaders of that movement should be given “a medal ‘for the seizure of property for the bureaucracy,” the Russian commentator says. Because of their enormous popularity earlier, they were able to exploit the trust of the Soviet and then Russian citizenry even as they formed an alliance with the Soviet nomenklatura.

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