2024: Regression of the Power 21.08.2019

"Changing the order of addends does not change the sum".
(с) Basic laws of maths for primary school students.

According to the Constitution of Russia, and at his request, which is no less critical in today's Russian realities, Vladimir Putin will not run in the next presidential election in Russia, which is scheduled for March 17, 2024. This means that there should be a transit of power in Russia from Vladimir Putin to his successor within four and a half years.

Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly become one of the longest-serving leaders in modern Russian history. By the time he leaves office in 2024, he will have been head of state for 20 years, including a 4-year 'sabbatical' as head of government. It is more than Leonid Brezhnev's 18-year term, but still much less than Joseph Stalin's - the latter headed the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks - CPSU for 31 years and ruled the country for 23 years without any restrictions.

Of course, to understand the future geopolitical vector of Russia, it is essential to know who will be Vladimir Putin's successor in his position. Generally, the situation with successors in Russian history is quite deplorable. Joseph Stalin, for example, failed to leave a worthy successor and after his, quite possibly even violent, death, the country was headed by Nikita Khrushchev, who defeated almost all "bulldogs under the rug". However, Khrushchev did not last long "under the rug" and, as a result of that same "dogfight" inside the Soviet bureaucratic party system, his place was taken by Leonid Brezhnev.

There are direct parallels between Brezhnev's leadership of the Soviet Union and Putin's leadership of Russia. Both came to power by replacing a predecessor through a backroom struggle. Except that Brezhnev relied on the "party bosses" and Putin on the "Chekists". The political longevity of both is based on the fact that they suited the vast majority within the country's elite. In essence, both Brezhnev and Putin now act as "arbitrators" within the narrow circle of the state elite. Moreover, there is no comparison between the level of Vladimir Putin's powers in 2019 and those of Joseph Stalin in 1950, for example, who ruled the country in one person. Therefore, whomever successor will be, it does not really depend on Putin wishes, but to a large extent on the wishes of the leading state clans, the main of which, as in the times of Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, is the clan of the central state special service - the KGB back then and the FSB now.

It is well known that after Brezhnev's death, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, who was, in fact, the second man in the country and who tried to strengthen Soviet power by "tightening the screws" in the daily lives of its citizens and by fighting corruption within the Soviet elite. There was a brief but palpable whiff of Stalinism at the time. However, after Andropov's equally suspicious death in 1984, the country went tilted, headed first by senile old men like Konstantin Chernenko and then by the "young reformer" Mikhail Gorbachev, who is still alive. It took him a few years to purge, using simple intrigues, security services and the army from more or less sane people and auctioned off the country along with his supporters. The main one of them was no less than the main ideologist of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Alexander Yakovlev.

However, let us go back to our time. Only a madman can seriously begin to fight corruption, which has become the mainstay of the current state system in Russia. The Soviet government no longer exists, and the entire ideology of the government fits into that part of Nikolai Nosov's book "Dunno on the Moon," where the protagonist travels off the internal cavity of our natural satellite. I mean, there is nothing to fight with. At the same time, there are real geopolitical threats, both from the West and from the East. Nevertheless, they are related only to economic, not ideological factors. At the same time, all the state mass media, as well as the Kremlin "talking heads" are screaming about the threat from the West, but the threat from the East, stretching from Nakhodka to Kaliningrad, has only recently been mentioned, when there is not so much Russian left from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean on the territory of the Russian Federation.

So what do we have now in the country before the change of power, especially given the historical peculiarities of this kind of process in Russia? We do not have anything particularly good. Of course, the population, for the most part, is now living better than at any time in Russian history. However, this is only due to global trends because, for example, China's population of one and a half billion is now living better than most Russians. The economy is often developed in an extensive way. The banking sector is, in fact, directly dependent on the international market and any global crisis bursts like a bubble. In the political segment, the stagnation is even worse than in the USSR - at least in the USSR, outright buffoons were not allowed. There is, in essence, no ideology in the country unless, of course, money is seen as an ideological factor. The only plus for the elite is that there are no strong protests in the country, while there is already a relatively strong dissatisfaction with the country's current state. There will be no serious protests as long as the present elite maintains a sufficiently tolerable standard of living for the Russians. However, in case of another serious crisis, there will be a real angry "Vasya" with "Molotov cocktails" instead of hipsters with iPhones strolling down Sakharov Prospect, and we may get an early successor, not the one we were expecting. Moreover, more likely, we may get just another collapse of the country, with a large part of it joining China and Europe and a fireworks display of local wars in the South. However, let us not consider that scenario for now and return to our muttons.

I looked up the Wikipedia version of the list of "possible successors", which is still more or less reasonable than other versions. Here it is:

1. Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and the third President of Russia.
2. Sergei Shoigu, Russian Minister of Defence.
3. Sergey Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow.
4. Alexey Dumin, Governor of the Tula Region.
5. Andrey Turchak, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Representative of the legislative (representative) authority of the Pskov Region
6. Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma.
7. Natalia Poklonskaya, Member of the State Duma, former Prosecutor of the Republic of Crimea.

It would be very interesting to see the person who really meant it when including Natalia Poklonskaya in this list. With her specific relationship to the reality around her, Natalia has become a black sheep, even in the State Duma that have seen many "interesting" people as deputies.

As for Andrei Turchak, PR service had "appointed" the former governor of Pskov's to new jobs all over the country: from the Governor of St. Petersburg and the Sports Minister to the President of the country. It seems that he likes such "promising appointments", and so does Vyacheslav Volodin. Now they are probably already actively dividing the "presidential post" between them.

Sergei Shoigu and Sergei Sobyanin are the same age as Vladimir Putin, and no one is likely to play the CPSU Central Committee now. Moreover, neither of them has anything to do with "the most influential clan in the country".

Everything is clear with Dmitri Medvedev, whom the entire country has been laughing at for many years now, thanks to a certain PR campaign.
That leaves only Alexei Dumin, whose biography is ideal for the next President. Unlike all the other candidates, the media have nothing particularly bad to say about him. He is from the Federal Guard Service (it traces its origin to the KGB) but is very close to the Ministry of Defense. He is indeed completely unknown to the bulk of the population in the country. However, Vladimir Putin was once promoted from a 0% rating to the "Savior of the Motherland" rating within six months. Moreover, Dyumin's age is appropriate for running for president. He is almost 47.

Also, current Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, 37 years old, is volunteering to run for the presidency. By the way, nothing is amusing in this bid, in contrast to, for example, the prospect of Poklonskaya becoming President. Maksim Oreshkin represents quite an influential "economic wing" in Russia. Moreover, Dmitri Medvedev, for instance, acted as its main lobbyist, who once became President. It is a serious bid both for participation in the presidential race in 2024 as a spoiler and for the post of Prime Minister in the future. Well, the bitter fate of his predecessor, Alexey Ulyukaev, is unlikely ever to let us forget "who is the boss of the house".

Now, let us talk about who is the boss of the house, the leading Russian clans. There are not many of them. Furthermore, the smaller clans are simply offshoots of one of the "Kremlin towers". Nikolai Patrushev and Alexander Bortnikov represent the main clan, and these are the special services clan. Igor Sechin, who controls Rosneft and has been Vladimir Putin's 'right-hand man' since Smolny. Also, an influential "tower" is Sergei Chemezov, head of Rostec. Among the "tower" representing the economic wing, we can immediately name Dmitri Medvedev, Alexei Kudrin, and Mikhail Fridman. It is still unclear which of them makes the primary decision or whether all three think together somehow.

There are also economic clans that do not actively play on the "political arena" and do not influence any particularly important decisions. For example, the clan of brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who manage the company Stroygazmontazh, or the clan of Gennady Timchenko, the main shareholder of the Volga Group, which in turn combines other diversified assets.

It is worth mentioning influential officials, such as Sergei Shoigu, Sergei Naryshkin or Valentina Matvienko. They are affiliated exclusively with Vladimir Putin but are unlikely to influence major decisions in one way or another. Their careers are based on the principle of "a man for an office" rather than "an office for a man". That is to say, they are ordinary functionaries, albeit at the highest level.

Some people do not belong to any of the "towers" of the Kremlin but are politically fully independent. However, the level of their influence cannot claim to the level of the whole "tower" or even the whole clan on the scale of the country. A typical example is Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who controls only Chechnya and Chechen diaspora but is "tied" exclusively to Vladimir Putin.

There are even opposition clans. For example, there is the Konstantin Malofeev clan, which has brought together all kinds of "retired" (and not just "retired") people from the security services, Orthodox priests and the retrograde orthodox media. "The "peak of the career" of this kind of "toxic tea" of "toads and vipers" was the organization of an "insurgent army" in Donbas, where such "revolutionary figures" as Marshall Capital consultants Igor Girkin and Alexander Borodai went "to fight" in the guise of " little green men". Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu personally dealt with the consequences of such "amateur hour" after the "rebels" fled under the pressure of no less "badass", but much better armed and outnumbered "Ukronazis". Now Girkin and Boroday are laying low, while the "Russian peace" in Donbas is being built by the neutral Vladislav Surkov, who used to be one of the "towers" of the Kremlin, but fell victim to liberal intrigues. Well, Konstantin Malofeev joined A Just Russia — Patriots — For Truth party, securing himself a certain "political asset" ahead of the well-known events and is preparing not a few more surprises. However, it is not certain that next time Her Majesty's High Court of Justice in England will save him from punishment for another political or economic "amateur hour", as it already happened in 2014 in the situation with loans from VTB Bank (One of the board members of this bank is Denis Bortnikov, that makes it clear what clan this structure is affiliated to).

Another opposition clan is that of Internet blogger Alexei Navalny. Even "the one-eyed" Navalny has managed to become a "king" and a "star of hipster protests" in Russia, "the country of the blind". However, according to malicious talk, this did not happen without the participation of Russia's FSB and that Alexei Navalny's activities are nothing more than "an opportunity to let the whistle take all the steam there is". Well, and to show from time to time, using the example of Navalny, the place of those who sometimes forget the most important Russian political axiom: "Who is the boss of the house".

Dmitrii Ershov, political scientist.

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