Russia: The Lame Era 19.11.2020

"Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus".
(c) A legal maxim.

Leonid Brezhnev's period in the Soviet Union has been referred to as the "Era of stagnation". Although for many people who grew up during this period, it was the best time of their lives. Leonid Brezhnev served for 18 years and resigned as General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee at 75, already a sick old man. Meanwhile, the average age of the members of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee at the time of Brezhnev's death was 68. Moreover, it was precisely these people who regularly ruled the country. Nine years after the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the USSR collapsed, or rather, was ripped to shreds by those who took the empty place of the "Kremlin elders" faded into oblivion.

History is known to move in a spiral. Two leaders have ruled their countries in the former Soviet Union since 1994. They are Emomali Rahmon in Tajikistan and Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. A modern khanate has been established in Turkmenistan, while Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have developed something alike. In Uzbekistan, however, after the death of Islam Karimov, his clan failed to gain a foothold on the throne. In Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Moldova and Armenia, periods of relative political calm alternate with violent revolutions in all colours of the rainbow. Only the Baltic States, which has joined the European Union, lives peacefully enough. At the same time, Estonia has reached the level of advanced democracies of the world according to very many indicators. Lithuania and, even more so, Latvia's successes so far have been somewhat more modest. And, of course, Russia is a stand-alone one here.

Now Russia could follow Kazakhstan, where Nursultan Nazarbayev created a personality cult but gave up all the power. A little more than a year ago, I wrote my article, "The Regression of Power". I assumed that the "Kazakhstan scenario" would start already this year in Russia, and Vladimir Putin will hand over the power to his successor in 2024. As you know, this year, Vladimir Putin successfully got "zeroed" his terms, and Russia has all chances to go the way of Tajikistan and Belarus, where local leaders are going to leave the power only in the same way as Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev did. However, their success is yet to be proven.

Belarus is already in a "polite" civil war, and Tajikistan has experienced several very real "civil wars", and the next "mess" will be the last. The only difference is that if Polish-Lithuanian democratic forces come into power in Belarus and further reorient Belarus towards EU and NATO, Islamists will overthrow Emomali Rahmon in Tajikistan, and after that, entire Central Asia risks being influenced by radical Islam.

However, let us go back to Russia. It is no secret that a stable neo-feudal system has now taken hold in Russia. Vladimir Putin is not yet honouring his Labrador dog with a statue like his colleague Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov did for the Central Asian shepherd dog in Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, socio-economic relations and the arrangement of the "vertical of power" in modern Russia are replicas of the Middle Ages, with its feudal lords and temporary landholding ("feeding system" or "kormleniya" in Russian). As a result, we have poverty of the population at the level of the poorest countries of Asia and Africa, but at the same time the fabulous wealth of the elite, which pales only in comparison to the wealth of Arabian sheikhs. True, unlike the sheikhs of the East, who provided their citizens with real communism in terms of everyday problems, the Russian nouveau riche have driven most Russians into a hopeless nightmare, where the utility payments are slowly but surely reaching the level of a minimum pension benefit.

As far as politics is concerned, the Russian political space has been cleansed of any dissent. All our politicians are "systemic", and we have our own "Party of Power" with its "party discipline". As practice shows, it is not so easy to become a deputy of the State Duma as a part of the ruling party. Sometimes one has to pay five million dollars for the "admission ticket".

No normal opposition will ever appear in such circumstances. Moreover, the opposition that now exists in Russia looks far more repulsive than the same "Party of Power". Apparently, it was designed that way a priori.

Therefore it is totally unrealistic to change anything in the Russian political space in a constructive way. The very system of the Russian "vertical of power" removes all the more or less adequate elements, leaving only robot-like "vassals" who have had to go all the way through humiliation and depersonalisation. This is called a "systemic politician". There are Russian courts, Russia's National Guard (Rosgvardiya), the Ministry of the Interior, The Federal Security Service (FSB), the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) and Russian state mass media for "non-system politicians", which together will quickly wipe out any "non-system opposition" that threatens the system. For any subject of Russian politics, everything is strictly according to Pelevin, where the matter at hand is about clowns, and you know whom. Russia is in no danger of revolution unless, of course, the Russian elite goes down that road that Nicholas II did over 100 years ago by personally destroying repressive apparatus loyal to him in the fields of WWI.

Nevertheless, sooner or later, this prolonged "lame era" will end, Vladimir Putin will be carried out the Kremlin in feet first. Russian "system politicians" trained for years will come into power, as well as other lurkers of the Russian "deep state" like Konstantin Malofeev or Evgeny Prigozhin with their "information and power support" conglomerates, tested out in the Middle East and Africa. This is the time when the least thing I want is to be in Russia.

Opinions expressed in this article are solely of its author, i.e. mine. The author is not engaged in anything and by no one. I simply write what I think.

Dmitrii Ershov, political scientist.

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