System 09.04.2024

"There was nowhere to run. You had nothing left of your own, except for a few cubic centimeters inside the skull."
(c) George Orwell.

I think it makes sense to share my thoughts on how the "vertical of power" system is structured in modern Russia, as I fear that many, not just abroad but even within Russia itself, have a vague understanding of how it all works.

But first, a bit of history. The current neo-feudal fascist power system did not emerge overnight. More accurately, neo-feudalism set in almost immediately across most of the territory of the former USSR, following its collapse. But the path to fascism in Russia was still a long one.

After the Union's collapse, power over its territory was divided among certain clans. The KGB clan was dominant. In some places, former nomenklatura officials took power. The "tops" were relatively renewed only in the Baltic states. In the 90s, the territories of the former USSR went through a bloody period of "primary capital accumulation," and so certain oligarchic groups appeared in countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Most of the former Soviet republics had already slid into neo-feudal fascism by the 90s, but nobody really cared. And they should have.

In Russia, meanwhile, "FSB agents who had successfully infiltrated the Government" seized power and weren't planning on letting anyone else in.

What's most terrifying about all this is that neither Russia nor the other countries that emerged from the ruins of the former USSR could have followed a different path because no elite had been formed. The exceptions are again the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which immediately took a course towards European integration, allowing them to achieve a certain level of democracy. Georgia also attempted such reforms, thanks to the "Saakashvili factor." In other post-Soviet states, dictators and certain clans seized power, Ukraine began an oligarchic "rule of the boyars," and in Russia, power began to be concentrated in the hands of former KGB functionaries.

These ex-KGB officers quickly covered up any institution of democracy in Russia, as nobody really resisted. The main opponents in the power concentration for the Kremlin's ex-KGB were not the opposition or dissidents, but the strong regional clans, especially in the national republics, which were destroyed first.

Following the regional clans, the too independent Kremlin towers were demolished. In December 2011, "Surkov's tower" was targeted, with Vladislav Surkov being blamed for organizing the Bolotnaya Square protests. Almost immediately after, in 2012, the relatively liberal "Surkov political system" in Russia's domestic policy began to rapidly be replaced by a much harsher totalitarian system of internal politics control. And ironically, now, at the peak of repression, this system is headed and controlled by Sergey Kiriyenko - the former "right hand" of Boris Nemtsov, who set up Surkov with Bolotnaya. After 2012, there were no real forces left that could oppose Putin and Co., though I personally believe they had disappeared much earlier, as considering Surkov and Medvedev as figures who could seriously challenge Putin and the security services is, unfortunately, laughable.

As a result, after 2012, all non-systemic opposition in Russia was simply abolished. Boris Nemtsov was killed in 2015 on Ramzan Kadyrov's order, for which he reportedly received a severe beating in the Kremlin. The only notable "opposition" figure left was Alexei Navalny, who was promoted in certain Russian elite circles' interests (presumably as a potential replacement for the seriously fading Vladimir Zhirinovsky) and funded by a half-FSB, half-criminal oligarch clan, the Zimin family. But Navalny went a bit too far with his investigations and almost joined Nemtsov in August 2020, likely on an order from Evgeny Prigozhin. Here, unexpectedly for the Kremlin, the "Western Factor" played a role. The global media turned Navalny into a real opposition figure, which greatly frightened the Kremlin. The response was swift. Navalny flew back to Russia, where he was immediately imprisoned and later executed when some forces began to initiate attempts at his exchange. These moments are very telling and characterize the existing totalitarian system in Russia, as well as the level of its capabilities and control. However, these are not publicly analyzed.

Thus, in Russia, ALL democratic institutions have been eliminated for many years, including the institution of free elections and free media. Any opposition not controlled by the Kremlin is absent both within the country and abroad. The "Noon for Putin" action in March this year showed this to the world, but not everyone has realized it yet. Meanwhile, the population is deprived of all civil rights and lives under complete legal lawlessness, where everything is decided by "connections" or belonging to one of the pro-government clans. In Russia, anything can be done to an ordinary person if desired, and nobody will care. Although protest sentiments are present in Russian society, there are no forces that could properly channel them. Thus, no one in Russia is going to storm the Kremlin now. Most of the population, stupefied by years of propaganda, supports the current political course of the country. And there are very many such people, both in Russia and abroad. Those who disagree are in the minority and simply afraid. And in modern Russian realities, there is something to fear.

The situation could only have been changed by "clan wars," the active phase of which began with Evgeny Prigozhin's public conflict with the Ministry of Defense last year and the subsequent "March for Justice." But by March this year, it became clear that Putin had regained full control over the elites: Nikolai Patrushev is actively licking the "sacred royal ass," and Sergey Chemezov has completely disappeared from the public political radar, now strictly dealing with "Rostec" matters. And Evgeny Prigozhin and many others have gone to "a better world." Putin managed to emerge as a winner from a very difficult situation in which he publicly appeared extremely pathetic, seriously bending those who were ready to bend him.

Now everything should be clear with the Russian power system. The entire system is based on fear and blood, as well as total lack of alternatives. And no one is planning to change anything in this situation at the moment.

It's also worth mentioning a few words about the war in Ukraine. It's already clear that the Kremlin had long been preparing the project of creating the USSR 2.0, and now we are in the active phase of this process. Ukraine really hinders the Kremlin in this and causes wild aggression there. Meanwhile, the Kremlin itself brought the situation with Ukraine to such a bloody mess.

Putin has been actively promoting the "Russian world" in Donbass since 2014, and clearly, the Ukrainians did not like the prospects shown in this advertising. On the other hand, a prolonged military conflict involving the West is beneficial to China, which is preparing for a "blitzkrieg on Taiwan" while systematically weakening the West through its "fifth column" over many years, starting with the migration crises in the EU and the USA and ending with the creation of armed drug cartels in the USA, largely consisting of the same illegal migrants. The more active the war in Ukraine, the better for China: Russia's and the West's resources are being spent, and Russia is increasingly falling into Beijing's sphere of influence. And if Iran and its allies attack Israel, Xi will jump for joy. On the other hand, Putin began the "final solution to the Ukrainian question." In this situation, one can only expect that the fire will only burn brighter, as the main beneficiaries of the process only benefit from it.

Dmitrii Ershov, political scientist.

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