Friday, August 18, 2017

Putin Era is Coming to an End and Both He and Other Russians Recognize That, Moscow Sociologist Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – On March 1, 1953, Radio Liberty began broadcasting to the Soviet Union in Russian. Its Russian employees wanted its signature sound to be a ticking clock with a voiceover declaring “The Stalin era is coming to an end.”  American managers demurred, citing the fact that people from the Caucasus – and Stalin was a Georgian – often lived to a great age.

            Four days later, it was confirmed that Stalin was dead. Now, many are on another kind of “death watch,” wondering when the era of Vladimir Putin will come to an end.  Most analysts predict that he will continue in office as long as he wants and that therefore at a minimum it is premature to speak of the approaching end of the Putin “era.”

            But Moscow sociologist Sergey Balanovsky doesn’t agree and argued on his Facebook page last week that “the Putin era is coming to an end” and that “this is an incontrovertible fact which doesn’t depend on how much longer he occupies the position of president “ (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=355517358200724&id=100012273888469).
            In addition to that bold assertion, the scholar made 16 additional assertions that merit close attention:
·         “To criticize Putin for what he is guilty of or for what he isn’t no longer makes any sense.”
·         “There is no sense in discussion problems of yesterday or even today. One must look to the future.”
·         “The struggle for the place of successor has now begun.”
·         “Putin’s legitimacy will fall independently from what percent he wins in the elections.”
·         “Even if Putin keeps his post until 2024, he ever more will be transformed into a lame duck. His power will weaken.”
·         “The successor whoever he is will not have Putin’s legitimacy.”
·         “Putin will be forgiven for what he is guilty of and for what he isn’t.”
·         As for the successor, “there won’t be anything to forgive.”
·         The country’s problems “will require unpopular decisions.”
·         “The lowering of the legitimacy of the leader will weaken state power.”
·         “The weakening of power will intensify conflicts at all levels” and require “the suppression but no the ideological destruction” of nationality conflicts.
·         “Suppression by force of ALL conflicts is impossible.” 
·         “The country will begin to fall apart, possibly taking the form of ‘a parade of sovereignties’ and also meetings on squares in front of administration buildings and the blocking of roads.”
·         “Control over the media will collapse because clarity about which political line is correct will be lost.”
·         “External forces, having felt the weakening of the internal bindings of the Russian state will become more active. Too many will view Russia as an enemy or as a trophy to be won.”
·         Putinist methods of opposing all this will “weaken. Their time has passed. The new ruler will have to apply force and diplomacy in some unique combinations and under conditions of an institutional vacuum.”  That will require a political genius, not one of whom appears to be on the horizon.
Yesterday, in an interview with Radio Liberty’s Russian service, Belanovsky expanded on these points, argued that Putin understands the thrust of them and certainly will leave in 2024, a fact that only adds to his looming status as a lame duck because ever more people will be looking beyond him (svoboda.org/a/28680045.html).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

99.7 Percent of Taymyr People Say Life ‘Unbearable’ Since Amalgamation with Krasnoyarsk Kray



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Life has become “unbearable” for the residents of the former Dolgano-Nenets Autonomous District, a poll of residents finds; and 1197 of 1200 of them have appealed to Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders to adopt a law that will allow them to reverse that 2005 action.

            Their request for a referendum on this point has been turned down twice by the Krasnoyarsk authorities; they are now in the process of making a third such request; but because they do not expect a positive answer, they are appealing to Moscow for a new law that will give them that right (svoboda.org/a/28679409.html).

            Dolgan and Nenets activists say, and the indigenous population overwhelmingly agrees that “after the dissolution of the autonomy” in 2005 as part of Vladimir Putin’s regional amalgamation drive, “life in the Taymyr became unbearable: the quality of state services declined, as did the state of roads and transport, medicine and education.”

            Twelve years ago, the residents voted 70 percent in favor of amalgamation but only because they were promised that their lives would become better.  The reverse has happened, and the people there are angry.  Indeed, they have been among the most prominent critics of Putin’s program since the outset.


            The appeal by the Taymyr activists is almost certainly going to be ignored by Moscow and turned down by Krasnoyarsk. After all, regional amalgamation is one of Putin’s signature programs.  But the new poll showing almost universal unhappiness with that program in the Taymyr will have three important consequences:

            First, it will further radicalize opinion in the Taymyr, many of whose residents have protested and been repressed in various ways for more than a decade. Second, it will encourage dissent in the five other autonomous oblasts that Putin has succeeded in folding into larger and predominantly ethnic Russian federation subjects.

            These include the Evenk AO which was also folded into Krasnoyarsk kray, the Ust-Orda Buryat AO that was included within Irkutsk oblast, the Komi-Permyak AO which was combined with Perm oblast to form Perm kray, the Agin Buryat AO which was combined with China oblast to form the Transbaikal kray, and the Koryak AO which was linked to Kamchatka oblast which also became a kray.

            But third – and this is by far the most important result – it will send a powerful message to Russians as well as non-Russians within the Russian Federation that they are not alone if they find Putin policies objectionable and that by itself may encourage ever more of them to speak out in opposition to the Kremlin leader. 

Putin’s Lower Profile This Summer Reflects Desire to Project New Image, Experts Say



Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Even though Vladimir Putin reappeared yesterday after a week of being out of public view (themoscowtimes.com/news/putin-watch-over-before-it-even-started-58678), the Kremlin leader’s personal activities this summer have been significantly less frequent than in earlier years, experts say.

            They argue that this reflects his desire to present himself in a new way, as a severe but caring father of the nation who focuses on his official duties rather than youthful leader full of vigor with an active private life, a stance he adopted earlier to underscore the differences between himself and his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

            In an article today, two URA.ru journalists, Mikhail Vyugin and Aysel Gereykhanova surveyed a variety of commentators as to why there have been significantly fewer well-covered personal activities of the Russian president this year than there were in earlier summers of his rule (ura.news/articles/1036271854).

                “For the first time in the last five years, summer has not become a season of ‘popular’ news from Russian President Vladimir Putin,” they write, a change that is striking because “Russians are accustomed to the idea that summer is a time for demonstrating … that he is not only a leader but a man able to combine work with relaxation and hobbies.”

            Vyugin and Gereykhanova survey Putin’s activities over the last decade during the summer months and point out that this summer is especially less busy than the last pre-election summer of 2011. Then, Putin went to the bottom of the Taman Gulf, bringing up two amphoras, and took part in a motor-show with the Night Wolves, arriving on a Harley-Davidson.

            This year, however, the Kremlin leader has been much less in the public eye as far as his private activities are concerned.  Valery Fadeyev, the secretary of the Russian Social Chamber, says that instead, Putin has visited the regions where gubernatorial elections are scheduled to give support and direction.

            Political analyst Oleg Matveychev of the Higher School of Economics, suggests that “it would be strange” for Putin to behave now the way he did six years ago.  He doesn’t have to show that he is vigorous; he only needs to show that he is focused on issues of concern to the Russian electorate.

            Dmitry Orlov, head of the Altay Industrial College, sees a more fundamental shift. Putin, he says, has decided to portray himself now as “a wise father” of the nation who takes into account the views of all the people in Russia.  He doesn’t need to appeal to any one group or collection of groups as he may have had to earlier.

            In 2012, Orlov continues, Putin was organizing a conservative majority, but “today he is the leader of the nation. There is thus no need to call focus on any specific group because there are no threats from the opposition as there were in 2011-2012.”   

            An anonymous source, identified only as someone “close to the Kremlin” agrees.  He says that Putin is entering the current elections as “’the president for all’” and “will speak with each electoral group.” That is why he has adopted “a compromise position” on issues like St. Isaac’s, housing renovation in Moscow, and the film Mathilda.

            This same source adds that Putin’s relatively infrequent appearances as a private person are part of this effort: They are intended to generate interest among the population as to when and what he might do next, much as the absence of television shows in the summer months leading to speculation about “a new season of a favorite serial.”