PUTIN’S DILEMMA: TO GO FORWARD WITH THE "UNFRIGHTENED GENERATION" OR TO STABILIZE THE NATION FOR THE SAKE OF IRRATIONAL LOVE FROM THREE-QUARTERS OF THE RUSSIAN POPULATION?

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Recently a leader of the Union of Right Forces said in his interview with the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” paper that there are 20 million independent and internally free people in the country, who “are unwilling to be slaves”. Nemtsov believes these voters are true supporters of the reforms in the country and the support of the right.

Meanwhile, the latest actions of the authorities very often do not justify hopes of the “free class”. A leader of the Union of Right Forces states, “Having dismissed the Federation Council, having eliminated regional self-administering, having sucked all the money out from regional budgets and after subduing federal television, the president is leading the country to the Asian lifestyle.”

The Kremlin is willing to put the country in order after Yeltsin’s free times, while according to Boris Nemtsov this is all Russia had been waiting for. Construction of a police state is in full swing, moreover, the majority of the population approve of it – that is why the authorities do not need to make much effort on this way. On the contrary, the authorities, and first of all the president, have to “make extraordinary efforts to preserve the democratic basics of the society”. Boris Nemtsov thinks that Vladimir Putin will do nothing to establish new democratic values, as “the authorities like when everyone obeys unconditionally”.

According to Nemtsov, the recent refusal to admit March 3 to be a national holiday, as it is the day of abolishment of serfdom in Russia, is a convincing example of this, “Apparently, the Kremlin thinks that abolishment of slavery is not a memorable event for Russia.”

Moreover, according to Nemtsov’s sources, after his meeting with Boris Yeltsin, during which the idea of celebrating abolishment of serfdom as a national holiday was also discussed, the leaders of the “state television networks and channels were ordered not to mention the meeting with Yeltsin at all, and to ban Nemtsov from the open air.”

No wonder, such actions of the authorities force the right wing to think of opposing the power, while the influence of the communists in the country is rapidly growing. Nemtsov reported, according to latest data, 36.4% of the population supports the communists at present. However, the right wing leader believes it is not a sign of good merits of the communist ideology, but a sign of impoverishment of the population. Nemtsov says, “The number of communist supporters in Russia is equal to the number of poor people. It is necessary to fight not against Zyuganov and the Communists, but against the poverty in the country.”

According to the same logic, the number of supporters of the right wing is determined by the number of well-to-do people in Russia. Twenty million mentioned by Nemtsov is a serious figure, though the Union of Right Forces leader did not explain what this figure is based on. Evidently, there are much fewer rich people in Russia, but there are rich.

According to the “Izvestia” newspaper, which cites in turn the US Forbes, there are seven billionaires in Russia, though a year ago there were eight of them. On the other hand, two or three years ago, right after the 1998 economic default, there was not a single billionaire. In 1997, when Forbes first got interested in the Russian billionaires, Boris Berezovsky was the richest Russian, $3 billion, the second one was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, $2.4 billion; Vagit Alekperov, $1.4 billion; Rem Vyakhirev, 1.1$ billion; Vladimir Potanin, $0.7 billion; and Vladimir Gusinsky, $0.4 billion.

Neither Berezovsky, nor Gusinsky or Vyakhirev participate in this year’s rating, as well as Viktor Chernomyrdin, whose wealth was estimated at $1.1 billion last year. At the same time, the wealth of Chukotka governor Roman Abramovich, who appeared in the Forbes rating last year as a possessor of $1.4 billion, this year is estimated at $3 billion. The leader of the Russian billionaires is still Mikhail Khodorkovsky, today his wealth is $3.7 billion.

“Izvestia” depicted a collective portrait of today’s successors of tycoons: they are young, averagely 41, while the youngest tycoon in Russia, president of the Russky Aluminum holding Oleg Deripaska, is still under thirty.

In accordance with western “good manners” a Russian billionaire willingly participates in charity and is interested in the media-business, from Khodorkovsky, who got interested in this investment area only recently, to Mr. Potanin, who possesses several papers, including “Izvestia” and “Komsomolskaya Pravda”.

However, the main thing is that the present tycoon is indifferent to politics. Khodorkovsky has always “demonstratively distanced himself from big politics”. Mikhial Fridman, the leader of the Alpha group “first refused to participate in the consortium for funding Yevgeny Kiselev’s journalists, as he was unwilling to get involved in politics.” Surgutneftegaz company president Vladimir Bogdanov “reduced his public activities, including interviews to minimum.” Oleg Deripaska “has never been into politics as he prefers to participate in professionally lobbying his economic interests”.

Of course, there is also Roman Abramovich, who was long considered a “classical tycoon of Yeltsin’s epoch”. However, Abramovich adjusted to the changes very quickly and first was elected a Duma deputy from Chukotka, and later become the governor of this region. However, after this he “sharply reduced his political activities over the past six months.”

At present, politics is out of fashion, all know about this, from right protectors to politicians. Recently, the editorial office of the “Obshchaya Gazeta” discussed “spy processes of late”. According to various journalists, right protectors, and political scientists, the wave of espionage paranoia can also be explained by the fact that for decades the Russian population “was taught what can be said and what cannot, what they can think of and what they cannot, and it will be very difficult for people to forget these habits.” On the contrary, it is very easy to recollect a well-learned lesson. Evidently, this concerns the older generation, while the younger generation is simply “militantly apolitical”, moreover, according to Tatiana Trusova, “any politician is a priori an idiot for them.”

As it turned out, Moscow high school students call President Putin “Our Don Rabba”, a character of the Strugatsky’s “Hard to be a God”, an almighty dictator; while the government is the “gray team” for the younger generation, which is also from the same book. At the same time, according to the book, after the “gray”, brown and black teams come to power in the story, “but the young people are not afraid of this in the least.” Perhaps, it is not bad.

Famous political scientist Lilia Shevtsova said in her interview with the “Novaya Gazeta” paper, “people, who have not known fear and who are used to post-Soviet things, such as tours abroad, the Internet, liberalism, and even arbitrariness, are coming to this life.” It is hard to say how they will get along with the present trend for authoritarianism. Ms. Shevtsova believes that “the unfrightened generation” will be the main challenge for Putin and his successors; or they may be another resource.

So far, according to Shevtsova, the president is still facing a choice: to maintain stability in the country or to try a breakthrough. The first way means “continuation of cautious steps for simultaneous strengthening the market economy and the power hierarchy”. Ms. Shevtsova believes such a policy is probable, but it will “preserve shadowy semi-criminal capitalism in the country.”

A breakthrough, according to Shevtsova, would be a “real de-bureaucratization of the power, liberating business from the guardianship of the government, and limitation of the role of the executive branch of power.” The author believes these are real reforms, which require courage, calculation, and intuition, “Any unexpected turn, and all will go upside down, Putin will follow Gorbachev’s fate.”

Ms. Shevtsova calls the present regime a “half-authoritarian syndrome” as the present head of the state still does not have enough authority to be an “absolute ruler”, besides, he tries not to go to far, as he realizes that “The state does not have enough resources to restore the authoritarianism.”

According to Ms. Shevtsova, this impossibility to resume the “state violence policy” is the main achievement of the past decade.

Alexander konovalov, director of the independent Strategic Research Institute stated in his interview with the US Christian Science Monitor, “It is clear that Putin is not such a strong president as his advertisement says.” According to Mr. Konovalov, the declared reforms do not continue because of the constant fight between bureaucratic clans and the president is unable to suppress them. No wonder: according to the Christian Science Monitor, the Russian bureaucratic machine is much bigger and more difficult to administer than its Soviet predecessor.

According to some data, twenty years ago there were approximately 800,000 officials in the Soviet Union. At the same time, according to researches of sociologist Vladimir Slatinov, which were published in 2001 in the “Politika” magazine, in Russia only there are over a million of them.

The main problem, according to political scientist of the St. Petersburg European University Vladimir Gelman, is that Russian bureaucrats are not professional, enough, their work is badly paid, and consequently, “they use the authority they have not for the society’s sake but for their own interests. It is extremely difficult to suppress the resistance of this class: bureaucrats will inevitably suffocate any initiative not out of ideological principles, but because any changes are against their interests.

The Christian Science Monitor writes, “Political dissidents mercilessly criticized bureaucracy, all Russian writers from Chekhov to Solzhenitsyn made fun of them and called them “a parasite race”. However, no one in the history of Russia was able to suppress them, except for Stalin, who was able to realize his will with the help of “mass terror.”

Fortunately, today Stalin’s times are impossible to restore. However, as Sergei Mikhailov, the deputy head of the Russian branch of the Russian public political center, said in his interview with the Christian Science Monitor, it is impossible to continue pretending that the existing bureaucratic machine can be used for achievement of the present goals. Mr. Mikhailov said, “I hope Putin understands that his has limited time to make bureaucrats out, otherwise, his reforms will evaporate like water in desert sands.”

At the same time, according to the “Vek” weekly, anticipations of the West about a possibility of “establishing a powerful anti-Putin opposition on the basis of aversion of the presidential foreign political course” are absolutely groundless.

It is a paradox, but the pro-western course, president Putin chose after September 11, 2001, has not become the key topic in Russia, with an exception of “experts”, who have artificially exaggerated the issue.

The majority of the Russian population is not interested in the foreign politics, as well as the western society: as a rule only 5-6% of the population follow all the foreign political events.

Naturally, the reasons of the Russian and western political indifference are different: in Russia it is caused not by satiety, but by poverty, “the population that is busy with everyday surviving does not care of geopolitical exercises.”

As for more wealthy social layers, according to “Vek”, they totally support Putin’s foreign political course, as their attitude towards the west is not hatred, but “jealousy and willingness to live in accordance with western standards”.

At the same time, “Vek” stresses, the pro-western orientation of the western elite easily gets along with their willingness to preserve the Russian game rules inside the country, such as: “demonstrative democracy”, “non-transparent” relations between the authorities and business, archaic social relations, and so on”. Moreover, “Vek” states, the elite is not concerned about worsening of strategic and geopolitical positions of Russia: they are simply not interested in this.

In these terms, according to the “Argumenty I Fakty” weekly, the reserved reaction of the Russian president on passions around the results of the Salt Lake City winter Olympics, is completely justified. As the “Kommersant-Vlast” magazine noted, “the already forgotten division of the world into “we” and “them” was immediately recollected and became the national idea”.

Nonetheless, President Putin refused to return Russian Olympic sportsmen home before the end of the Olympics. According to “Argumenty I Fakty”, the president “estimated all the possible consequences” and decided not to lose patience, “”After attacks of killer-planes on New York and Washington, the US needed to urgently suppress its inferiority complex and to feel itself a super-power again. This first required bombing of Afghanistan, and then, the US did its best to see only one flag on the Salt Lake City winter Olympics, the American flag.

As Columbia University Professor Mark von Hagen noted in his interview with the “Vek” weekly, “Putin obviously thinks several steps ahead, which is absolutely necessary in resolving world issues now.”

Famous American writer, historian, and commentator Gore Vidal stated in his interview with the “Izvestia” paper, that Putin is a “calm, cautious modern administrator, who could even head the US Pentagon and easily rule it.” Further in his interview, Mr. Vidal explains who such a politician appeared in Russia: “In 1987, Gram Grin said once: “Eventually, a Russian leader can be only from KGB.” Then, Vidal was shocked, but Grin explained, “They are the only ones who know how the rest of the world works. They travel, they can speak foreign languages. They are tireless….” Today, this portrait is very close to reality.

At the same time, the Russian press noted another hypostasis of the present regime and its leader, the interior political one. Many people share the opinion of Boris Nemtsov that Russia is being turned into a police state.

This week the leader of the Union of Right Forces said in his interview with the “Kommersant-Vlast” magazine, that Boris Yeltsin was a unique person, “He was a free man, and he believed that all people must be free as well. I do not know where he learnt all that…”

As for Putin, according to Nemtsov in these terms, he is much more traditional, and these Soviet traditions are to live for a long time in Russia.

The “Novoye Vremya” magazine mentioned in the article about journalist Grigory Pasko the notorious order of the defense minister on secret data, which was admitted invalid by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. The magazine notes, “No one knows how many orders like this circulate at present in military and civil departments, and at any moment can become a reason to arrest, accuse, or send to prison. As a rule, such orders live longer than their authors and unnoticeably crawl into the new era.” If not the notorious cases of Pasko, Sutyagin, Nikitin, the society would never found out in what dirt the dough for our future life in the civil society, the World Trade Organization, the European Parliament, and other civilization signs is being made.”

In these terms, it is possible to state that the “espionage processes” are useful for the society: they allow not to keep the actions of the present “political police” in silence. At the same time, the magazine anticipates that the news on Grigory Pasko’s case are among the last from the human rights protection front: unfortunately, not because journalists and scientists will not be accused any more, but because they are hardly likely to get into papers.

The general informational background is being purposely and thoroughly evened in Russia, also with the help of the state-owned media, “It has become a good tradition to live by weeks announced from the Kremlin: a criminality week, a week of the homeless, a low birthrate week, a sports week.”

Today there are more important and significant events, but “Novoye Vremya” writes that the authorities prefer not to drag extra-attention to them. And those who are accused after Pasko, Danilov, and others, will be less lucky, “There will be the same amount of orders and state secrets, but there will be considerably less attention to such things.” The topic of human rights protection has lost its popularity.

As political scientist Lilia Shevtsova noted, “Putin turned to be an ideal president for the epoch of modest expectations and vague anticipations.” Although at present the situation seems to be quite normal, with the “survival ideology” at the background, the country can live in such a state for no longer than five to seven years. Then, Ms. Shevtsova believes, the power will have either to choose “a cardinal replacement of the rusty helm” or to sink.

However, this is not near future. From the standpoint of famous philosopher Alexander Zinoviev, “Putin’s historical mission is legitimization of Yeltsinism.” According to Zinoviev, the post-Soviet social system in Russia has mostly formed. The only goal of all present reforms in the country is to “do at least something, to improve the life in the country at least somehow” in order to preserve the like of the population. In the opinion of Mr. Zinovoev, it is principally impossible to imitate the western social system in the Russian conditions, as this requires “western human factor, western history, traditions, and nature conditions.”

Yeltsinism is a Russian invention, a “hybrid of Sovietism, Westernism, and pre-revolutionary feudalism.” Nonetheless, any serious attempt to replace this Russian innovation by, for instance, Americanism, will inevitably lead to a disaster or a revolution.

As is known, the Russians are tired of revolutions. As president of the Public Opinion foundation Alexander Oslon stated in his interview with the “Novoye Vremya” magazine, over the past two years the society has relaxed, “When a tired of hard work person has a chance to have a rest, he does not think of many things, including things that would concern him in other circumstances.”

On the other hand, Oslon does not doubt that the relaxation period is almost over. Now the Russian elite is “undoubtedly willing to have events and fights, and turmoil life”. It is highly likely that people will also demand projects, as they have had some rest already.

The only undoubted thing is the people’s love for president, which, according to the “Sobesednik” magazine, is completely irrational. In fact, according to the All Russia Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM), 75% of Russians like President Putin, although 60% of people are dissatisfied with his policy in Chechnya and with his attitude to the media, and at least half of respondents are dissatisfied with the state of the Russian economy.

So, as the ancient Romans said, the people’s true love for their ruler is an inexplicable love….

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