The end of managed democracy: democracy is ending, only management remains


It appears that “Putin’s stagnation,” about which the press was distressed some time ago, has finally receded into the past.

Of late, however, some observers have preferred to speak about stability rather than stagnation. The political basis of this stability was considered to have three supports: “secret service agents of St. Petersburg,” whom Putin brought to power, the elite of the Yeltsin’s era, which was habitually called “the family,” as well аs liberals of St. Petersburg, who gained key economic positions in the government to displeasure of the first two groups. The above three clans were competing against each other, while the president was “above the fight,” rarely interfering with the situation.

“This was stability in Putin’s manner,” Kommersant-Vlast magazine explains. Stability, which proved to be “preparation for the decisive battle.”

Undoubtedly, says Kommersant-Vlast, the “most deprived part,” having few tools to influence the economic policy – “secret service agents of St. Petersburg” – was actively preparing for the battle. They had the only resource – influence over the law enforcement agencies, but they fully activated this resource. Moreover, this grouping happened to face a chance, namely: “presidency of their university mate, colleague and merely good person – Putin.”

As become clear now, writes Kommersant-Vlast, Vladimir Putin was dreaming of a revenge himself. However, it was impossible to start his presidency with sharp moves.

As various publications have repeatedly reported, he had some commitments to the old elite, those, who had essentially made him president. Besides, it was necessary to build the notorious “hierarchy of governance.”

However, the time is taking its course and both these moments ceased to be the restraining factors by the end of Putin’s first term in office. Apparently, the previous commitments have faded away and the situation in Russia changed drastically.

The public expectations related to the “president-reformer,” rather naive hopes for “democratic ideas,” these two factors have slightly changed the world. The magazine notes that after they appeared Putin “stopped to be only a secret service agent in his mind,” but he undoubtedly remained such.

In the opinion of Kommersant-Vlast, it is not hard to guess why the head of YUKOS became the target for the first attack of the security structures.

Khodorkovsky was asking for trouble: “He was proud to be the first tycoon to declare his income and make YUKOS a ‘transparent’ company… He gave advice on how the leaders of our country should behave in the settlement of the Iraq crisis… He included his proteges on the electoral lists of political parties…” – and so on.

In a word, for the Kremlin Khodorkovsky became “an odious symbol of the oligarchy who tried to be on equal terms with the regime.”

Representatives of the business elite, who tried to appeal to head of state following arrest of president of YUKOS, convince the president to interfere into actions of the prosecutors and got a harsh order “to stop the hysteria” instead, writes Kommersant-Vlast, were really shocked because “blurred image of their common enemy, usually named by a vague term of security ministers” suddenly got a clear face – the face of Vladimir Putin.”

Nowadays, shocked by these events, the big business is making senselessly notorious statements displaying its readiness to agree rules of the game with the authorities, writes Profil magazine.

In the opinion of the magazine, “this resembles an attempt of jumping onto a step of an armored train, which left the Yeltsinskaya station three years ago.”

All of a sudden, the president proved to have his own model of state and the state economy, and he sees no necessity to discuss it to anybody.

The model in question is called “state capitalism,” which is distinguished from general capitalism, says Profil “almost as much as in all countries the army differs from the rest of society.”

The goal of Putin’s state capitalism is to ensure stability in the country, “i.e. absence of unpleasant surprises until 2008” and then arrange the undisturbed and controllable process of handing over the power.

At the same time, the concept of “equidistance” of oligarchs, formerly very popular has been passed to the museum of “development of capitalism in Russia,” writes Profil. “Now that nearly all of the businessmen have been lined up, the left and the right flanks are more distant from the person in control of the parade than the center.”

Undoubtedly, recalls Profil, an announcement was made in the post-Yeltsin era: “We don’t mess with business, you – with politics.” However, Khodorkovsky repeatedly violated this agreement, following rather convincing warnings from the authorities. His project of an oil pipeline running eastward was rejected, his “accomplices” were arrested but his continued to finance the left, the right and, some sources are saying, bought almost two thirds of the Duma. In addition he set out for a trip, so much resembling an election tour – to relate employees of his company, regional journalists and curious students “what Russia should be like.”

This is where patience of the power, which was longing for establishing army discipline in the economy, seemed to have exhausted.

Moreover, reminds Profil, each of the oligarchs had written thanks from Boris Yeltsin following the 1996 elections. “Who has similar thanks from Putin? Since no thanks are available, there exists no agreement which could have been appealed to.”

“Over nearly four years in power, the current authorities have adopted four decisions, each of them enabling to make no more decisions within a long period,” writes Novoye Vremya magazine. The lack of experience accounts for the Chechen war. The above equidistance of oligarchs proceeds from a necessity to get accustomed to the country, which has become dependent. Supporting the Americans on September 11 was the only manifestation of an ability to avail of the advantageous occasion. Finally, defeat of YUKOS “seems to be the first irreversible decision.” The case of Gusinsky could be reversed – Khodorkovsky, Abramovich and Fridman were available in addition to Gusinsky, while now there are no illusions remained.

Optimists, notes the magazine, may regard the story of Khodorkovsky as mere steep turn for the homestretch in the elections or a preliminary round before entering the 2008-distance. This could be true, agrees Novoye Vremya, especially given that “the power as such remain the only motivation for the power.” The main doubtless fact, the magazine assumes, is the president’s message to society: “Capitalism has ended, forget it!” Most likely, it will soon be forgotten.

“What has happened in Russia is evident and clear – this is a case of political repression,” writes Vedomosti newspaper. In the opinion of the newspaper, our society hasn’t yet realized the gravity of those events, which is easily explainable: “Transformation of weak democracies into authoritarian and populist regimes never starts with mass repressions.” Even the total purges of the 1930s had begun with “demonstrative trials over significant figures (who hadn’t been angels either).”

At the same time, those who release “the genie of terror” don’t even suspect that they thus open an epoch of repressions – they are only “obsessed with the logic of the current advisability.”

“On October 25, 1917 none of the Russians thought any colossal and clear to everybody event had taken place… Few were then realizing what was really happening,” Alexander Osovtsov, director of Open Russia Project noted in his interview for Nezavisimaya Gazeta. As nowadays, only the tendency was of fundamental significance.

“If raised now is the question whether or not YUKOS was privatized correctly, the questions how some plants, bakeries, kiosks and, finally, apartments were privatized,” predicts Osovtsov and reminds that “Khodorkovsky and his structures bought YUKOS as a quite privatized company having big debts.”

The author doesn’t doubt that the Russian community abroad will inevitably be replenished within years – “while the border is open.” According to the author, for more or less wealthy people the current events will become a powerful stimulus for emigration: “I know many businessmen, very large among them, who have nearly ended their businesses in Russia.” Those who remain have chances to live until the “bitter times.”

Prominent writer Vasily Pavlovich Aksenov has no doubts that the gradual “the slow and cautious process of removing reforms, the privatization, the creeping restoration of the KGB and socialism.” In his interview for Russkii Kuryer newspaper Aksenov didn’t dare to predict what could come out: “It may cause creation of some other society, rather than a copy of communism.”

On the one hand, Aksenov hopes that the tendency could yet be broken, that a “venturesome challenge” to the power is possible.

In the opinion of Vasily Pavlovich, the entire complex of human weaknesses and attempts to survive is easily understandable.

On the other hand, notes Aksenov, a country where 54% of the population are still assessing the role of Stalin positively, could hardly give anything good: “No matter what the intelligentsia could tell this nation, this is all like nonsense to the people. The people want to know nothing.”

For this very reason, Chubais’ theory of building a “liberal empire” seems very interesting for Vasily Aksenov: “If the people can’t get over the imperial complex, they could at least instill something liberalistic in this complex.”

However, thinks the writer, it would be na?ve to hope for any civilized influences and ideas: very likely Russia is on the verge of a new “awe-inspiring Pugachevshchina,” which the “prosecutors inspire” by their actions.

“The origin of our power is unknown – the people elected it and they like it,” writes observer of the Echo of Moscow radio Anton Orekh with Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Indeed, says the author, suffice it to ask people: “Are you glad that Khodorkovsky has been jailed? And I’m certain the majority will say yes! Just ask: should all billionaires and millionaires be jailed – I’m certain the answer will be yes! It is possible to get rich honestly in our country – the answer will be no! After all, just ask: do you want to be a millionaire – the answer will be: yes, I do!”

What this is unless at least an evident psychological readiness for Pugachevshchina? In author’s opinion, the authorities are now playing on “the hatred for the rich and successful people.” This is what the civil society of Russia, to which liberals and human rights activists are appealing, looks like.

As a matter of fact, Russia has no civil society: “Therefore we have that power.”

Moreover, the authorities don’t seem to be concerned about the moods of the people, even on the eve of elections. In the aforementioned interview for Nezavisimaya Gazeta Alexander Osovtsov cites a statement of Lenin, dated late August – early September 1917: “10% of the Russian population support us, 10% are against us, the rest 80% don’t matter.”

In Osovtsov’s opinion, perhaps unwilling to do that Lenin had formulated a peculiarity of the Russian history: “In Russia, 80% of the population permanently don’t matter.”

Discussing about some (three, being more precise) potential developments of the situation at the Kremlin following resignation of Alexander Voloshin, head of the presidential administration (many observers tend to think it had been caused by the case of YUKOS and its unpredictable consequences), Vremya Novostei newspaper let a casual remark: “The people are naturally silent in all three scenarios.”

Indeed, the people are unlikely concerned for what happens to the Russian economy after collapse of the last bastion protecting the “family circle,” as well as for significance of the strengthened positions of “St. Petersburg lawyers” (Dmitry Medvedev, Dmitry Kozak and Dmitry Shuvalov), rather than “secret agents of St. Petersburg” (which many were afraid of) for the Russian business.

Vremya Novostei writes that following Dmitry Medvedev’s appointment as successor to Voloshin’s position, both Russian political consultants and investment bankers let sighs of relief: it could be much worse. Nevertheless, Vremya Novostei doesn’t doubt that the situation is actually very serious.

“It’s not whether or not Vladimir Putin has preferred more or less liberal of his associates. On the eve of the elections and, many are certain, a serious redistribution of property, the system of strategic and tactical management of the country has been broken,” writes the newspaper.

According to Gleb Pavlovsky’s statement with Vedomosti, “the problem is not that Medvedev will occupy Voloshin’s political place.”

President of the Effective Politics Foundation is certain that this won’t happen: Medvedev can only inherit position from Voloshin. In Pavlovsky’s opinion, the new presidential administration will only become a de-politicized “technical tool,” “a commonly operating apparatus of President Putin.” In the opinion of Pavlovsky, the point of “political balance” will be found anew.

Most likely, debates Vremya Novostei, the ownerless power “will be taken by parts” by various Kremlin officials “according to their appetites and forces.”

However, this will break a tradition – the oligarchs, the governors and even the leading politicians (not in Russia but in the CIS as well) “are all accustomed that the Kremlin has a center attracting decisions, which were perceived as the supreme arbitration due to Alexander Voloshin’s reputation.”

Will the “demoralized Duma, the government and large business” be able to fill the vacuum of power? Will the political system which had formed endure these ordeals? Vremya Novostei doesn’t find answers to these questions.

Nevertheless, the newspaper confidently answers no to the main question: “If this center of force has split could this mean that it’s unnecessary any more?” In the opinion of the newspaper, the tasks our country is facing (overcoming poverty, raising the GDP, etc.), require that the reforms be resumed, which needs an adjusted and adequate system of management.

To all appearances, the authorities have clear ideas how this system should look like.

The Vedomosti newspaper quotes a statement by Alexei Makarkin of the Political Techniques Center: “Voloshin’s successor is Putin.”

In the opinion of Makarkin, over the past four years the president has been maintaining a balance between his “allies,” “partners,” (who had helped him to come to power) headed by Voloshin and “clients” (“secret service agents of St. Petersburg,” “liberals of St. Petersburg,” etc. ). “Following Voloshin’s resignation, all groups have been equalized before Putin. The president will now rule alone, without any allies of intermediaries.

At the same time, says Vedomosti, Russian politicians and experts assume that Voloshin’s resignation may exacerbate the political power-struggle in Russia and an essential collapse of the system of managed democracy.

The newspaper cites an anonymous official of the presidential administration who thinks that the “power vacuum” will inevitably aggravate political competition between the power clans: “Those who are usually referred to as “secret service agents,” “liberals of St. Petersburg,” “Voloshin’s people,” etc., will be more aggressively competing against one another for distribution of seats in the next Duma, or control over Putin’s campaign team, control over formation of the new government.”

This all will be taking place against the backdrop of the upcoming elections – both parliamentary and presidential, few people now believing the quiet and definite outcome of them.

Liliya Shevtsova of Moskovskiye Novosti noted that “reality will never be the same.” Putin has made his choice – and its consequences will become evident in the immediate future, most likely as soon as December.