A warning to Putin: Authoritarian regimes last only if they are rational

This portrait from an art exposition in Moscow in honor of Vladimir Putin's birthday shows the Russian president fighting the multi-headed dragon of leading Western economies. The EU, Japan, and Canada are still alive and fight back using "sanctions," but the US head has already succumbed to Putin's sword. (Image: bbc.com)

This portrait from an art exposition in Moscow in honor of Vladimir Putin's birthday shows the Russian president fighting the multi-headed dragon of leading Western economies. The EU, Japan, and Canada are still alive and fight back using "sanctions," but the US head has already succumbed to Putin's sword. (Image: bbc.com) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

“All successful authoritarian regimes,” that is those who are able to ensure political stability, growth and economic and social modernization, “are rational and pragmatic,” whereas the far more numerous instances of unsuccessful authoritarian regimes tend to have leaders who act in irrational and un-pragmatic ways, according to Vladimir Ryzhkov.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, Russian opposition politician

Vladimir Ryzhkov, Russian opposition politician

In the first category, the Russian opposition politician says, are regimes like China now, the Singapore of Lee Kwan Yew, the Chili of Pinochet, South Korea, Mexico and Taiwan. In the second, he says, are dozens of regimes in Africa, the Middle East, the post-Soviet space, and “alas, to an ever greater degree Russia.”

All these unsuccessful authoritarian countries and their elites “live in a world of ideological illusions and chimeras having subordinated to a chimerical picture of the world foreign and domestic enemies, have inadequately understood contemporary economics, and isolated themselves from the world,” Ryzhkov continues.

Such a false consciousness comes to dominate these peoples, and “as a result, they ever more lose their present and future.”

“In recent years,” he argues, “Russia has ever more shifted from the world of rationality and pragmatism into the world of illusions and chimeras. Rational arguments are ever more replaced by talk about sacred places, ‘a Russian world,’ blasphemy and saints, divine visions, the special nature of Russian civilization, the holiness of military victories and so on.”

The myths of the past are coming back with the active support of government propaganda, myths like the necessity and saving quality for Russia of “the personal and autocratic power of one man and of the specialness and superiority over all others of Russian civilization, which leads to isolation and a rejection of modernization.”

“After all, what should be changed if we are already the best of all?”

In this chimerical world of Russia today, Ryzhkov continues, the authorities and the state are presented as “sacred for the greatness of which (greatness being understood exclusively as consisting of military might, territory and geopolitical influence) any sacrifices and deprivations are permissible.”

And this false world is reinforced by “the idea of a hostile environment, a standoff with the US and the West, as a result of which the country always must be in the military status of ‘a besieged fortress,’ arming itself against the foreign enemy and cracking down on the internal enemy (defined as consisting of the intelligentsia and in general all those who are dissatisfied.”

“This entire picture of the world is illusory and false,” Ryzhkov says, “but it is precisely the one which ever more defines today the domestic and foreign policy decisions of the Russian authorities and makes their policies ever more unpredictable and irrational.”

That is bad enough, but there is something worse: such a false picture of the world guarantees ultimate failure: “Irrationalism and the withdrawal into a world of illusions is the true path to backwardness and poverty, force and instability.” To avoid that disaster, Ryzhkov insists, Russia must again “stand on the firm path of rationalism and pragmatism.”

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Lev Havryliv

    Russia is well past the phase of being an authoritarian state.

    It is now a fully fledged fascist society.

    A macho type supreme leader, suppression of all political opposition, total control of the media and a huge propaganda and disinformation apparatus, jingoistic militaristic nationalism and xenophobia, military aggression against Ukraine, glorification of imperial conquest, anti-Western Russian messianism, anti-Ukrainian hysteria with strong racist elements, corporatist state controlled economy, homophobia, cult of personality around Putin, emphasis on the greatness and uniqueness of the Russian people.

    There is a continuity from Imperial Russia, Communist Russia and now Fascist Russia. The two constants of Russian political culture – autocracy and imperialism, shine through.

    • John Shirley

      Great post….Lev.

      • Czech Friend

        I agree, very well put

    • Tmos

      “It is now a fully fledged fascist society.” – Amazing to see how it transformed right in front of the worlds eyes. The AXIS is born again with China kneeling before their Russian master. I expect to see the ethnic cleansing grow as a blight in the minds and deeds of the radicalized Russian peoples soon.

      The US is working so aggressively to develop trade and manufacturing agreements in other nations other then China. Bottom line, investment in China is being pulled out. I suspect that the next 5 to 10 years will be a difficult period for the Chinese economy if things continue. Other nations are sure to follow the low cost manufacturing to other nations too. I suspect China will still be a great market due to its population. But all of this is due to the Russia – China AXIS.

      • puttypants

        Both China and Russia have huge problems. USA was already pulling out of China. They were becoming more difficult to work with. I don’t understand the Chinese? They steal our technology etc., and we help raise their economy and they treat us like shite?? I don’t get it???

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Don’t kid yourself, it’s the other way around: Russia kneeling before its Chinese master. There’s no way China will play second fiddle. China is a nation of over 1 billion, Russia 140 million. Furthermore, despite its problems China is an economic giant. Russia is a midget that produces nothing but oil and gas. Who in his right mind buys a Lada? Not even the Russians themselves do, unless they are really desperate and can’t afford anything else.
        Moscow’s current nationalism will only antagonise Russia’s own ethnic minorities, which like in the Ukraine form about 22% of the population. What can Russia offer them?????

        • Tmos

          Those are some very valid points.

          Russian nationalism has done well to squelch any resistance and from an outside perspective, it looks like it will continue to do well. This is where my concern for the minorities comes in.

          I do find it interesting about the comment the Chinese staff relayed about a comment that was made about Putin’s bad breath and reeking of ego. (I haven’t been able to dig up the old news link for it.) But it is interesting to see the war games taking place with Russia and China in the Mediterranean. That is something new.

          I found “The Diplomat” to have an interesting article. “China and Russia Are More Likely to Become Allies Than You Think”. It does make some common sense arguments.

  • puttypants

    He’s right. I really marvel how a people can think their past is so great constant war and slavery for the people. Do they really think that makes Russia great???

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      One is almost forced to the conclusion that the Russians are a race of masochists.

  • evanlarkspur

    I think the fact that Putin isnt deeply embarrassed by being represented so fawningly says it all. What a nitwit. In modern, civilized societies, such a picture might be presented as an ironic political cartoon. In Putin’s Russia, it’s seen as genuine praise. Doesn’t he realize that everyone is laughing up their sleeves at him and his ego? His rural areas get isolated as the train system collapses, his vassals return to barbarically marrying children at knifepoint, his police openly rob citizens in broad daylight, yet he slays the foreign hydra in his loincloth? I’m sorry, but it’s just pathetic.

  • Vol Ya

    Putin has already sowed the seeds of his own destruction and that of Russia as well. No big loss. May all those ruskies burn in hell for all the death and destruction they have caused in the world. Wherever Russia is involved there is death and destruction. What a pathetic legacy for putin and russia.

  • Michel Cloarec

    For russia (RF) to be rational means to change the political apparatus . A dictatoship can´t be rational , it contradict itself ! After 97 years since the bolschevik coup, it is time for RF to understand that it was a unsuccessful attempt . All societies have to evolue into the future for the sake of civilisation . To isolate a population from the rest of the world is not pragmatical !