Putin’s personnel changes make a long-term dictatorship more likely, Pastukhov says

Former head of Putin's Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin, and Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko (Image: kremlin.ru)

Former head of Putin's Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin, and Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko (Image: kremlin.ru) 

2016/08/16 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

The removal of Sergey Ivanov as head of the Presidential Administration, whatever the proximate causes, “symbolizes a change in eras of the Putin administration,” from one of a kind of collective leadership to a one-man dictatorship that is likely to last a long time, according to Vladimir Pastukhov.

Vladimir Pastukhov (Image: polit.ua)

Vladimir Pastukhov (Image: polit.ua)

Ivanov’s departure, the St. Antony’s College historian says, is “not an isolated event” but rather part of “a general tectonic shift in the structures of Russian power and of a change in the general balance of forces” which for more than a decade had seemed unlikely to ever change.

The common feature of Ivanov’s removal and that of many others near the Kremlin has been Putin’s installation of “servants in place of friends … In place of the post-communist boyars has come the post-communist nomenklatura nobility, the serving class of the 21st century.”

With Ivanov’s ouster – and he was one of the pillars of the old system – “the dam is broken and the flood of change will not stop,” Pastukhov says.

Four years ago, he predicted that “in order to survive, Putin must become a Stalin; that is, he must change the mechanism of power in a cardinal way. Today one can speak about this as a fait accompli.”

“The era of the collective rule of Putin’s friends is coming to an end,” he continues.

Russia will now be ruled not by a prince and his entourage but by a tsar and his slaves.

There won’t be “an informal Politburo.” Instead, there will be “’evenings in secret’” with outcomes unpredictable for all their participants save one.

In short, the system will be changed just as it was when Stalin got rid of the Old Bolsheviks and brought in the Bulganins and Malenkovs to do his bidding. One can hope, Pastukhov says, that Putin won’t use the same techniques Stalin did to do that; but it is clear that he is moving in the same direction as far as cadres policy is concerned.

“However paradoxical it may seem,” the St. Antony’s scholar says, “what is taking place is promoting the strengthening of the regime: the dictatorship is becoming more ‘regular’ and more subordinate to certain formal internal algorithms.” There will be little room for “partisan warfare” in the entourage because the new men will not be an entourage; they will be servants.

The new men, Pastukhov points out, “grew up within the bureaucratic hierarchy and were not implanted in it from the outside. They are more ascetic and therefore cheaper to keep, something that is not unimportant under crisis conditions.” They will be satisfied with apartments in Moscow high-rises; they won’t expect villas.

In short, “the face of the Russian powers that be quite soon will become unrecognizable,” he argues, but its new face will bear “familiar aspects of the Soviet nomenklatura matrix as formed by ‘the father of the peoples,’” Stalin.

According to Pastukhov, the current crisis was the catalyzer of these changes; but the changes themselves show that the regime is much more capable of survival than many of its opponents think. It has come up with “adaptive mechanisms” on its own which allow it to engage more effectively in crisis management.

This “new political system is being developed under conditions of a more severe reality of Russia, one eternally fighting and eternally mobilized for struggle with a hostile environment living not so much with abundance but with a deficit of resources.” Those who don’t understand what is coming will pay a high price, but hopefully not with their lives.

Pastukhov argues that “the newly rebuilt power structure can have a quite large reserve of stability and withstand further testing,” including a deepening of the economic crisis and “even war.” Whether Putin will be able to move entirely to such a new system, of course, still remains an open question.

That is because doing so is quite difficult “in the absence of a systemic ideology, in place of which the Kremlin still uses the franchise of ‘Russian Eurasianism.’ But if all the same this intention is realized, then the dictatorship in Russia will be a long one.”

Of course, if one takes a longer view, other possibilities emerge. “Out of the storms of 1937,” Pastukhvo says, “emerged not only Bulganin and Malenkov but also Khrushchev who in part consciously but more unconsciously accepted for himself the role of the gravedigger of the system by starting the Thaw.”

However, that took a long time. One can’t stop the seasons; but “sometimes winter lasts longer” than one expects.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • zorbatheturk

    I have often said, all Pootin needs to do now is to grow a small mustache.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      A big mustache would be far more appropriate, methinks. Pedo Putolini is a great admirer of Stalin.

      • MichaelA

        big moustache and very small brain for medvedev
        just like budyonny

      • zorbatheturk

        Yes, Putin probably admires Ted Bundy too.

  • Quartermaster

    Putin has stated that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. His moves are clearly along the lines of restoration of the Soviet Union. In so doing, he is setting up his Russia for a fall that surpass that of the Soviet Union and leave Russia as a mere rumps state that is a shadow of what it is now. It won’t be much larger than the Mongol state of Muscovy. The Russian people will suffer greatly once more.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      I don’t feel sorry for the people of Dwarfstan. They voted not once but many times for the dwarf, and will do so again and again. So when they suffer again they can only blame themselves.
      It’s a matter of time before camps will be opened at Vorkuta, Kolyma, Solovki and all of the other forgotten Gulag sites. We may also see the return of the likes of Mikhail Blokhin and his fellow executioners, and unmarked mass graves all over the country.

    • slavko

      Maybe even to come back again as a principality of Kyiv Now wouldn’t that be a real kick in the a$$ :)

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Kyiv should let the Dwarfstanians continue to wallow in their cesspool of self-pity, paranoia and lethargy. Best ignore them completely- why shackle yourself to a corpse?

  • MichaelA

    the difference is that stalin had the old russian empire
    russia ukraine and belarus as the core plus central asia
    putin now has just russia

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The dwarf can easily add Belarus to his empire, and I’m surprised he hasn’t done so yet. Lukashenko has proved far less compliant than the dwarf expected, refusing to recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimea- in fact condemning it publicly!- and also refusing to allow (more) Dwarfstanian military bases in Belarus, despite the dwarf’s pressure.
      It’s not as if the dwarf would meet any resistance if he invaded Belarus as the KGB and armed forces are riddled with pro-Dwarfstan moles. Nobody will fire a shot to stop a Dwarfstanian invasion. And Frau Ribbentrop will see to it that there will be nothing but a few weak verbal protests from the west.

      • slavko

        Lukashenko did make a statement once that there will be no invasion of Ukraine from Belarus lands.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          True, but that only applies as long as Belarus is “independent”. Once the dwarf seizes Belarus Lukashenko will be out and the dwarf will install his own governor, who will do what the dwarf tells him to.

          • slavko

            I feel that the EU and the US should relax their position towards Lukashenko and give him more support. He has resisted Russian bribes in exchange for Belarus acknowledgement of Russian annexed parts of Georgia and has mandated that all Belarus citizens traveling to Georgia must use the Georgian controlled points of entry. He told Russia that Belarus position is NOT for sale. So the man, even as a dictator has some ethic. Belarus has not acknowledged Russian annexation of Crimea. And Russia accounts for only about 6-7% of Belarus’s export trade. Belarus imports from Russia are about 50%. Typical one way street. Lukashenko has made comments too that Belarus needs to look elsewhere to expand her exports. Sounds like Ukraine’s position. And Lukashenko, if he’s smart should also relax his rule to accommodate greater human rights. That will save his @ss in case Russia decides to invade. People power will keep Russia away.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            I doubt it- Belarus is a dictatorship so it will make little difference to the Belarusians whether Lukashenko rules with an iron fist, or one of the dwarf’s appointees- Rogozin, perhaps? They might even consider the dwarf to be an improvement!

          • Alex George

            Exactly – Putin dearly wants Belarus under his control, but he does not dare risk another blunder like Ukraine, where a relatively pro-Moscow people were turned largely anti-Moscow overnight.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            The dwarf wouldn’t be risking anything in my opinion- Belarus is not the Ukraine. Homo Sovieticus and Femina Sovietica are still very much alive in Belarus, thanks to Lukashenko’s policies.

      • Alex George

        I suspect the Kremlin fears that a great deal of shots would be fired in defence of Belarus, and that is why it hasn’t invaded.

        The Russian aggression in Donbass in 2014-15 was mainly stopped by volunteers who flocked to defend Ukraine. The same is likely to happen in Belarus, and Putin cannot afford another meat-grinder.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          But where will the volunters, if any, get their weapons from, with pro-Dwarfstan moles in charge of the KGB and armed forces and their arsenals? It’s true that the dwarf can’t afford another meat-grinder as seen through our eyes, but the fact remains that he doesn’t care about casualties, or the financial or political cost. And there won’t be a political cost thanks to his friends Hollande, Frau Ribbentrop, Renzi and Co. They will see to that.

          • MichaelA

            every post soviet country is full of illegal weapons

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Buying a few AKs or Tokarevs from some criminal won’t even begin to cover what a volunteer movement would need- assuming of course that there would be a volunteer movement. And I’m not at all convinced that there would be one. Belarus isn’t the Ukraine.

  • zorbatheturk

    From Ivan the Terrible to Putin the Horrible, Russians don’t seem to learn. There are thousands of mass graves in RuSSiya. No wonder they need 17,000,000 sq kms of burying space.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      And don’t be surprised if more unmarked mass graves will appear all over Dwarfstan before the dwarf kicks the bucket.

  • Bryan See

    A long-term dictatorship that is more likely means an eternal dictatorship. One that requires infinite lifespan of a human, which requires medical care and progress. Putin is indeed counting on such, and is hoping to buy himself physical immortality or eternal life. Then the questions of successors and future presidential elections will flake away naturally like crumbling plaster.

    Mikhail Gorbachev is bound to criticize this.