Like Soviet one, Putin system can’t be reformed, only destroyed and replaced, Inozemtsev says

This propaganda poster plays on the mythologized Russian history promoted by the Kremlin, drawing parallels between the supposed "Russian heroes" such as Prince Alexander Nevsky and Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin. The sign says "Invincible Russia" (Image: social media)

This propaganda poster plays on the mythologized Russian history promoted by the Kremlin, drawing parallels between the supposed "Russian heroes" such as Prince Alexander Nevsky and Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin. The sign says "Invincible Russia" (Image: social media) 

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One of the many debates that riled Western studies of the Soviet Union concerned whether that system could ever be reformed or would have to be destroyed and then replaced with something else. Some political analysts insisted that of course it could be reformed, while those who came out of the totalitarian school generally said that it couldn’t be.

Vladislav Inozemtsev, Director of the Research Center for Post-Industrial Society

Vladislav Inozemtsev, Director of the Research Center for Post-Industrial Society

Now, a similar debate has almost certainly been triggered about the Putin system, with US-based Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev arguing in an interview with Ekho Rossiya this week that “reforming the [Putin] system will be just as impossible as it was to reform the Soviet one.”

The director of the Moscow Research Center for Post-Industrial Society says that Russia has an enormous capacity to survive the kind of sanctions the West has imposed or shows any sign of imposing in the future. Up to now, the West has imposed them to satisfy domestic political needs rather than to force Moscow to change, whatever politicians say.

Historically, Russia has gone through the same cycle that it is repeating today. “Russian statehood when it was active in its borrowing from the world beginning from Petrine times passed through several stages,” he says.

First, there arose a sense of being behind the world and a certain modernization began.” This “moved the country forward but exclusively within those limits which guaranteed the possibility that the authorities of the given time could strengthen themselves.”

Then, as a result of these reforms, the rulers recognized that they were threatened and began to put on the brakes. Again and again, stagnation occurred.

After that lasted for “several decades,” the sense that Russia is behind and must change things to catch up. That has led to periods of reform which in the end could not be fully carried out because the country’s “resources were exhausted.” As a result, there was decay, convulsions and even revolutions.

“Today,” Inozemtsev says, “we see exactly the same thing.” Reforms were working but they had become a threat to the incumbent regime.

And as 2011 approached – a year “analogous to 1956 and the Soviet thaw” – the regime began to put on the brakes under various pretexts: [the annexation of] Crimea, the war with America and so on. This was the legitimation of stagnation.”

When the economy begins to decline and the standard of living along with it, the Kremlin will undertake “a hopeless attempt to revive this system. I suspect,” the economist says, “that this will not be undertaken while Putin is in office, but I may be mistaken. If the situation will get very difficult, perhaps it will happen even under him.”


“But to reform this system will be just as impossible as it was impossible to reform the Soviet system,” he continues, and therefore one must expect “major troubles.” That is all the more so because the Russian Federation is far more cut off “economically, socio-culturally and mentally” than was the Soviet Union at the end.

The USSR, Inozemtsev says, “in the 1980s was a country quite near to the Western world in its values however strange that may seem. These were not the values of democracy, but they were the values of education, a definite quality of life and an acceptance of the importance of technology and industrial development.”

It “was part of industrial civilization. A split took place when the West began to move into technological development and the Soviet Union remained mired in its gigantomania, metallurgical factories and Trans-Siberian projects.”

But today, Inozemtsev says, “this break is dozens of times greater.” Russians today “are not capable of producing a large part of what the developed world produces: we do not produce even the printer cartridges which are used to print out Kremlin laws.”

Moreover, under Putin, Russia is mired in Orthodoxy and imperialist values, at precisely the time “when the entire world is becoming tolerant and open.”

At some point, Russia will hit a brick wall and suffer the consequences, he continues.

Inozemtsev says that he has “only one basis for optimism: Putin isn’t eternal. Personalist regimes have a common feature: they do not survive their founders. You must be ready for the fact that the system will collapse when its founder disappears.” All the institutions he has created will “disappear.”

Some people equate Putin and Russia and say without the one, there won’t be the other. That is possible: there won’t be any Russia if the current process goes on for much longer.

Unfortunately, the Russian opposition doesn’t provide “any reason for optimism. It will not overthrow this regime.” In many ways, he says, the Putin regime and its opponents mirror one another. “For me,” Inozemtsev says, “the figures of Putin and Navalny are identical, and leader cults [or either kind] will not lead to any good.”

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Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar svend lykkegaard says:

    We are all waiting for that to happen. Well not the Russian Trolls, they will be out of work, but who cares in the civilized world.

  2. Avatar Ihor Dawydiak says:

    Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma”. How true and what is worse is the fact that the Russian people themselves have no idea as to figure out their own puzzle. Hence, their continuous cycle between totalitarianism and the occasional revolution.

    1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

      Putin is not that hard to figure out.

      1. Avatar Ihor Dawydiak says:

        That’s probably true from a general perspective. However, psychiatrists both inside and outside of Russia have not yet determined his exact form of mental illness. Why? Because Putin believes that he is normal (ie. as compared to Vladimir Zhirinovsky) and as such scoffs at much needed medical attention but then again so do most people who suffer from mental illness.

        1. Avatar Scradje says:

          If you look at the list of the behavioural characteristics that define a clinical psychopath, the little poisoner has almost all of them:
          glib and superficial charm, grandiose estimation of self, need for stimulation, pathological lying, cunning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness), callousness and lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioral controls, sexual promiscuity, early behavior problems, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for own actions, many short-term marital relationships, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility.

          1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

            I disagree that the dwarf doesn’t have any long-term goals. His primary goal is to remain in power for life. As statistically the life expectancy of Dwarfstanian men is about 60 years, the dwarf is living on borrowed time. But he may live for another 20 years for all we know- though he could be struck with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

          2. Avatar gmab says:

            He’s often associated with having Asperger’s Syndrome with narcissistic, bi-polar, Obsessive-Compulsive and sociopathic tendencies. Also strong opposition to authority. A therapist friend says it’s hereditary & common in many Eurasian ethnic groups.

          3. Avatar Scradje says:

            Agreed. Sociopathic tendencies are almost identical to psychopathic tendencies. Both are characterised by a complete lack of conscience.

        2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

          Years of KGB brainwashing. Actually, he’s just a criminal, trying to deflect attention from his decades of larceny.

          1. Avatar Ihor Dawydiak says:

            So to wrap it up in a nutshell, Putin can be defined as a manipulative, narcissistic and destructive criminal who has usurped almost absolute power in Russia and who considers himself as normal despite the fact that he continues to clearly demonstrate the symptoms of a typical sociopath and/or psychopath.

          2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

            Seems a decent synopsis.