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Russia experienced a coup in 2014 without a change in institutions

Public Domain
Public Domain
Article by: Paul Goble

Staunton, December 25 – Over the last year, Russia has experienced a coup “without a change of institutions, symbols or personnel,” being changed in even more significant ways than it was in the course of the “strong mutations of 2011-2013,” according to Aleksandr Rubtsov, the head of the Moscow Center for Research on Ideological Processes.

In a commentary in “Vedomosti” today, Rubtsov says his country has been transformed into “an exalted ideocracy which is incapable of living in the real world in accord either with itself or with those around it” and that it will be stable only on the basis of constant reference to threats of instability.

What happened “literally between the Olympiad and Crimea” was something “rare: an almost hurricane-like coup without a change of institutions, symbols and people.” Rationalism and pragmatism disappeared and were replaced by appeals to “myths and blind faith,” the Moscow analyst says.

In short, viewed both from within and without, “an entirely different and unrecognizable country” appeared on the map of the world.

Until this year, Russia had tried various means of legitimating itself including formal elections, laws and courts, but none of this worked because none of it had the content that was required.  Only two things have remained: “the deification of the leader who has given the country difficult but historic ‘victories,’” and all-powerful enemies “working for its destruction.”

The “main intrigue at the moment” is connected with the issue of transforming Russia from a raw materials exporter to a modern, industrial or post-industrial society, Rubtsov says.  The regime has offered various notions but remains unwilling to act on an understanding that the entire system economic and political must be transformed.

Indeed, the regime has reversed the Soviet dictum that the material base defines ideas and assumes that announcing an idea is sufficient for its realization. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, as Vasiliy Melnichenko has observed, “Russia produces the impression of a great power … and doesn’t produce anything else.”

But what is especially troubling for the Kremlin at present is that the task of shifting from a country dependent on the export of raw materials to one that manufactures goods others want to buy is much more difficult than “building a planned economy or taking it apart,” according to Zubtsov.

All of this, the Moscow analyst concludes, suggests that it is time to update a Soviet-era anecdote: “Is it possible to order stability by telephone?” the question goes, with the answer being “Yes, it is possible; they will show it to you on television.”

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