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‘Fearing another 1991, Kremlin is making that outcome more likely,’ Shevtsova says

Russian state crest in front of full moon (Image:
Edited by: A. N.
Lilia Shevtsova
Lilia Shevtsova

In yet another manifestation of what Guillermo O’Donnell described as “the powerlessness of the all-powerful,” Lilia Shevtsova argues, Vladimir Putin and his entourage are making a repetition of the events of 1991 ever more likely precisely because of their fears that something like that could occur.

Indeed, she says, the increasing “dysfunctionality” of the Putin regime is clearly evident not only to an increasing number of Russians as can be seen in their reactions to the Moscow “‘renovation’” plans ‘and the long-haul truckers’ protests against the Plato fee system but also to many within the regime itself.

In ever more areas, Shevtsova argues, the Putin regime has undermined itself even as it has attempted to defend itself against any change. She provides a list of 14 such self-defeating measure that the Kremlin has taken:

  1. “The absence of legal channels of self-expression … is making street protests the single means of articulating the interests of society.”
  2. “The transformation of elections into an imitation makes social protest the only means of renewal of the powers that be.”
  3. “De-institutionalization, that is the transformation of all political institutes into petty simulacras, destroys the system of administration and responsibility.”
  4. “The mantra about ‘the absence of any alternative to Vladimir Putin’ … does not allow for the replacement of the regime” in any but irregular ways.
  5. “The transformation of individual representatives of the ruling elite … into petty personages discredits not only individual branches of power … but testifies to the weakness of the leadership” more generally.
  6. “The inter-mixing of repressive structures and property undermines the effectiveness of the siloviki bloc as a defender both of the state and of the interests of the establishment.”
  7. The replacement of governors and siloviki leaders in the name of increasing their loyalty to the Kremlin only “makes this loyalty fake.”
  8. “The formation of ‘the Ramzan Kadyrov resource’ and allowing him to play by his own rules transforms the Chechen leader into an anti-systemic phenomenon.”
  9. The use of elections to ensure continuity of rule only undermines the sense that elections have legitimated those in power.
  10. The failure of reform efforts “confirm not only the absence of a potential for the renewal of the system” but also shows that “technocrats in Russia have become the main force supporting” the rotting regime.
    A creative sign by the Open Russia opposition group calling on Russians to join their April 29 nationwide protests to stop Putin from forth term in 2018. The sign on the tape can be translated as “Fed up!” or "Enough!" The protests were conducted in more than 30 Russian cities. (Image: Open Russia)
    A creative sign by the Open Russia opposition group calling on Russians to join their April 29 nationwide protests to stop Putin from forth term in 2018. The sign on the tape can be translated as “Fed up!” or “Enough!” The protests were conducted in more than 30 Russian cities. (Image: Open Russia)
  11. “The monopoly privatization of state instruments and the budget into the hands of ‘friends’ of the president split the unity of the establishment” and makes many of its members ever less willing to sacrifice anything for Putin.
  12. “The president, having become the guarantor of the interests of ‘a close circle’ is losing his role as an expression of all-national interests.”
  13. By its aggressive actions abroad, the Kremlin has “given birth to a generation of those who don’t accept that and who can legitimize themselves only via the revolutionary slogan of ‘Enough!’”
  14. The Kremlin’s effort to use foreign policy actions to compensate for domestic policy failures means that Russia is now surrounded by hostility and that “an anti-Russian consensus” has been formed abroad.

Because of all this, Shevtsova says, Putin is losing his ability to play the arbiter among groups and instead has become only the expression of one against the others and that he “has become the hostage of his own ‘vertical’” rather than its directing force.

Indeed, “the ‘vertical’ itself as a means of rule” has lost its value because it is beginning to devour itself. Putin thought he could get away with this because society would sit still for it because “Crimea is ours” but now he is finding that society still has “the drive” to advance its interests.

How long until the next 1991 remains an open question, but that Putin is promoting exactly that outcome for his regime is no longer one.


Edited by: A. N.
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