Arguing that “there is no truer path to the collapse of a system than the hyper-centralization of authority,” Moscow blogger Elena Galkina says that the Kremlin has now taken a step that shows its denizens think that “if they tighten the screws, it will be possible to avoid the fate of the USSR.”
But in fact, they are repeating the errors of the late Soviet period when that empire fell apart not because it liberalized but because it liberalized and then tried to take it back first by Mikhail Gorbachev’s own turn to the right that Eduard Shevardnadze warned of and then by the ill-fated August 1991 coup.
Galkina says this is clear if one looks beyond the discussions of moving the capital from Moscow and recognizes that Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of the Presidential Administration, has not only stated that Moscow won’t extend the power-sharing agreement with Tatarstan but made a more fateful declaration.
The Kremlin official says that “Russian statehood and the state are built not on the basis of agreement.” Not only does that contradict Point Three of Paragraph 11 of the Russian Constitution which specifies exactly the reverse but also poses a challenge to regional leaders at precisely a time when Moscow should not be alienating them further.
[quote]“The economic losses of the regional elites of the Russian Federation as a result of the insane adventures of the Kremlin in foreign affairs could be compensated by decentralization,” Galkina says. “But the rejection of competitive gubernatorial ‘elections,’ the strategic declaration of Kiriyenko, and much else” shows the Kremlin is going in the opposite direction.[/quote]
According to Galkina, “it appears that in the Kremlin they think that if they respond to the challenges of ‘the new 1980s’ by tightening the screws, that is to proceed along a path opposed to that of Gorbachev, they will be able to avoid the fate of the USSR.” They are simultaneously right and wrong.
They are right that the situation they are setting up is unlikely to be resolved peacefully, but they are wrong to think that the center won’t be challenged and the country’s territorial integrity won’t be as well. After all, she says, “the hatred of the regions for the center will be much stronger than it was in perestroika” if Moscow continues in its current direction.
Galkina ends with a plea: “It is time,” she says, “for the civilized world to work up scenarios so that the toxic remnants of the last empire will not spread and cover the continent.”
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