November 29, 2007


Vlad the Great (Orlando Figes, 29 November 2007, New Statesman)

What is Putinism? First, it is a reassertion of the state, a counter-revolution against democracy, which in the eyes of the president's supporters brought Russia to the verge of ruin during the 1990s. The men behind this counter-revolution are the siloviki (from the Russian word for power) - men like Putin from the old KGB (reformed as the FSB), or the armed forces and the "power ministries", which together formed an inner cabinet in Boris Yeltsin's government and brought in Putin as his replacement in 2000. [...]

The second element of Putinism is the intimate connection between politics and business. Senior state officials control and own the public media, sit on the boards of state-owned corporations and enrich themselves from it, have lucrative connections with the oligarchs, and own large shares of the country's banks as well as its oil, gas and mining companies. At a lower level, in many Russian towns, politics and business are closely intertwined with the police and organised crime. Much of this goes well beyond corruption in the conventional meaning of the term (businessmen offering bribes to officials). In Putin's Russia the politician is usually a businessman, too, and perhaps an FSB official as well, so he doesn't need to pay a bribe. Political connections are the fastest way to become rich. The most successful oligarchs are shadowy figures in the presidential entourage. And all the country's senior politicians are multimillionaires, their money safely stashed abroad for them by Kremlin-favoured businessmen. [...]

Meanwhile the Muslim population, with its historically high birth rates, continues to grow, in part as immigrants from central Asia fill the gaps in the labour market. There are 25 million Muslims in Russia today (demographers predict that they will be the majority within 50 years). Like the Jews in previous times, Russia's Muslims have become the focus of a rising wave of xenophobic Russian nationalism that is only partly satisfied by Putin's increasingly nationalist rhetoric. If it weren't for him, millions of Russians would vote for an ultra-nationalist - for instance, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose Liberal Democratic Party is expected to come second, or perhaps third behind the Communists, with roughly 10 per cent of the vote. [...]

Nationalism is the third main element of Putinism, and perhaps the key to its success.

Richard Pipes, in his book on Russian conservatism, quotes a commentator of the 1870s (Rotislav Fadeev):
Russia represents the only example in history of a state the entire population of which, without exception, all estates taken together, do not acknowledge any independent social force apart from the sovereign authority...

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 29, 2007 5:20 PM

And with the coming Iron Triangle of the Big Government, Big Corportation, and Big Trade/Public Employee Union collectives here in the US, we are learning quite well from Vlad.

Everything will likely go OK for all of you. Just don't rock the boat.

Posted by: Bruno at November 29, 2007 6:55 PM