Vladimir Shlapentokh

Декабрь 22, 2010

The vulnerability of Putin’s feudal regime: The massacre in the Krasnodar region and the riot in Moscow

Filed under: Uncategorized — shlapentokh @ 4:50 пп

 

The vulnerability of Putin’s feudal regime:

The massacre in the Krasnodar region and the riot in Moscow

Vladimir Shlapentokh

 

           

The international media has paid a great deal of attention to the Russian political regime in recent weeks, in part due to the recent publishing of WikiLeaks materials.  Although most of the observations made by American and foreign analysts are, in sum, quite reasonable, they do not present a well-balanced view of contemporary Russian society.  Most of the reports about Russia focus on three things: the non-democratic character of the existing political order, corruption, and Putin’s supremacy.  But, in recognizing Russian society as authoritarian, corrupt, and even criminalized, the analysts reporting on contemporary Russia have not paid sufficient attention to the deep weakness of the regime, nor to its inability to control the state apparatus, particularly in the provinces.

 In fact, Russia looks like a classic feudal society. In such a society, the leader protects his power against any rival.  There is no serious opposition to the current political administration in Russia, as there was in the first half of the 1990s. Putin, who is actually the paramount leader of Russia, has even created his own cult, which hardly yields in its pompous glorification of the General Secretary as if he were a Russian monarch.

            Yet, even with all attributes of power, Putin and his administration—like a king and his court from the Middle Ages—are extremely passive in supervising the bureaucracy. Putin, like feudal kings, prefers to concentrate most of his limited resources on protecting his personal power; only interfering in the life of the provinces, or even the capital, during such high emergencies that the regime is in jeopardy. Indeed, in exchange for the support of his regime, Putin has provided almost every official—from governors to municipal office clerks—with the right to exploit their office with impunity. This brings them a variety of illegal benefits, from control of private companies to procuring regular bribes from the population.

Indeed, Putin’s networks are not as powerful as those of earlier Soviet leaders; they had a party committee and the KGB in every settlement and in each factory, shopping mall or college. The party apparatchiks and KGB officers were totally loyal to the regime and its ideology, since their well being and careers depended entirely on their obeisance to orders from the Kremlin.  Today’s governmental party, “Russia’s unity”—with its almost complete lack of discipline and ideology—is a parody of the Communist party of the Soviet Union.  Officials at all levels of the bureaucracy, including almost all of the members of Putin’s party, ignore the national interests of the country, and will only execute directives from Moscow if they do not damage their own interests.  Recently, most of these officials or their relatives have become either owners or stockholders of private companies, which have made them materially invulnerable. Even if they lose their lucrative offices, they will continue to prosper.

            Since Putin and his circle wish to reduce the possibility of losing power, they are reluctant to start a public investigation of corruption in Moscow, or in any other part of the country. There is always a risk that Russian leaders would be implicated as culprits—during any of several stages in the investigation.         

The existing contract between the Russian leaders and its bureaucracy reflects the realities of Russian life, its difference from the Soviet realities, and its similarities to the relations between seigniors and their networks of vassals, as described in the feudal model.            

            The developments in the Krasnodar region in November, and Moscow in December 2010, showed the country how far the feudalization of their society has progressed; how inept the current Russian leadership is at maintaining elementary order in the country; and how dangerous the current situation is to the survival of the Russian Federation.

            On November 4, 2010, twelve people—including four children—were brutally murdered in the large village of Kushchevskaia (about 35,000 residents, about the size of a typical small Russian city), located in the Krasnodar region, North Caucasus.For the last 15 years, Kushchevskaia has been under almost complete control of a criminal structure. While bandits forced all of the farmers to pay a levy, the gang that had taken over the area intertwined itself with various businesses, which is a typical phenomenon in contemporary Russia. In fact, the gang started redistributing property acquired in the 1990s, yet another typical phenomenon for Putin’s Russia.  Similar to feudal times, the gangs in Kushchevskaia also collected money from students, passengers on buses that crossed their “territory,” and even from the officers of an army regiment located in that territory. The plight of women in Kushchevskaya is also of great significance. These women have been raped regularly; many of the victims are school-aged girls. 

It is clear that this gang was able to carry out its violence with the cooperation of the local police and local administration, as well as with obvious support from administrations in Krasnodar.What is more, the central administration was aware of these developments.                   

The most important development in Krasnodar was the role of the governor, Alexander Tkachev—who is a highly visible politician on the national scene—and the attitudes of the Russian leaders towards him. Yet, as if in strict accordance with the feudal pact between Moscow and the local barons, Medvedev invited Tkachev to the Kremlin and assigned him to head the investigation.  As a Russian analyst wrote in the aftermath of the incident, which left carnage of children and their parents in Kushchevskaia, “there are in Russia many dozens the Middle Ages enclaves like Kushchevskaia.” These events show that the level of lawlessness in the country has not diminished, as it did in the 1990s (note that a major item in Putin’s propaganda was that violence was diminishing in the country), but has increased substantially. More important than the judgments of analysts were the conclusions made by Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia’s Constitutional Court, who has a reputation for being loyal to Putin. In the Russian Government newspaper, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, he wrote that Russian Mafia organized crime is a sickening plague on the health of civil society in Russia. He also noted that it was ‘obvious’ that, in some parts of the country, it is becoming impossible to distinguish between local governments and Mafia operations. He bluntly declared, “Our citizens will become divided between predators, free in the criminal jungle, and subhumans, conscious that they are only prey.”

Despite the intense horror surrounding the developments in the Krasnodar region, the public’s attention shifted in December, to the riots in Moscow, which looked even more ghastly and dangerous for the Russian people and their country.

The murder of a Russian soccer fan by a group of non-Russians from the Caucasus region triggered the riots on December 5th.  After arresting the participants of the murder, Moscow police released them, only re-arresting one after the protests begun.  Most people in Moscow believe that ethnic criminal clans have the police on their payroll, and this course of events only confirmed this belief.  Animated by their hatred for the police and loathing of Muslim residents, the protest actions—whose initial participants were mostly soccer fans—turned into riots, in which people displayed aggressive nationalist slogans like “Russia for Russians” and “Moscow for Muscovites.”  Not since the revolution had Moscow seen what happened in this square on December 11, 2010. Young nationalists pelted the police with smoke bombs, bottles, pieces of ice, burning flares, and metal fence posts. After the rally, hundreds of protesters entered the Moscow metro, where they continued their rampage, beating people passing through from Central Asia and the Caucasus.Ethnic clashes occurred in many other areas in the aftermath of Moscow’s riot: St. Petersburg, Tolyatti, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and Novosibirsk. They also happened in the Belgorod and Samara regions, and in the Udmurtiia republic.

It is obvious that this outburst of aggressive and violent Russian nationalism in Moscow and other cities have taken the central administration aback, despite the fact that the Kremlin has flirted with these xenophobic organizations for a long time. Only a month ago, they were allowed to carry out a march in Moscow with thousands of participants.  

 The violence and corruption that enables total lawlessness in the country makes projects focused on societal modernization a laughable issue for the great majority of Russians.  Much more important, the perseverance and expansion of the alliances among the four major actors in Russia, as mentioned above, undermines the fabric of Russian society.

 The current high price of oil may permit the Russian leadership to deter the dangerous consequences of a nefarious alliance between the major actors against the normal order in society. Putin’s regime and the corrupt-criminal society will continue as it is now for some time to come.  In this case, as many Russian analysts suggest, Russia will continue to decay, moving slowly, as the prominent journalist Yulia Latynina suggests, to the status of “failing state.”  However, the current social and political climate in Russia provides fertile ground in which two negative scenarios could prosper, especially if oil prices were to drop.  On the one hand, there could be a push towards totalitarianism, under the auspices of restoring order and fighting corruption. Rabid Russian nationalism and calls for the deportation of “dark-skinned people” (the derogatory label for the people from the Caucasian and Central Asian republics) might be adopted as the ideological basis for the restoration of a totalitarian regime. On the other hand, another scenario supposes that the perpetuation of Putin’s regime, with its corruption and ineptitude, will embolden separatism in the provinces—a normal development in a feudal society—which could even lead to the disintegration of the country.

The West, especially the United States, must always keep the precarious nature of the Russian political order, which is so similar to a feudal society, in mind and not be deluded by Putin’s and Medvedev’s public airs of self-confidence. It is a fact that they are unable to maintain even a modicum of order and security for their citizens; not in Moscow, and, most especially, not in the provinces. The implications of this fundamental fact could be exceedingly disastrous for the future survival of Russia as we know it today. 

The vulnerability of Putin’s feudal regime:

The massacre in the Krasnodar region and the riot in Moscow

Vladimir Shlapentokh

 

           

The international media has paid a great deal of attention to the Russian political regime in recent weeks, in part due to the recent publishing of WikiLeaks materials.  Although most of the observations made by American and foreign analysts are, in sum, quite reasonable, they do not present a well-balanced view of contemporary Russian society.  Most of the reports about Russia focus on three things: the non-democratic character of the existing political order, corruption, and Putin’s supremacy.  But, in recognizing Russian society as authoritarian, corrupt, and even criminalized, the analysts reporting on contemporary Russia have not paid sufficient attention to the deep weakness of the regime, nor to its inability to control the state apparatus, particularly in the provinces.

 In fact, Russia looks like a classic feudal society. In such a society, the leader protects his power against any rival.  There is no serious opposition to the current political administration in Russia, as there was in the first half of the 1990s. Putin, who is actually the paramount leader of Russia, has even created his own cult, which hardly yields in its pompous glorification of the General Secretary as if he were a Russian monarch.

            Yet, even with all attributes of power, Putin and his administration—like a king and his court from the Middle Ages—are extremely passive in supervising the bureaucracy. Putin, like feudal kings, prefers to concentrate most of his limited resources on protecting his personal power; only interfering in the life of the provinces, or even the capital, during such high emergencies that the regime is in jeopardy. Indeed, in exchange for the support of his regime, Putin has provided almost every official—from governors to municipal office clerks—with the right to exploit their office with impunity. This brings them a variety of illegal benefits, from control of private companies to procuring regular bribes from the population.

Indeed, Putin’s networks are not as powerful as those of earlier Soviet leaders; they had a party committee and the KGB in every settlement and in each factory, shopping mall or college. The party apparatchiks and KGB officers were totally loyal to the regime and its ideology, since their well being and careers depended entirely on their obeisance to orders from the Kremlin.  Today’s governmental party, “Russia’s unity”—with its almost complete lack of discipline and ideology—is a parody of the Communist party of the Soviet Union.  Officials at all levels of the bureaucracy, including almost all of the members of Putin’s party, ignore the national interests of the country, and will only execute directives from Moscow if they do not damage their own interests.  Recently, most of these officials or their relatives have become either owners or stockholders of private companies, which have made them materially invulnerable. Even if they lose their lucrative offices, they will continue to prosper.

            Since Putin and his circle wish to reduce the possibility of losing power, they are reluctant to start a public investigation of corruption in Moscow, or in any other part of the country. There is always a risk that Russian leaders would be implicated as culprits—during any of several stages in the investigation.         

The existing contract between the Russian leaders and its bureaucracy reflects the realities of Russian life, its difference from the Soviet realities, and its similarities to the relations between seigniors and their networks of vassals, as described in the feudal model.            

            The developments in the Krasnodar region in November, and Moscow in December 2010, showed the country how far the feudalization of their society has progressed; how inept the current Russian leadership is at maintaining elementary order in the country; and how dangerous the current situation is to the survival of the Russian Federation.

            On November 4, 2010, twelve people—including four children—were brutally murdered in the large village of Kushchevskaia (about 35,000 residents, about the size of a typical small Russian city), located in the Krasnodar region, North Caucasus.For the last 15 years, Kushchevskaia has been under almost complete control of a criminal structure. While bandits forced all of the farmers to pay a levy, the gang that had taken over the area intertwined itself with various businesses, which is a typical phenomenon in contemporary Russia. In fact, the gang started redistributing property acquired in the 1990s, yet another typical phenomenon for Putin’s Russia.  Similar to feudal times, the gangs in Kushchevskaia also collected money from students, passengers on buses that crossed their “territory,” and even from the officers of an army regiment located in that territory. The plight of women in Kushchevskaya is also of great significance. These women have been raped regularly; many of the victims are school-aged girls. 

It is clear that this gang was able to carry out its violence with the cooperation of the local police and local administration, as well as with obvious support from administrations in Krasnodar.What is more, the central administration was aware of these developments.                   

The most important development in Krasnodar was the role of the governor, Alexander Tkachev—who is a highly visible politician on the national scene—and the attitudes of the Russian leaders towards him. Yet, as if in strict accordance with the feudal pact between Moscow and the local barons, Medvedev invited Tkachev to the Kremlin and assigned him to head the investigation.  As a Russian analyst wrote in the aftermath of the incident, which left carnage of children and their parents in Kushchevskaia, “there are in Russia many dozens the Middle Ages enclaves like Kushchevskaia.” These events show that the level of lawlessness in the country has not diminished, as it did in the 1990s (note that a major item in Putin’s propaganda was that violence was diminishing in the country), but has increased substantially. More important than the judgments of analysts were the conclusions made by Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia’s Constitutional Court, who has a reputation for being loyal to Putin. In the Russian Government newspaper, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, he wrote that Russian Mafia organized crime is a sickening plague on the health of civil society in Russia. He also noted that it was ‘obvious’ that, in some parts of the country, it is becoming impossible to distinguish between local governments and Mafia operations. He bluntly declared, “Our citizens will become divided between predators, free in the criminal jungle, and subhumans, conscious that they are only prey.”

Despite the intense horror surrounding the developments in the Krasnodar region, the public’s attention shifted in December, to the riots in Moscow, which looked even more ghastly and dangerous for the Russian people and their country.

The murder of a Russian soccer fan by a group of non-Russians from the Caucasus region triggered the riots on December 5th.  After arresting the participants of the murder, Moscow police released them, only re-arresting one after the protests begun.  Most people in Moscow believe that ethnic criminal clans have the police on their payroll, and this course of events only confirmed this belief.  Animated by their hatred for the police and loathing of Muslim residents, the protest actions—whose initial participants were mostly soccer fans—turned into riots, in which people displayed aggressive nationalist slogans like “Russia for Russians” and “Moscow for Muscovites.”  Not since the revolution had Moscow seen what happened in this square on December 11, 2010. Young nationalists pelted the police with smoke bombs, bottles, pieces of ice, burning flares, and metal fence posts. After the rally, hundreds of protesters entered the Moscow metro, where they continued their rampage, beating people passing through from Central Asia and the Caucasus.Ethnic clashes occurred in many other areas in the aftermath of Moscow’s riot: St. Petersburg, Tolyatti, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and Novosibirsk. They also happened in the Belgorod and Samara regions, and in the Udmurtiia republic.

It is obvious that this outburst of aggressive and violent Russian nationalism in Moscow and other cities have taken the central administration aback, despite the fact that the Kremlin has flirted with these xenophobic organizations for a long time. Only a month ago, they were allowed to carry out a march in Moscow with thousands of participants.  

 The violence and corruption that enables total lawlessness in the country makes projects focused on societal modernization a laughable issue for the great majority of Russians.  Much more important, the perseverance and expansion of the alliances among the four major actors in Russia, as mentioned above, undermines the fabric of Russian society.

 The current high price of oil may permit the Russian leadership to deter the dangerous consequences of a nefarious alliance between the major actors against the normal order in society. Putin’s regime and the corrupt-criminal society will continue as it is now for some time to come.  In this case, as many Russian analysts suggest, Russia will continue to decay, moving slowly, as the prominent journalist Yulia Latynina suggests, to the status of “failing state.”  However, the current social and political climate in Russia provides fertile ground in which two negative scenarios could prosper, especially if oil prices were to drop.  On the one hand, there could be a push towards totalitarianism, under the auspices of restoring order and fighting corruption. Rabid Russian nationalism and calls for the deportation of “dark-skinned people” (the derogatory label for the people from the Caucasian and Central Asian republics) might be adopted as the ideological basis for the restoration of a totalitarian regime. On the other hand, another scenario supposes that the perpetuation of Putin’s regime, with its corruption and ineptitude, will embolden separatism in the provinces—a normal development in a feudal society—which could even lead to the disintegration of the country.

The West, especially the United States, must always keep the precarious nature of the Russian political order, which is so similar to a feudal society, in mind and not be deluded by Putin’s and Medvedev’s public airs of self-confidence. It is a fact that they are unable to maintain even a modicum of order and security for their citizens; not in Moscow, and, most especially, not in the provinces. The implications of this fundamental fact could be exceedingly disastrous for the future survival of Russia as we know it today.

Реклама

Добавить комментарий »

Комментариев нет.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Добавить комментарий

Заполните поля или щелкните по значку, чтобы оставить свой комментарий:

Логотип WordPress.com

Для комментария используется ваша учётная запись WordPress.com. Выход / Изменить )

Фотография Twitter

Для комментария используется ваша учётная запись Twitter. Выход / Изменить )

Фотография Facebook

Для комментария используется ваша учётная запись Facebook. Выход / Изменить )

Google+ photo

Для комментария используется ваша учётная запись Google+. Выход / Изменить )

Connecting to %s

Блог на WordPress.com.

%d такие блоггеры, как: