- Created on Tuesday, 27 January 2009
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 March 2012
- Tuesday, 27 January 2009
- By Novaya Gazeta
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Are we not all slaves?
I Russia's rulers behave like a government of occupation. So why do the people support them uncritically?II Understanding the terrible enthusiasm of the massesIII The intelligentsia: as unfree today as in the past.IV Imperial expansion versus freedom: an elite long ago co-optedV Today's intelligentsia: the chorus of supportVIThe wheel of history comes full circle: returning to "the Russian path"
Part Two 1917‘Building socialism': Russia leaves the beaten track, sets about building the Kingdom of Heaven on earthII Recipe for building socialism: eliminate the human elementIII Social organization is replaced by crime and corruptionIV Moscow the Third Rome: a nation in the grip of mythological thinkingV A history of foreign policy annexations leads to Stalin's final solution: dependent individuals in place of society
Part Three The Character of Russian PowerThe Magna Carta v Genghis Khan's Great YasaII Russia looks to the past, Europe to the futureIII After five centuries of civil war, only power is left standing
Part Four Late 1980's- early 1990's: Russia blows its latest historic chanceI Laying the foundations for catastropheII Yeltsin and Putin's key blundersIII The post-Soviet mutant: corporation-state patrimonial stateIV The Yeltsin years: liberal ends, Bolshevist meansV The Putin years- onward to the pastVI "Rising from our knees", reaching a climax, facing the end of Russia.
Karamzin put it, "you have to be villainous to endure". Hence the cunning, wiles and dual morality. But at the end of the 18th century, Karamzin was not to
know that for the Russian people the greatest sufferings and the most morally corrupting consequences were yet to come. From time to time we rose up against intolerable sufferings and the government.
Once a century, with Razin Pugachev or Lenin we celebrated our "wild freedom". Then we put our clenched fist back in our pockets and returned to our customary brutish existence. Some people regarded these uprisings, joyfully or cynically, as an awakening. But in their sufferings, reckless protests, and savage anger, our people remained and remain a mass. A crowd that is worthy of sympathy and quiet sorrow, a crowd that is sometimes terrifying and loathsome. This is why the only people who have been able to get through to them in their usual state of unconsciousness, their permanent readiness for rebellion have been Lenin and Stalin, then Yeltsin and Putin. Who knows,perhaps in the near future someone like Zhirinovsky and Limonov may be able to do so too? Alexei German.
But they are like lights in the darkness, in the biblical sense: the light either breaks through the darkness, or the darkness swallows it. This is what has happened in our history, alas, and in our time. The emptiness became even worse after the murders of Dmitry Kholodov, LarisaYudina, Galina Starovoitova, Sergei Yushenkov, Anna Politkovskaya and Magomed Evloev, after Andrei Piontkovsky was charged with "extremism" and Mikhail Beketov was brutally beaten up.
The emptiness gets even worse if you try and listen to our contemporary intellectuals not so much as individuals, but collectively, as the distinct voice of a particular "ethnos ", or ethnic group. In short, our intellectuals today (except for a handful of outstanding people) are on the side of the government, not of the wider population. In my view this is the main reason why the population are still merely "the population", and have not become a "people". If anything, the feeling of emptiness emanating from our intelligentsia gets worse when you consider the tradition of the last hundred years or more. This is something which it is not done to discuss out loud or to write about it as something that really exists and is understood down to the last detail. Thus the very problem of "the tradition of the Russian intelligentsia", vanishes into the void, enveloped in darkness.
This is not accident. This too can be explained. Georgy Fedotov put it even more distinctly. According to him, after Pushkin "the gulf between empire and freedom in the Russian conscience became irrevocable.Those who built or supported the empire drove out freedom, while those who fought for freedom destroyed the empire. The monarchic state could not withstand this suicidal disunity of spirit and force.
The collapse of imperial Russia was primarily the consequence of this inner cancer that ate it up from the inside". With the help of Georgy Fedotov, (who lived through the revolution and the world wars of the 20th century), I would like to return to the contemporary problem of "empire - freedom - personality". How is it being resolved today intellectually and in practice? Let us look at those people who, by virtue of their professions, embody the thinking and the spirit of Russia, and to determine its future now, in the 21st century. I repeat: merely to consider this question will cast you willy-nilly into the void. For you find very few people in sympathy with your ideas.
The government has already destroyed many of those who are. The dominant voice, the social stance of enlightened, intellectual Russia, our "thinking class", is fully attuned to the position of our present government. Writers, scientists, theatre people and film directors, printed and electronic media journalists, university professors and the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church do not merely put up with the government silently and passively. They justify and support it. They resort to theoretical investigations, historical traditions, and their own understanding of moral values to try and rationalize its actions. Expert on 31 December 2007.
This magazine has recently become a kind of barometer for way that the governing class is thinking, and the intellectual elite that serves it. The editorial article "The complex fate of empire" casts serious doubt on Russia's democratic prospects: "This form of rule is generally very vulnerable and unstable, and if there is no consensus in society that the country needs democracy, then it is impossible in principle. It is unrealistic to support a democratic regime if large and influential groups in society have the goal of destroying it".
This would all be very well - one can of course doubt whether democracy is suitable for Russia... If it weren't for the fact that what is offered as an alternative is not only doubtful, but also at the very least alarming. From an article in the same issue, "Russia to the pessimists": "Territorial expansion has dominated Russia's view of world development. But there is no need to feel apologetic about this. We should be no less proud of the great nation that was built by our ancestors than the Swiss are of their watches, the French of their cuisine or the Italians of Renaissance art. And just as these achievements of other nations are not just a cause for pride, but a source of income, Russia's expanses, with their countless wealth and strategic positions, are paying themselves off for us today a hundredfold. "
The same can be said about our ability to live in harmony with our neighbours, and if necessary to fight them. "This goes too for our ability to impose our own political culture, and the art of studying a foreign culture and accepting it as one's own. "Russia has accepted everyone who wanted to become a part of it, everyone who was prepared to serve it.
"This is what freedom means for Russia's subjects. If for a Polish gentleman it lay in the right not to obey, if for an English lord it lay in the right to control the way his taxes were used, for a Russian nobleman freedom was expressed through his ability to take part in the great task of building the empire. Judge for yourself who had more freedom - the Pole whose disobedience, whose arrogance did not really matter to anyone or the Russian, whose readiness to serve made him the co-creator of world history?"
These are the guideline values, this is the world view of today's Russian intellectuals as expressed ideologically in the magazine Expert. The same motive runs through all the domestic and international policies of the Russian government. For all of them, the condition of freedom "in the grand historical scheme of things" is the GULAG, and Russia's great contribution to world civilization, compared with all other countries, is its imperial essence, the result of five centuries of expansion.
How the Russian nobleman became enslaved
Of course we should not be apologizing for the territorial expansion of the past. Our history is in itself neither a source of pride nor shame. We need to consider it, and to understand it. Each individual, and society as a whole, finds themselves and their identity in our ongoing efforts to find meaning in the events of the past, If we're strictly faithful to the facts, we're forced to the conclusion that in his readiness to serve the empire and help build it, the Russian nobleman was expressing not his freedom, but his servility. At the end of the 15th century, when Ivan III needed a large standing army to protect the
large state and conquer new territories, but had no money to support it, they came up with a solution.
The cavalry was formed, on the basis of conditional land ownership. These soldiers of the cavalry became the first group of noblemen to be enslaved. They were given land, but deprived of the right to choose. They could not change the landowner whom they had to serve. They could not do anything at their own discretion. They could only serve their owner. Some time later, they were given peasants too, and they enslaved these peasants, just as they themselves had been enslaved. The Russian nobleman thus became doubly constrained: from the top by the obligation to serve the state, and from the bottom by the need to serve at the expense of the serfs, at the expense of "baptized property", as they were called at the time.
This is not a matter that calls for judgment, or justification.
Today's "patriotically engaged" intellectuals have "no choice"
But the claim that "for the Russian nobleman, freedom was expressed in the readiness to serve, in the ability to take part in the great building of the empire" can be seen as the kind of key that unlocks the particular attitude to the past, and to Russian historical traditions, of those intellectuals grouped around the magazine "Expert".
They think of themselves as "nationally concerned" and "patriotically engaged", but they also claim to be innovative and strictly scientific. "In order to develop a common view on history," reads their editorial, "we need a new, non-ideological approach. Of course, we cannot completely do away with the influence of ideology in studying the history of the country - the creation of a "canonic version", even with all possible variations, is impossible without a certain ideological position.
But biased politicization is completely unacceptable." If you think through to their logical conclusion some of the events which I described as paradoxes at the beginning of this article, they reveal a reality that is not just frightening, but terrifying. Before, you felt as if you were sinking into a void, as if no one understood, or seemed capable of reacting adequately. Now instead you see a vision. The outline of Putin's achievement rears up in front of you, the edifice he has created with his domestic and international politics. All you can say about this structure is that you don't want to believe your eyes.
The Nazism of Hitler and Stalin, we should note, were also not seen immediately, and their danger was felt when it was already too late - and furthermore, they have still not been felt by everyone, and not to the end. The particular issue of Expert magazine quoted here is just one of many indicators. It gives you an idea of the extent of Putin's strategy of returning to the policies of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. Another indicator, an embodiment of the "canonical version" of Russia history, was the mass publication of that school textbook.
The authors of "Expert", who claim to be taking a strict scientific approach that does not allow biased politicization, write: "the history of the Russian Empire is not so different from the history of other European empires. In many ways it was even more humane. But in any case, Russia had no choice whether to be an empire or a ‘normal European democratic nation'.
There was a choice whether to be an empire or a colony." The statement that "it was even more humane" should be left on the authors' conscience, especially if one remembers that the history of the Russian empire does not end in 1917. The statement that "there was no choice" should also be left on the authors' conscience. Our entire life - for every person, for every country - is a constant, never-ending choice. Understanding the meaning of history involves finding an answer as to why this particular choice was made, and not another that was equally possible.
But let us imagine that even after analyzing all the arguments "for" and "against" a choice, using all the rules of a "strict scientific approach" and without "biased politicization", we come to the conclusion that yes, there "was no choice". Does this mean that we need to continue the path which we took to reach the present? Not forgetting that the intermediary points on this path were 1917, 1991 and 2008. To judge by everything that is happening in the country, by the direction state thinking is taking, the consensus seems to be that we must continue on this path.
Russia's choice today
Russia is once more facing a choice: the Horde-Byzantine political policy of rule, the traditional Russian geopolitics, the Soviet messiahship, the all-consuming corruption and Putin's purge of the Russian political space - all of which can be seen quite clearly in the reality that surrounds us. Or... I'm not sure that we have the time to think about any alternatives. Let alone putting them into practice. Russia's war against Georgia marks the moment when two lines in our history crossed. In the short-term perspective, over the last 8-10 years, we have seen: the liquidation of elections, the court system and of independent media and political parties.
We have seen the castration of legislative power. We have seen the law-enforcement bodies becoming repressive and criminal. We have seen rampant corruption, led from the top. We have seen sensational unsolved murders, and the deterioration of relations with neighboring (and not only neighboring) countries. Then there is the very long term perspective. The war against Georgia is another episode in the wars of annexation that have continued for centuries. These have been aggravated by similar wars of non-liberation within the country. Chaadaev and Berdyaev called it not so much a progression as a blundering round the circle of history.
Several times Russia, in the course of its historical movement, found itself at a crossroads. At these moments it looked as if we could have left the well-trodden path and taken the other. In fact, the history of Russia as a united state began at one of these crossroads. The historian Alexander Zimin has given us the wonderful image of a "Knight at the crossroads", who could have come from a divided Rus' to a freer Russia. But the "knight" did not have the strength to break free from the constraints (the coercion of authority and submission of the people), which already had society in its thrall. He kept on the same road - the road of Russian autocracy, then of serfdom. "The Russian path" was the result of the coming together of these two basic components. It was the path of non-freedom.
'Building socialism': Russia leaves the beaten track, sets about building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth
However, 1917 is the most eloquent, outstanding example of a turning point in Russian history. We could decide not to discuss the idea and the scope of its implementation in this article. But this would hinder the clarification of our concepts - the ‘return', the ‘path' and the ‘Russian system', as it would of the investigation of full historical responsibility for the return to the ‘Russian path'.
This responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the present leadership of Russia and the whole generation of (living) people who blindly support the election of the said leaders. Unfortunately few people within Russia have any understanding of what actually happened in the Soviet Union in the course of the process later universally called ‘building socialism'.
Such understanding as there is is imperfect. It was not so much a turning aside, more a great exodus off the beaten track. Russia not only took a new path, but severed all connections with the past which had formed her. Everything was razed to the ground and the track itself was rooted up. The scale and concept of the attack were extremely ambitious.
Changes to the social structure entailed the inevitable, and apparently quite natural, destruction of some millions of people, and the raising up of millions of others. Everything that at that time made up the national wealth was to be taken away from some and given to others. Schemes for the re-organisation of the social structure and property relations even extended to the idea of refashioning man to ensure the correct and necessary qualities for the realisation of the Plan.
Initially this was to be within Russia, and then...we'll see how it goes. If we jettison the ideological and political verbal accompaniment, it is clear that what was being attempted was the realisation of the Messianic idea of Moscow as the Third Rome with Russia becoming ‘The Kingdom of Heaven' on earth. A monstrous idea, both in scale and in concept. GULAG or were killed before they reached it, in the course of the ‘peaceful' ‘building of socialism'. These victims are indeed part of the truth. But they are not the whole truth, and perhaps not even the main truth.
For Hitler, the final solution of the ‘Jewish question' was the complete and total annihilation of the Jews. For Stalin, the final solution of the question of ‘building socialism' was the complete, universal destruction of society as such. Social differentiation developed over the centuries.
By the 20th century the Russian social community was made up of peasants,
craftsmen, traders, workers and people from the liberal professions. Also merchant guilds, associations of workers and of artisans, church parishes, village communes, and writers' unions. Stalin, continuing Lenin's work, achieved the final solution of the ‘social question': the complete destruction of society throughout the USSR, that living human layer, a kind of human humus. In its place the ‘party and the government' artificially created a completely different, emasculated Soviet social environment exclusively from civil servants paid according to a state tariff universal for the entire country.
The status of the peasant and the artist, the land and the theatre were reduced to one and the same : they all became the property of the state as ‘aggregated resources'. The difference between people and things was only that they belonged in different categories of resources. People were classified as labour, human and administrative resources, and things were classified as material, financial and energy resources. But both groups were only ever resources. Whether in figures or tons, hectares or man-days, they were similarly recorded, planned, stored, distributed, transported, re-settled, and when necessary ear-marked for special tasks. People had neither the right nor the opportunity to change their place of work of their own volition - each person had a work-book, and being late for work or not showing up was a criminal offence.
They had no rights or opportunities to change their place of residence - everyone had a permanent residence card. Peasants - who made up over half the population - had no rights or opportunities at all: they could not even go anywhere for a few days. They had no passports.
Building socialism, to call things by their real names, rather than ‘collectivisation, industrialisation and the cultural revolution' was the implementation of the plan to eliminate the human element completely from the social structure. It was the creation of an artificial Soviet social environment.
It was the profound traumatisation of the entire Russian (Soviet) human community. teleological view of the world and his idiosyncratic concepts of Russia's messianic destination. Stalin's religious ideas were basically Orthodox. His idea of the Soviet Union was the continuation of a line starting in Muscovy, when it had just embarked on building its Orthodox empire.
That line ran through the Moscow phase of Tsardom, through the Petersburg Empire, and ended up with Stalin's Soviet Union. Stalin was very familiar with the ideas of the Russian autocrats. He knew how they saw the future of Russia, how each of them, starting with Ivan III, saw its ‘mission' and ‘destiny'. He was well aware of the projects of Speransky, of Catherine the Great's ‘Greek project', Uvarov's formula ‘Orthodoxy - autocracy - nationality', and the grand plans of Alexander II, Witte and Stolypin.
It is no coincidence that all these constructs contain the idea of ‘Moscow the Third Rome '. Among its objectives it saw Moscow as the saviour of the Christian faith and as the place where the Kingdom of Heaven was realized. The roads to the realization of this goal led through the Balkans, the Bosporus, Constantinople and India.
This idea informs our entire history - or more specifically gives it meaning. It is not for nothing that I link the idea with the vast problem (in light of its consequences) of the destruction of Russian society and the creation of an artificial Soviet social medium in its place.
The Magna Carta v Genghis Khan's Great Yasa
The particular character of Russian power is as important as eternal war, militarisation and Orthodoxy. These are the key building blocks of ‘the Russian path'. Our government could write ‘force' on one side of its calling card, and ‘occupation' on the other. For its attitude to the population of its own country is that of a foreign occupier.
This kind of power took many centuries, maybe even many millennia, to establish itself in Rus', then in Russia. There were two different cultures in the vast expanses of our ancestral homeland. There was the Forest culture, a settled way of life, that of the ploughman, and there was the Steppe culture, that of the warrior, the nomadic cattle breeder, the historical phenomenon known as the Golden Horde.
Contacts between these very different types of cultures, numerous wars and mutual borrowings from each other, opposition, conspiracies, betrayals, subjugations and conquests initially in Muscovy and then in Russia led eventually to the triumph of one over all the others.
This was the power brought in by the nomadic cattle breeders and warriors. This Horde power is so entangled with our national history that it has become our own. Its defining feature, apart from the words on the calling card, there is only one player - autocratic power, monologue not dialogue, dictatorship not discussion, a complete ignorance of compromise, utter rejection of agreement as a mode of communication. It is Manichaean, lacking in what Nikolai Berdyaev called the ‘culture of the golden mean'.
The divergence of European and Russian cultures, which was much debated by 19th century historians, began much earlier. The different social dynamics of the two cultures are already in evidence in the proto-Russian space when Lithuanian Rus' and Muscovite Rus' were neighbours. That co-existence and rivalry ended with the victory of Muscovy and the creation of a Russia dominated by ‘Horde power'.
These two cultures are quite distinct. One leads to the creation and development over a long period of the freedom of the individual. In the other, the space for the personality to emerge and develop is steadily reduced.
On one side you have the Magna Carta Libertatum (‘Great Charter of Liberties') and the Habeas Corpus Act. On the other, the ‘Great Yasa' of Genghis Khan. The former cultivates personality and society, the latter prioritises the state and other institutions. The social oppositions which stem from this are endless: democracy versus authoritarianism, agreement versus force, dialogue versus monocentrism, consent versus arbitrary decisions, horizontal ties in society versus the vertical of power etc.
The Magna Carta dates from 1214 (i.e. it was signed two decades before Batu Khan invaded Rus'). A whole range of freedoms protects the individual from the state in English law. Government bodies have no recourse to arbitrary arrest and punishment, obloquy, robbery and violence. This determined the agenda of constitutional guarantees, which were the subject of disputes with the monarchy over many centuries.
These guarantees found their expression in the symbolic document known as Habeas Corpus. Genghis Khan published his ‘Great Yasa' in 1206. The code of laws determining the life of the Horde primarily contained a list of punishments for serious crimes. ‘Yasa' literally means ‘ban' in Mongolian. Levada Centre demonstrates. The transition to a higher social form and the decay of the existing, outworn one are fundamentally different trajectories. Yet elements from past centuries of Russian history and from the Soviet century all came together in our lives in the "wild 90s".
If we want to understand the key constituents of the post-Soviet social dynamic we must bear in mind that when the Soviet Union collapsed there were no civil society institutions in Russia and none were in the making. There was no recognition that these institutions were lacking, either. This is crucial for an understanding of what ensued. The institutions of a market economy and private ownership were first tolerated, then (in 1991) legalized. The iron curtain came down and modern socio-economic institutions were installed on top of the traditional political-administrative "Russian system".
After that,events unfolded haphazardly, taking the only course open to them: social relations and government institutions became more primitive and archaic. Today we start to see the main features of this almost twenty-year-long mutation, which combines the uncombinable - a corporation-state and a patrimonial state.
By a corporation-state we mean country whose national, social and economic interest are dependent on departmental and corporate interests. The number one priority becomes the private profit of corporate capital, rather than national security, social services or health. Russia perfectly exemplifies Max Weber's prediction about the patrimonial nature of the state. Our country has become the embodiment of crony capitalism, or "the capitalism of friends and relations". Power is handed down by inheritance.
The state machine is held together by ties between friends and relations to a far greater extent than was true in the Soviet period. For our patrimonial civil servants, the main source of income is not their salary, but the income they derive from the personal exploitation of their formal bureaucratic functions. In the post-Soviet space, the clearest instances of "patrimonial Sultanates", as Max Weber called them, are in Transcaucasia and Central Asia - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Several of these regimes and dictatorships based on the cult of personality have already declared themselves in power for life. In Russia, the socio-political pendulum is already moving in that direction.
This can be seen in the transfer of power from Yeltsin to Putin. It is clearly revealed in the movements of power between Putin-Medvedev-Putin, as also in recent decisions to extend the legal terms of the president and parliament. There is nothing mysterious about these stratagems. They just demonstrate the determination of those with power and capital to hold onto it.
The same thing is going on at a regional level. If Moscow's mayor Luzhkov or Tatarstan's president Shaimiev suddenly declare the need to hold gubernatorial elections, only someone hopelessly naïve would see this as reflecting a sudden democratic impulse. We know full well what will become of these elections. The only concern of these people is to stay in power for life. They are not going to surrender their property and power. They will hand it over only to their designated successor, preferably only on their deathbed.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this social dynamic is the unique relationship between power and the people. This relationship, the fruit of the whole history of Russian civilization, has reached new extremes in the post-Soviet period. The fact that the security services stand at the very pinnacle of the power pyramid is indicative of a society that is ruled by force. The relationship between power and the people in Russia is immutably hostile, mutually destructive.
That is its key characteristic. The crucial consequence of this fatal connection - to judge by the long-term findings of the Levada Centre is that the people are capable of adapting to force in any conditions. The population is amoral. This does not mean, of course, that everyone does wicked things every day. But almost everyone is prepared to do such things under certain conditions. As for the government, which is not remotely subject to control by the population, it has become (or remains) entirely patrimonial. That is to say that, under Putin the state is managed in exactly the way a landowner manages his estate.
The government has turned into a tyrannical landowner on a national scale, with trillions in its pocket, and atomic weapons too.
IV The Yeltsin years: liberal ends, Bolshevist means In the first years after the collapse of the USSR, the reformers who came to power imagined that the old Soviet system would be replaced by a model of the state borrowed from western nations. It was assumed that we would be making the transition to representative democracy and a free market economy. But in fact, the attitude to those western models was little different from Peter the Great's attitude to Dutch wharfs. Our reformers, like Tsar Peter, saw them as pretty trinkets which could be lifted up and plonked down elsewhere. We failed to appreciate that they were the end result of a long social evolution.
Take Solzhenitsyn, for example. He hated Bolshevism with a passion. He fought it ferociously, thereby earning the profound respect of his contemporaries and the eternal memory of his descendents. He did not appreciate that the GULAG was the result of the long evolution of Russian imperial violence. He paid for his short-sightedness when he received an award from the Chekist Putin and was given a lavish funeral by the successors of the Russian empire.
The reforms failed thanks to the passivity of the Russian population, with its strong dependence on the state, and the weakness of the social and political movements. In order to hold on to power, Yeltsin had to shift his ground. He realized that he needed the support not of the "masses" but of the old "power" blocs. The crucial structural changes were delayed, because they were clearly unpopular. They never even began, for the same reason. As dissatisfaction grew, violence increased. The parliament building was gunned down in 1993. In 1996, Yeltsin stole his election to a second presidential term.
These key events expose Yeltsin's Bolshevism.
V The Putin years - onward to the past
The final confirmation of authoritarian rule came with Putin's eight-year term in office. This was based on the masses' longing for "order" and a return to traditionalism.Throughout this period, Putin's regime had kept up a relentless attack on the pro-western aspirations of Yeltsin's supporters. They were determined to discredit them.The campaign changed the way the Russian public, which is still fairly traditionalist, saw things. People came to accept that Yeltsin's "democrats" were to blame for the collapse of the USSR and for the drop in people's living standards.
The democrats were to blame for the series of crises of the 1990s, and above all for the serious crisis of 1998. Democratic models of political order lost their appeal. Concepts of freedom and human rights were once more relegated to the margins of people's thinking. Instead, the regime programmed people with the notion of social order, with traditional attitudes to great power superiority, Orthodoxy and militarism.
The space where politics and civil society should have been was "purged". Political parties, non-governmental and public organizations, independent television channels, the system of elections, the courts and law-enforcement bodies as autonomous bodies - all these were dissolved. What remained became part of the power System. The shells of those political parties, the courts, the prosecutor's office, the media and public organizations were turned into something quite different.
They became instruments of coercion, repressive bodies, or the means of handling the economic, administrative and financial tasks of various bodies and organizations, banks, insurance company, marketing, political and commercial advertising. The rudiments of the institutions of a civil society were liquidated in the expectation of a continuous flow of petrodollars. The state doesn't have any great need for people as long as it can focus on raw materials rather than production.
If the country has "pipes" and "black gold", the population is just a social burden and a potential danger. The regime thought that they were always going to be able to buy the population off. They did not consider it necessary to establish relations with them through the usual institutions of a developed civil society.
VI "Rising from our knees", reaching a climax, facing the end of Russia
But the financial and economic crisis radically changes an already oppressive situation. It reveals the fragility of the Putin regime's strategy, and his means of governing. Rather than revenues from oil and gas flowing in as usual, capital is flowing out. Production is dropping, unemployment is growing. Unresolved problems of health, education and housing have been drastically aggravated. With oil prices below the $70 that was allowed for in the budget, the government will have to wring money out of the population, as the reserve fund and the gold supply is not going to last long. How is the regime going to manage to do this while maintaining its strategy of facing down the West and America?
How can the population be controlled, when 40% live in poverty, and 15-20% of this 40% are practically beggars? More than 60% of our fellow citizens live in small towns and villages. It is there, on the social periphery, that paternalistic attitudes are most entrenched. This population is almost totally lacking in the material or spiritual resources, or the social means to change its position and lift itself out of its chronic depression. This chaotic mass of people is the bedrock of our corruption.
This is inevitable, constantly driven back into poverty as it is , swelling the ranks of the unemployed, lacking all political organization, sustained by none of the structures of a civil society.
Corruption is increasing almost exponentially. It dominates almost all sectors of society and all levels of power, including (so we are being told) the highest levels, headed by the president and prime minister. It is one of the most destructive consequences of the lack of structural and functional differentiation in contemporary public life. Movement means life, as we all know.
Today's "God, Tsar and Motherland" personified by Putin asks us to agree that morning gymnastics Russian-style ("rising from our knees" to drums and fanfares) means movement, life. And everyone believes them. They go through the motion of those morning gymnastics. Keeping their clenched fist in their pocket. Ready to beat up anyone who falls down.
But we're going to fall down - and we'll fall down together. If we go on like this we will very soon bring about the end of the cultural and historical phenomenon that is still known as Russia.
This article was commissioned and first published by Novaya Gazeta