24 September saw the dawn of a new political reality untrammelled by false illusions. No need for further reports by Yurgens [President of the Institute for Contemporary Development and close associate of Medvedev] or calls from Oreshkin and Chudakova [campaigners for democracy] to support the ‘liberal heir’. The regime of a lifetime personal dictatorship has been established in Russia. In the presence of all his notables, the brutal alpha-male ostentatiously confirmed his hierarchical status in the primate herd. The President of the Russian Federation on prime time television adopted his ritual pose of submission and at the end of the triumphal moment he was thrown a little bone of encouragement – the premiership. The Russian Orthodox Church immediately described this crude porno act by two statesmen strutting their religiosity as a model of morality in politics.
More than just sodomy, it was a political mistake. True, the ruling class was expecting the Boss to return, but where was the need for the sadistic humiliation of the unfortunate and harmless nanopresident? After all, for so long he had maintained the intrigue – he swaggered about, blew out his little cheeks, beetled his little brows and promised to divulge momentous plans.
“The Internet reacted immediately and explosively, and not only opposition publications, but mainstream too. The transformation of the highest government positions in a nuclear power into an object of private swop deals dishonours and disavows all the state institutions, something felt by even the most venal and thick-skinned.”
The liberal intelligentsia wrote him letters of allegiance. Now he comes out on to the stage with tears in his eyes and bleats something unintelligible about capitulation. During his strained performance he gave the impression that he was well on the way to insanity. First he came down hard on the ‘United Russia’ rivals at the elections, branding them Destroyers of the Fatherland. This is the protector of the Constitution and liberal moderniser, describing the supremely loyal, supremely legal Kremlin clone parties. The politicians Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky, Mironov and Bogdanov. What can he think of the real opposition?
Then, winking flirtatiously to his audience, he suddenly confessed that he and Uncle Volodya had agreed all this a long time ago, at the very beginning of their creative union. When would that have been? When they were storming about lawless Petersburg in the swashbuckling 90s? When one was pulling off the scam of non-ferrous metals in exchange for food, while the other was a stooge for a mafia timber merchant?
U.S. diplomats had no illusions about the allocation of roles within the Russian duumvirate, according to WikiLeaks. President Medvedev was seen as the junior figure, playing 'Robin to Putin’s Batman'. The recent succession announcement confirms the correctness of this view.
There was something so wicked about the ritual humiliation of ‘the crowned head’ fated not to see out his term that even the hardened hearts of our cynical ‘elite’ were sickened. If a president in post/future prime minister can be removed in this way, then what might that frog-eyed Caligula not suddenly decide to do with either of them? The Internet reacted immediately and explosively, and not only opposition publications, but mainstream too. The transformation of the highest government positions in a nuclear power into an object of private swop deals dishonours and disavows all the state institutions, something felt by even the most venal and thick-skinned.
NanoCaligula has slipped up. The day he decided to announce triumphantly that he would rule for life was the day of the beginning of his end. He has condemned himself to a life of growing alienation and isolation among the previously submissive ‘elite’. It will no longer be able to overcome the Sartrian feeling of La Nausée directed at it, which goes with the end of authoritarian regimes.
The astronomical oil prices mean that the system could stagnate over a fairly long period, but it will stifle any substantive development, business initiative or innovation.
For twenty (!) years Russia’s ruling class has been promising ‘unpopular measures’, and then imposing them on the people. The measures they have put in place over these twenty years of reform have been very popular with their own narrow circle and have resulted in their shameless amassing of personal fortunes.
The Russian economy is not developing. Not because there are still some parasitic pensioners who haven’t yet croaked. Nor because Prokhorov hasn’t yet managed to introduce a 60-hour working week. The reason is that there can be no creative impulses in the dead environment created by the reformers. It has nothing to do with the market environment, where the whole vertical from the alpha-Snatcher at the top to the local policeman is bloated with the thieves' cash funds which have blocked all the social lifts.
The authorities have finally lost the moral and the ideological high ground and their words and ideas have been devalued. This will accelerate the developing crisis and new economic programmes will be unable to halt the fall off in political support. Given the low (and falling) trust in the dictator for life, these programmes will on the contrary become the object of general criticism, ridicule and discontent.
'Putin must go'
The level of support for the authorities is so low that anything, however insignificant, might erupt into public protest, which will be virtually impossible to prevent. Any attempt to use force will quickly go against the authorities, as it will result in the irrevocable loss of the regime's authority in the eyes of the public, and the escalation of similar conflicts.
"The Russian economy is not developing. Not because there are still some parasitic pensioners who haven’t yet croaked. Nor because Prokhorov hasn’t yet managed to introduce a 60-hour working week. The reason is that there can be no creative impulses in the dead environment created by the reformers."
The potential for resistance to a regime incompatible with the life of the country is already huge. 100,000 people signed the appeal 'Putin must go' on the site www.putinavotstavku.org and they were not afraid to give their addresses and places of work.
The signatories include people of all ages, nationalities, faiths, political views, levels of education and financial status. They are important scientists, arts people, writers and politicians, but the majority are simply ordinary Russians from all parts of our huge country, from Kamchatka in the east to Kaliningrad in the west.
In their everyday life, which is so full of care, the daily grind and TV brainwashing, they might well not have the strength, the desire or the opportunities for an objective assessment of the political reality that surrounds them and the role played in its formation by the powers that be. But one has only to start reading the comments attached to many of the signatures to see that this is absolutely not the case. Unlike the anonymous respondents to social surveys, who apparently support Putin, these people are extremely specific and unambiguous in stating their reasons for not wishing to see the gentleman in question as ruler of Russia. In their opinion he is to blame for the catastrophic deterioration in every aspect of life in today's Russia.
“You are leading Russia away from civilisation. You should stand down,” writes Academician V.E. Zakharov from Moscow.
Doctor D.V. Chalikov, physicist and mathematician from St Petersburg, considers that Putin is the embodiment of “corruption, contempt for the people, material inequality and incompetence.”
A.N. Popova, a journalist from Vladivostok, accuses Putin of “destroying the main achievement of perestroika: the freedom of speech.”
Oil man U.D. Khadidov from Kariz-Mayaki thinks that “there is an urgent need to rescue our country from these timeservers.”
C.Yu. Nazarenko, a sales manager from Tver, feels “a sense of shame for our country with such people at the helm.”
Thousands who signed the appeal make a direct connection between the policies of Putin and his cronies and their own desperate situation, the impossibility of breaking out of the vicious circle of struggling to make ends meet. “I am a lifeguard,” writes P.A. Popov from Vladivostok. “I help people and, like others, have to live on my miserable salary, when every day prices for food, fuel and services are going up…”
Many commentaries exude a sense of despair and lack of any prospects for a life in Russia if Putin remains in power. “I really don't want to have to move to another country, but every day I get a little nearer this solution”, writes the young businessman N.I. Dovgulich.
The present Russian Federation Constitution allows Vladimir Putin to serve two terms as president i.e. until 2024. If Medvedev then succeeds him, the duumvirate’s power could last until 2036. Longer than Krushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev put together.
Some of the thoughts are very dark, full of a kind of depression and hatred for the corrupt politicians that have a vice-like grip on power. “I'm 24 and I've already lost the will to live: the Moscow top brass think only of stuffing their pockets and have screwed up my once great and beautiful mother country,” comes a genuine cri de coeur from L.A. Lebedeva, a book-keeper from St Petersburg. A student from Blagoveshchensk, A.Yu. Batuyev, is just as pessimistic: “My country is going down the tubes, my people are distintegrating and I have no means of influencing the process. Everyone knows, but no one says anything.”
Luckily not everyone is silent any more and the 100,000 citizens who raised their voices with Batuyev's against Russia's criminally incompetent leadership are convincing proof of this.
Thoughts about the general lack of prosperity in Russia and those committing the outrages probably worry millions of Russian, but for the moment only 100,000 have spoken out. Police sergeant (retired) M.A. Oleinik explains why: “I know from talking to people that they are afraid to sign the appeal.”
These fears are not unreasonable, given Russia's tragic history and the realities of today. It is, however, abundantly clear that if we cannot overcome them, we will deprive the next generations of a future, condemning the country to rot and a slow death.
Reading these letters is hard work, because one cannot remain indifferent to the pain that infuses every line. At the same time they inspire hope, because they confirm that there are many more thinking people in Russia who are not indifferent to her fate than one might conclude from studying the results of official social surveys.
Special responsibility of the professional elite
There are those who have considerably more opportunities than the student from Blagoveshchensk to stop the process of decay and they must bear special responsibility for the failure of the state: the professional elite – senior managers and officials, businessmen, officers, scientists and academics, cultural and media figures. The Putin regime would be unable to function without the loyalty, at the very least passive, of these several thousand people. They all realise that today's government, which is busily establishing a lifetime term for itself, is incompatible with the continued existence of the country. An unanimous 'no' from this slim layer of society would enable Russia to step back from the edge of the precipice.
"The shameful bargain entered into by Putin and his shadow has removed the last shred of their legitimacy and their kleptocratic regime, now established as a lifetime personal dictatorship, is doomed to come crashing down sooner or later."
Some of them will have been consoling themselves for four years with the hope of a special titbit from Medvedev. Others will try to use the myth bandied about by the sociologists at court of the people's love for the 'national leader' to justify their conformism. In all probability none of them wants to risk losing the sweet splashes of oil that drip down to them from the head table. Many of them will, of course, think that they always have an exit strategy – through the gates of Sheremetyevo Airport. But the events of 24 September will give even these people cause for serious thought.
The shameful bargain entered into by Putin and his shadow has removed the last shred of their legitimacy and their kleptocratic regime, now established as a lifetime personal dictatorship, is doomed to come crashing down sooner or later.
The choice remaining to citizens of Russia is clear: urgent amPutation or imminent gangrene in all the national organism's social tissues. Our country or its death.