Maxim Trudolyubov https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/11295/all cached version 14/07/2018 11:40:36 en Nothing will ever be the same again… https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/nothing-will-ever-be-same-again%E2%80%A6 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img class="image-right" style="float: right;" src="http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/navalny/10064515/86680/86680_original.jpg" alt="" width="160" />The recent hotly-contested Moscow mayoral election ended, as predicted, with victory for government candidate Sergey Sobyanin. But Aleksey Navalny did much better than expected, as did opposition candidates who won in other big cities. Maxim Trudolyubov considers the very considerable significance of these elections</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">This week, Russia entered a new political reality. The unexpectedly strong opposition showings in Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk and Petrozavodsk are of great event.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p class="p1"><strong>Moscow election:&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="p1"><strong>Official result: Sobyanin - 51.37%; Navalny - 27.24%&nbsp;<br />Alternative exit poll (SMS-TsIK): Sobyanin - 49.45%, Navalny - 28.52%<br />(50% needed to avoid second round run-off)&nbsp;</strong></p></blockquote><p class="p1"><span>Some of the post-election talk in Russia has concentrated on the people who didn&rsquo;t turn out to vote. The turn-out, of course, was derisory - 32%. But voting in Russia is not yet obligatory, as, for instance, in Australia. Not voting is also a choice.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">When you go to vote, on the other hand, it&rsquo;s best to know why you&rsquo;re doing it. This time anyone who really wanted to vote, and knew why they wanted to vote, did so. In the past the people who knew what they were voting for were mainly from the public sector, pensioners and others who depend on the state. They used to turn out to support the source of their livelihood (or rather lack of it).&nbsp; Now they are confused, perhaps because they&rsquo;ve realized just how much is lacking.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">Sunday&rsquo;s election attracted many more voters who are less dependent (or would like to be less dependent) on the state.&nbsp; But they also made another thing clear: automatic &lsquo;pensioner&rsquo; voting for the leadership is a thing of the past. And in the big cities, television is no longer a tool for the authorities.</p><p class="p1"><img src="http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/navalny/10064515/86680/86680_original.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Navalny supporters demand a recount at a post-election rally (just 1.38% separated their man from a second round). Despite his best efforts to obtain legitimacy through election, the closeness of the result and disparity with the exit polls are likely to leave a grey cloud over Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's new term.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In this new situation the low turnout most probably helped the new candidates, rather than those already in post. In the stand off between the old and the new names, the new triumphed much more quickly than the organisers could have hoped. A quite remarkable feature of the election was the feebleness of the administrative party system developed by the Kremlin around those already in post, the incumbents who &lsquo;carry out their duties&rsquo;.&nbsp; In a word, the old officials. This weakness highlights the absence of a real system.</p> <p class="p1">The recent electoral campaign obviously had an over-arching objective, set by the people who consider themselves in charge of developing and running Russian politics. The ostensible reason for this was to ensure &lsquo;political competition, transparency and lawful electoral procedures&rsquo; (this is politician Konstantin Kostin relaying the words of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17130834">Vyacheslav Volodin</a> in a recent <em>Vedomosti</em> article).&nbsp; We have no idea how they sold this objective to Vladimir Putin, nor indeed why the decision was taken to allow Navalny to stand. Possibly the intention really was to act as a spoiler for Sergei Sobyanin with his (apparently) enormous potential support and long-term plans.</p> <p class="p1">Whatever the actual rationale was for this idea, the experiment has demonstrated to its authors the complete absence of a reliable working institutional structure. And, what is even sadder for the Kremlin, its own candidates do not enjoy any substantive voluntary support. Without the most elementary props &ndash; banning candidates from standing, mass vote rigging, and bribery &ndash; the structure collapses. New people are starting to win, people who think and act, rather than just devouring the budget.</p> <blockquote><p class="p1"><strong><em>The Navalny campaign and Sobyanin&rsquo;s were as different as chalk and cheese.&nbsp; In an open fight between the ages, Iron couldn&rsquo;t fail to triumph over Stone. &nbsp;</em></strong></p></blockquote> <p class="p1">As soon as the playing field becomes even vaguely level, people who are able to think for themselves triumph over those who can&rsquo;t manage without their props. Navalny ran a campaign which, even by world standards, was innovative, active and effective. If political blogger <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/leonid-volkov">Leonid Volkov</a> and his team had had more time, Navalny would have won the Moscow mayoral election without any problems.&nbsp; His campaign and Sobyanin&rsquo;s were as different as chalk and cheese.&nbsp; In an open fight between the ages, Iron couldn&rsquo;t fail to triumph over Stone. &nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">One qualification is important: in the contest between generations and technologies, it&rsquo;s a question of politics rather than policies.</p> <p class="p1">Two words in support of Sergei Sobyanin. He is not a run of the mill official, because he tries to think and to act. But he concentrated on the city and urban life (however he understands them) i.e. on policies, not politics. Then for some reason he decided to become a political player too, but it was all much too hurried and so frenetic that it worked against him. His team may have had people from the new Iron Age, but Sobyanin continued to function in the old system of benchmarks and values.&nbsp; Politics, it seems, are weightier then policies, though the latter without the former is an impossibility.</p> <p class="p1">The whole experience of the Moscow (and <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-yekaterinburg-mayor-roizman/25100514.html">Yekaterinburg</a>) election is extremely important and will, I&rsquo;m sure, be subject to minutely detailed study. No future serious campaign in big Russian cities will be the same as the last.&nbsp; The new rules have already kicked in.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/grigorii-golosov/navalny-steps-into-ring">Navalny steps into the ring</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/navalny-effect">The Navalny effect</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Maxim Trudolyubov Tue, 10 Sep 2013 17:44:08 +0000 Maxim Trudolyubov 75301 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Life on an Island https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/life-on-island <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ria novosti building+logo.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Russia may be a huge land mass, but Maksim Trudolyubov believes it is better to think of it as a pattern of islands, divided not by geography but by a host of other factors. Here he looks at the island group he himself inhabits – the independent media – as it battles against the waves. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Russia is an archipelago. Of course it&rsquo;s not an island state. But Russia is nevertheless not a single territory; it is a gigantic ocean of a state containing numerous islands, each with its own social, political, economic and value system. </p> <p>In the part of the ocean filled with old academic institutions there are also islands of cutting edge science and scholarship, integrated with their counterparts around the world. In the business sector, composed mostly of structures dependent on the state, there are nevertheless vigorous, thriving global level companies. Among public servants, renowned as a body for their cynicism and corruption, <strong>there are some</strong> honest bureaucrats as well. The same goes for the media. One can find examples of innovative and independent activity in the ocean of servile and low quality propaganda organs known as the Russian media. </p> <h2><strong>The independent news island...</strong></h2> <p>The first, and for me the most important, media island comprises the independent mainstream news organisations that work on more or less the same principles as their counterparts in more developed markets &ndash; the newspapers <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedomosti">Vedomosti</a>, <a href="http://www.kommersant.com/about.asp">Kommersant</a> and Novaya Gazeta; the weekly <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://newtimes.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3DNewTimes%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3D99U%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=se1vUZKOGYHfOpmzgaAO&amp;ved=0CFoQ7gEwBQ">New Times</a>; the online <a href="http://en.gazeta.ru/">Gazeta.ru</a>; <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://www.forbes.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3Dforbes%2Brussia%2Bmagazine%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3DgIp%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26biw%3D1920%26bih%3D934&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=wuVvUf3KA4G6O__2gfAF&amp;ved">Forbes</a>, <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://esquire.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3Desquire%2Brussia%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26biw%3D1920%26bih%3D934&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=peZvUd-zNYrTPMu7gIAE&amp;sqi=2&amp;ved=0CDcQ7gEwAA">Esquire</a>, <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://bg.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3DBolshoi%2BGorod%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3DQ59%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=j-dvUdXzFoGqOtLUgNAD&amp;ved=0CDoQ7gEwAA">Bolshoi Gorod</a>, <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://www.afisha.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3DAfisha%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3Ds79%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=J-hvUfXvDMSwOc--gYgC&amp;ved=0CDsQ7gEwAA">Afisha</a> and a few other glossy publications with an independent editorial policy; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dozhd">Dozhd</a> TV channel, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_of_Moscow">Ekho Moskvy</a> radio and a few other radio stations. Adjoining it are internet platforms producing material of the same high quality as the mainstream media: <a href="http://slon.ru/">Slon.ru</a>, <a href="http://www.snob.ru/">Snob.ru</a> and <a href="http://lenta.ru/">Lenta.ru</a>. It is important to stress that these all work in a competitive market and follow strict ethical rules. Altogether we are taking about 1000-1500 journalists servicing several million readers, listeners and viewers. A potential audience for independent media can be estimated at up to 50 million people living in the ever-expanding large cities. Most of these cities (except for Moscow, St.Petersburg and very few others) lack any alternative to state-sponsored media. </p> <p>This island has a direct bridge linking it to the enormous social media archipelago that is home to social networks and the blogosphere. These rely on the professional media for information on public and political developments and events. According to a recent <a href="http://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/news/9020921/dobryj_gorshochek_pravdy)">article</a> [Russian link] in Vedemosti, direct re-postings of independent press material account for 38% of all the re-postings of politically orientated Facebook groups, and more than half of re-postings on VKontakte. (Another island, which I won&rsquo;t go into in this article, is the many entertainment media, including the tabloid press; the glossy magazines; the state owned TV channels, such as Kultura, where all political material is banned and non political websites such as <a href="http://www.gismeteo.ru/">gismeteo.ru</a> and <a href="http://www.lookatme.ru/">lookatme.ru</a>.)</p> <h2><strong>...and the ocean around it</strong></h2> <p>These all have to contend with the vast ocean of state controlled TV and other media. The Putin regime regards TV channels as strategic forces; they are strictly controlled and essentially mere conduits for official propaganda. They employ tens of thousands of people and cost billions of pounds per year, and their main job is to entertain and indoctrinate the Russian &lsquo;masses&rsquo; &ndash; the people who provide the ruling clique with its majority, come election time.</p> <p>While the independent media have a collective income of roughly &pound;130-200 million a year, those bankrolled by the state operate in billions. In the 2012 Budget RUB75.3bn (&pound;1.5bn) per year was allocated to the media, most of it <a href="http://lenta.ru/news/2012/07/12/budget1/">going</a> to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Russian-language_television_channels">television</a>. RUB5.5bn (&pound;115m) was allocated to print media, including official government publications. The state run news agencies <a href="http://en.rian.ru/">RIA Novosti </a>and <a href="http://www.itar-tass.com/en/">ITAR-TASS </a>receive RUB2.5bn (&pound;55m) and RUB1bn (&pound;21m) respectively. On top of that regional governments have in 2012 collectively spent about 90 billion rubles ($2.9 billion) to support all kinds of local media, <a href="http://www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article/421071/ubytok_ot_gosudarstva">estimated</a> Vasily Gatov of RIA Novosti's Media Lab<strong>.</strong></p><p><em>The Putin regime regards TV channels as strategic forces; they employ tens of thousands of people and cost billions of pounds per year, and their main job is to entertain and indoctrinate the Russian &lsquo;masses&rsquo; &ndash; the people who provide the ruling clique with its majority, come election time.</em></p><p>The official media are also major players in the monopoly advertising market. According to the Association of Communication Agencies, advert revenue of all TV channels reached 131 billion rubles ($4,2 billion) with the bulk of it going to Channel 1, the Russian State TV-Radio Company and NTV. The company <a href="http://www.vi.ru/pages.aspx?id=97ce9e37-a0f1-41e2-8099...">Video International</a>, which has a monopoly on TV advertising, is a subsidiary of the Russia Bank, whose majority owner is Yuri Kovalchuk, a friend of Vladimir Putin. Kovalchuk&rsquo;s company, <a href="http://www.rtlgroup.com/.../operationsothers_...">National Media Group</a>, is also the largest shareholder after the state in TV&rsquo;s Channel 1 (the state holds 51%of its shares, Kovalchuk 25%), as well as owning St Petersburg&rsquo;s Channel 5, the PEN-TV television company, Izvestiya newspaper and <a href="http://www.rusnovosti.ru/">Rusnovosti</a> radio station. Another, even larger consortium, <a href="http://www.gazprom-media.com/en/about.xml">Gazprom-Media Holding</a> , owns the NTV television company, the Ekho Moskvy&nbsp; and Citi-FM radio stations, the <a href="http://www.gazprom-media.com/en/press.xml?company_id=262">Seven Days</a> publishing house, and numerous other publications and radio and TV companies, as well as the RuTube video site (equivalent of YouTube).</p><p class="image-caption"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ria%20novosti%20building.jpg" alt="" width="460" />RIA Novosti, a state run news agency, is allocated a significant budget every year. Photo: (cc) Flickr/maial.info</p><p>The Russian state&rsquo;s massive presence in its country&rsquo;s media is the result of a systematic policy which began as soon as Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.&nbsp; Putin started his first presidential term by bringing ORT (now Channel 1) and NTV under state control. The process then continued, less by increasing direct state holdings in existing companies than by gradually re selling companies to trustworthy owners such as National Media Group and&nbsp; Gazprom-Media Holding. But direct state holdings grew as well, with the appearance of RT (Russia Today), an international multilingual TV news network conceived as a counterbalance to global broadcasters such as CNN and the BBC. Finance for RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS also increased, and since the end of last year ITAR-TASS, thanks to the efforts of its new director, whose previous job was in PR, has even been poaching journalists who are feeling increasingly unhappy in the independent sector (at Kommersant, for example, which has been going through a troubled period). </p> <h2><strong>Bad times for The New Times (and other independents)</strong></h2> <p>The independent media sphere is steadily shrinking. The daily Moscow News, now state owned, has returned to the newsstands after its change of ownership but was reformatted a few months ago and is now a popular, entertainment-orientated local rag. The quality online portal <a href="http://ria.ru/spravka/20130209/922020304.html">Openspace.ru</a> has closed down, and the weekly <a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/mobile/article/bolshoi-gorod-magazine-must-cut-costs-or-close/478568.html">Bolshoy Gorod</a> (Big City) is on the brink of closure. Another weekly, The New Times, may also disappear at any moment, and many other publications are facing financial problems.</p> <p>The past year has seen a wave of dismissals of editors known for their independent views, and critically minded bloggers are also under pressure. Rustem Adagamov, the most widely read contributor to the popular <a href="http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-02/04/livejournal-in-russia">Livejournal.com</a> site, has recently been forced to leave Russia to avoid highly dubious accusations of paedophilia (although no actual charges have been brought against him). Aleksei Navalny, the anticorruption campaigner and another high profile blogger, is at present <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21576430-alexei-navalnys-conviction-looks-likely-its-effects-are-uncertain-navalny-affair">on trial</a> for embezzling &pound;300,000 from a timber firm, a charge most independent experts regard as a complete fabrication. Kremlin's political managers prefer to operate obliquely: censorship is never open; people are never sacked for opposition to the regime (the one exception&nbsp; to this rule is Maksim Kovalsky, the ex editor of Vlast, a periodical that is part of the Kommersant group, fired in 2011 for publishing&nbsp; a photo depicting a ballot paper defaced by the caption, &lsquo;F... off, Putin&rsquo;). Publications and radio stations are closed for reasons ostensibly having nothing to do with politics. The main thing is that the machine should appear to be moving under its own steam, its workings&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; invisible to anyone other than media people themselves and foreign commentators. </p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/putin%20graffiti%202_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">'Dutin Pick': One of the two now-famous images, the publication of which has led to two top employees of Kommersant being fired and one having to resign. Photo: Darya Malyutina</span><em>Our rulers prefer to operate obliquely: censorship is never open; people are never sacked for opposition to the regime, publications and radio stations are closed for reasons ostensibly having nothing to do with politics.</em></p> <p>The chief instrument of control and pressure is, however, economic. All potential sources of finance are strictly monitored &ndash; the Kremlin knows exactly who they are. Private companies are vulnerable to blackmail over dodgy deals, and can be threatened with the loss of their business, while MPs can face the threat of losing their parliamentary immunity.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Publications with a strong public interest bias have real difficulty attracting advertising: no one wants their brands linked with publications what are out of favour with the regime, and advertisers are often openly threatened.</em></p> <p>Commercial backing is limited by the appalling state of the advertising sector, a situation only partly explainable by actual market conditions, including&nbsp; a global downward trend in advertising revenue in the traditional media. Since the start of this year the Russian press is longer able to carry ads for alcohol drinks: this single measure has deprived some papers of up to 15-20% of their income. Publications with a strong public interest bias have real difficulty attracting advertising: no one wants their brands linked with publications what are out of favour with the regime. Despite being high-quality publications the weekly New Times and the biweekly<strong> </strong>Bolshoy Gorod have practically no advertising income. </p> <p>The wrecking machine is encroaching not only on the media, but on other centres of free thinking, such as NGOs and independent research centres. The people who work for these are among the most valuable contributors to the independent media. To be an independent commentator in Russia today often means relying on grant funding from abroad, and organisations receiving such funding are under massive <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/27/vladimir-putin-crackdown-ngo-russia">attack</a> from the Kremlin. </p> <h2><strong>Worlds apart</strong></h2> <p>So, how is life on an island? The professional and corporate culture of &lsquo;oceanic&rsquo; media is very different from that of our &lsquo;island&rsquo;. Suffice it to say that paid-for content and deals with PR companies are the norm in the media owned or controlled by the state &ndash; and I&rsquo;m not even talking about material directly dictated by the government. And, unlike the &lsquo;island&rsquo; media, they either have a monopoly in their market sector or are completely independent of the market since they are financed by the state. </p> <p><em>We wake up each morning, amazed that we are still alive. We are like the inhabitants of the Maldives, who know that sooner or later their islands will disappear beneath the waves.</em></p> <p>The free and un-free media live in different worlds. The former operate in the marketplace, have codes of ethics, check facts, compete with one another for readers and advertisers, keep transparent accounts and pay taxes. The latter basically operate without rules. For them the market is a relative term, and fact checking and ethical principles are impossible since they have to ignore them to order. </p> <p>Independent Media are affected by the island lifestyle too. Their culture is a peculiar phenomenon whose roots run deeper than the Putin years. The country's free public sphere did shrank recently but it has always been small. Since the Gorbachev era of the late 1980s Russia's independent media have played the role of an absent public sphere. Back in the late Soviet times when the Russian society needed to digest the political and economic crisis and debate possible change journalists were delegated the role of speakers for the public, says Marat Guelman, contemporary art dealer and political consultant. It soon became clear that this sort of &ldquo;representative&rdquo; public sphere was not perfect: it glossed over some important issues and overemphasized those of lesser value to the general public. Some journalists proved prone to corruption or government pressure. Yet the legacy of this delegated public sphere has lived on. </p> <p>It became even more important under Putin. Ever since 2003, when liberal-minded Russians lost their representation in the parliament, the few surviving independent media have taken up the roles of advocates for the suppressed liberal values. Journalists who continued to enjoy freedom of speech became more outspoken and sometimes more biased because they felt the bottom-up pressure. Independent media had to become a quasi political party, <a href="http://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/news/11181781/uspehi_i_riski">writes</a> [in Russian] Maxim Glikin, an editor at Vedomosti. It's probably more than one party. Some highly opinionated media are serving as substitutes for all those parties that are absent in the parliament but are present in the Russian society. This lead to journalists becoming too active during last year's protest movement including organizing and co-ordinating rallies. This has given reasons to the authoritarian Russian state to harbour a grudge against all independent media regardless of their adherence to strict journalistic codes of conduct. </p> <p>We wake up each morning, amazed that we are still alive. We are like the inhabitants of the Maldives, who know that sooner or later their islands will disappear beneath the waves. There is no sign of the pressure lifting; on the contrary, we have reason to expect even more measures designed to &lsquo;neutralise&rsquo; the independent media sector. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>PS.</strong></p> <p><strong>openDemocracy Russia will be running two roundtables at the Perugia Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy on 26/27 April. For more details, visit:</strong><a href="http://www.journalismfestival.com/"><strong>&nbsp;journalismfestival.com</strong></a><strong>.&nbsp;Maxim Trudolyubov will be speaking on April 26th. For more information, see:&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2013/russias-protest-movement-and-the-media"><strong>Russia's protest movement and the media&nbsp;</strong></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/zygmunt-dzieciolowski-mumin-shakirov-natalya-sindeyeva/don%E2%80%99t-be-afraid-to-turn-on-tv">Don’t be afraid to turn on the TV!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasia-kirilenko/death-of-radio-liberty">The death of Radio Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-borogan/future-of-russias-i-curtain">The future of Russia&#039;s i-curtain </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/russian-journalists-poor-venal%E2%80%A6-but-usually-honest">Russian journalists: poor, venal… but (usually) honest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexey-sidorenko-oliver-carroll/people%E2%80%99s-web-russia%E2%80%99s-citizen-bloggers">The people’s web: Russia’s citizen bloggers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Civil society media Maxim Trudolyubov oDR@journalismfestival.com Beyond propaganda Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:23:06 +0000 Maxim Trudolyubov 72289 at https://www.opendemocracy.net See it like Putin https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/see-it-like-putin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/13.png" alt="" width="160" />Russia’s attitude to events in Syria and her stated determination to respect the viewpoints of both sides in that conflict is a cause for concern and reflection. It is, however, no more than another manifestation of President Putin’s aversion to the idea of any independence, for either his allies or his own citizens, says Maxim Trudolyubov</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It has become clear that Vladimir Putin’s efforts are directed less at trying to keep President Assad in power than at engineering a parting of the ways with minimal losses.&nbsp; Assad can’t be dumped immediately because that would be construed as a willingness to make concessions to the West or his remaining allies, which he cannot do. He will anyway need to forge a relationship with the possible new government of Syria.</p> <h3>Dependence at home and abroad</h3> <p>Putin’s strategy is not exactly popular with the rest of the world, and quite possibly even counterproductive. But it is a strategy. His foreign policy and alliances are governed by a principled aversion to independence.&nbsp; If Assad ceases to be ‘Putin’s man’ in the Middle East, then he’ll become someone else’s man.&nbsp; He will be dependent on someone else, and that presents a serious problem.</p><blockquote><p><em>'President Putin and his colleagues have been trying to limit the independence of their citizens within Russia for many years.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>‘For Putin and his cronies, there’s no such thing as genuine independence: if they are not paying, then someone else is. That’s the way of the world.’</p> <p>Putin’s domestic policies are governed by the same principle. ‘The folk wisdom is that “he who pays the piper calls the tune” and that’s a fact,’ as Putin said to the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov. ‘No one throws money around just like that.’ Fedotov had expressed doubts about the fairness of branding non-commercial organisations receiving funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents.’ Putin didn’t agree with him, and the law has already been passed: any civil society organisation in receipt of foreign funds now has to call itself an ‘agent.’&nbsp;</p> <p>Putin is very fond of this folk wisdom and often quotes it. Moreover, there is a degree of truth in it: people are employed and, yes, they receive money for the services they offer, especially if they’re lawyers or lobbyists.&nbsp; But the formula ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ cannot be used to encompass all types of human relations.</p> <p>For Putin and his cronies, the piper principle is a universal truth. In their world there’s no such thing as genuine independence: if they are not paying, then someone else is. That’s the way of the world.</p> <h3>The chief provider</h3> <p>President Putin and his colleagues have been trying to limit the independence of their citizens within Russia for many years. The label ‘foreign agents’ for non-commercial organisations is only the latest idea. Other ideas have been around for longer, such as, for instance, the plan to nationalise the funded component of their citizens’ pension savings. This issue is currently being considered as part of the efforts to solve the problem of the shortfall in the Pension Fund of Russia. It will probably be solved by transferring the funded component of pensions to the state as a way of closing the gap, rather than by broadening the options for saving, which would allow people more freedom of choice in deciding their personal finances. No one in Russia should be under any illusion as to who is the chief provider.</p> <p>Other ideas are even older, such as the state’s continued refusal to uphold the right to private property. Protected private property would, after all, be a basis for independence. To uphold that right, courts would have to be independent; the independence of the courts would presuppose the supremacy of the law over force and money, which, in its turn, would mean the police and other law-enforcers having to observe the law. The law-enforcement system is kept in its antediluvian state for good reason: it would therwise be upholding citizens’ rights, i.e. their independence.</p><p>Relations between Moscow and the regions are essentially part of the same question of independence — not of individuals from the state but of whole sections of the country from Moscow. What the regions themselves want is partial independence, which would simply allow them to take more independent decisions.</p><blockquote><p>‘While Putin is in power [there will be no institutional development], because the existence of such independent institutions, which cannot be controlled by a telephone call, contradicts his worldview.'</p></blockquote> <p>In all the above cases the issue is material independence. Spiritual independence is a topic for another time and outside the remit of this article.</p> <h3>Inside or outside the tent?</h3> <p>The aversion to independence is inseparable from the logical instincts of the security services and the criminal world, which can be summed up as ‘us and them,’ or inside/outside the tent.&nbsp; This is the origin of the dogma of dependence: dependent – one of ours, independent – not.</p> <p>This apparently simple rule is the source of many paradoxical consequences in Russian domestic policy. ‘Our man’ can be an appalling manager, completely lose his reputation, steal, or kill people by dangerous driving.&nbsp; But he is still one of us. And this is how managers in state corporations, mayors and governors remain in their posts, when they should be prosecuted for their activities. The same rule explains the way decisions are taken to support companies: at times of crisis the Russian government will always support the shareholders, rather than the employees of the bankrupt companies. In essence, therefore, the state is paying the inefficient owners so that they can remain at the helm of socially significant enterprises.</p> <p>Such businessmen may be marked as ‘not one of us’ by their money, investments, home, family and citizenship. But they are actually inside the tent, in the sense that Putin both understands and controls the source of their income (the production and export of metals, for instance). It works the other way round too: under the new law governing demonstrations, Russian citizens incautious enough to go out on to the square of their home town at the wrong time will be at risk of losing both liberty and money.</p><blockquote><p><em>'The dependence principle also means that Putin is implacably opposed to institutional development, which presupposes courts independent of the state, citizens’ rights, property rights and other autonomous institutions.'&nbsp;</em><em></em></p></blockquote> <p>The dependence principle also means that Putin is implacably opposed to institutional development, which presupposes courts independent of the state, citizens’ rights, property rights and other autonomous institutions. While he is in power, none of this will be allowed to happen, because the existence of such independent institutions, which cannot be controlled by a telephone call, contradicts his worldview.</p> <p>In this picture, man is a creature able to work for money, but unable to be loyal. So those who are ‘one of us’ are actually just dependent. They deserve no respect, because they are working for money. The fact that their money, often of very doubtful origin, comes from people ‘inside the tent’ keeps the recipients on side. Others get the other kind of money and are definitely outside the tent, even if their money is completely transparent and honest.&nbsp;</p><p>Photo: Kremlin.ru</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-rogov/limits-of-putin%E2%80%99s-power">The limits of Putin’s power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-travin/fathers-and-sons-generational-gap-in-russian-opposition">Fathers and sons: a generational gap in the Russian opposition?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/julia-pettengill/putin%E2%80%99s-draconian-new-laws-%E2%80%93-sign-of-his-limited-options">Putin’s draconian new laws – a sign of his limited options? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artemy-troitsky/vlad-putin-and-loneliness-of-long-distance-president">Vlad Putin and the loneliness of the long distance president </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrew-wilson/putin-returns-but-will-russia-revert-to-%E2%80%98virtual-democracy%E2%80%99">Putin returns, but will Russia revert to ‘virtual democracy’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/russian-politics-is-kudrin-cure-for-putin%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98tandem-malaise%E2%80%99">Russian politics: is Kudrin the cure for Putin’s ‘tandem malaise’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-what-chance-%E2%80%98soft%E2%80%99-putin">Crisis planning: what chance a ‘soft’ Putin?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/crisis-planning-which-way-forward-for-putin%E2%80%99s-regime">Crisis planning: which way forward for Putin’s regime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/why-putin-still-has-lot-to-learn-from-machiavelli">Why Putin still has a lot to learn from Machiavelli</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-pastukhov/vladimir-putin-assessing-his-place-in-history">Vladimir Putin: his place in history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/putin_4025.jsp">Vladimir Putin, &quot;Soviet man&quot; who missed class</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Democracy and government democracy & power russia & eurasia russia Maxim Trudolyubov Politics Wed, 01 Aug 2012 17:45:52 +0000 Maxim Trudolyubov 67339 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Maxim Trudolyubov https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/maxim-trudolyubov <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maxim Trudolyubov </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Trudolyubov </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Moscow </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-country"> <div class="field-label">Country:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Maxim Trudolyubov</strong> is the Opinion Page Editor and columnist for Russia’s most influential, independent business daily Vedomosti (founded by Financial Times and Wall Street Journal). He is also Associate Director at the Center for New Media and&nbsp;Society at the New Economic School, Moscow.</p> Maxim Trudolyubov Tue, 31 Jul 2012 18:26:03 +0000 Maxim Trudolyubov 67340 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Kremlin’s Revolutionaries https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-trudolyubov/kremlin%E2%80%99s-revolutionaries <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/rev_landscape.png" alt="Ukraine_Euro" width="160" /></p> <p>Revolution may be a dirty word in Russia, but journalist Maхim Trudolyubov argues that conditions for revolution are ripening, and that those responsible are not opposition forces outside the Kremlin, but those working within its walls.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Revolutions are no use to anyone in Russia. They bring back bad memories of the Soviet revolution myth, which has long ago been consigned to the dustbin of history.But the <a href="http://www.fpri.org/enotes/200901.kurth.samuelhuntingtonideashaveconsequences.html">existing political institutions are so inadequate</a> that political action is ready to overflow. Any awkward movement could tip the delicate balance. </p> <h3><strong>Russians just want the good life</strong></h3> <p>Russians have an extremely negative attitude to both the word ‘revolution’ (redolent of Soviet slogans), and to its potential occurrence (unrest, poverty). Russian citizens has had enough of extremes. They want to live in a consumer society, confident in themselves and their economic future. They want a good education for their children, good health centres and hospitals, personal safety, decent roads and a general respect for the rule of law. That is the conclusion reached by the economist Mikhail Dmitriev in his recent <a href="///C:/Users/ZDZ/Dropbox/oDR%20server/5)%20Ready%20to%20be%20posted%20(edited%20and%20prepared)/(http:/www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/news/1779345/ustalost_zrelost_konfrontaciya)">major study on public attitudes</a> to government. Money is more important for Russians than for many Europeans. The latest European Social Survey shows Russia in top place out of 26 countries in the importance its population places on money and wealth.</p> <blockquote><p><em>'Russian citizens have had enough of extremes. They want to live in a consumer society, confident in themselves and their economic future.'</em></p></blockquote><p>Younger Russians also <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/04/daily-chart?page=2">value a high salary</a> much more than their western peers (85% of those polled), and consider money the most important element of a good life (‘European Youth in a Global Context’, The Foundation for Political Innovation, <a href="http://demoscope.ru/">demoscope.ru</a>). Russians won’t work for peanuts: only 22%, fewer than in any other country, are prepared to ‘do my work conscientiously, whatever the salary’. </p> <h3>Too much control creates a powder keg</h3> <p>The Kremlin, naturally, is also opposed to revolution. Since 2003 (the year of Georgia’s Rose Revolution) and to this day Putin's main concern has been to avoid revolution. This is why government money and spin doctors have had such a significant input in elections throughout the former USSR, attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to prevent the election of undesirable candidates. It is also why almost all the significant changes in the rules of the game in Russia itself – up to and including the new draconian amendments to the law on demonstrations and rallies – are also designed to avert revolution.</p> <p>But despite all their efforts, it is the country’s current rulers that have created the conditions for revolution. By rewriting Russia’s electoral legislation (the last few years have seen amendments to 55 laws relating to electoral processes), the Kremlin’s political managers have made elections controllable. Businesses have been intimidated by expropriation, their owners prevented from financing undesirable political activity. The development of a civil society has been strangled by restrictions on the not-for-profit sector. The entire thrust of Putin’s policies has been to eliminate everything natural and unpredictable.</p> <p>The result has been that all genuine, not imitation, political activity has been excluded from the political arena. The Kremlin’s apparatchiks spent years working out how to restrict the opposition’s legal room to manoeuvre, and they succeeded: they destroyed the conditions necessary for the development of a political mainstream. And by doing so, they created a powder keg.</p> <h3>There is no centre in Russian politics</h3> <p>Observers of European politics often talk about the need to preserve the political centre in many of the region’s countries. Political extremism is becoming stronger in quite a few national parliaments, just as in the first half of the 20th century (cf. Aristides Hatzis’s article <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0a26ab78-b577-11e1-ab92-00144feabdc0.html">‘The Hammer, Sickle and Swastika</a> ’ in the Financial Times of 18th June). </p> <p>But if in Europe it’s a question of preserving the centre, in Russia it needs to be created. We have nothing to return to. What we have now is not just the beginning of political radicalisation. Politics in Russia is radical by definition.</p><blockquote><p><span>The Kremlin’s apparatchiks spent years working out how to restrict the opposition’s legal room to manoeuvre, and they succeeded: they destroyed the conditions necessary for the development of a political mainstream. And by doing so, they created a powder keg</span></p></blockquote> <p>The ruling group operates within the ruling parties, through governmental structures and managed elections. The opposition operates on the streets, on the internet and through the independent media. There are no legal means for the different factions to discover who has the greater public support: no free elections. That is why street rallies are the only means available for moving the political process forward. And they are of course extremely volatile and capable of turning into uncontrollable conflict at any moment.</p> <p>If we accept the premise that the Kremlin’s main concern is stability, then it is the Kremlin that should be trying to create a political centre. It could have allowed the growth of a socialist party, on the one hand, and a conservative party, on the other. But it has not. So Russia’s ruling elite has only its interior troops to turn to, to secure its continuing place in the sun. </p> <h3>The Fear Factor</h3> <p>This is why revolution is absolutely essential in today’s Russia. The paradox is that its initiators are not the country’s citizens, but its rulers. The regime is radical because it has prevented the appearance of a political centre. Recently its radicalism has become conclusive: the political rules of the game have been toughened even further. A law has just been passed which restricts people’s right to take part in the only form of political activity available to them – rallies and demonstrations. The new law has introduced fines of up to 300,000 roubles (an average annual income) for taking part in unauthorized protests. Since law enforcement is chronically compromised by arbitrary rule, it is the police and the investigators who are going to decide who is or isn’t breaking the law. </p> <p>This ultimate curtailment of legal outlets for political dialogue seems to imply only one thing. The Kremlin is determined not to avoid confrontation, but on the contrary to keep fuelling it. The Kremlin needs to keep alive the fear of a violent uprising. This is why the police and the investigators enjoy a licence to prosecute the «enemies» of the regime in an arbitrary fashion. It's an emergency after all. The regime's ability to crush an uprising is what the ruling group needs to restore the fading trust of its country's citizens. An emergency can be profitable too: one can bend rules, ostensibly for reasons of security, and create «strategic» companies that enjoy special privileges. The fear of a revolution, the balancing on the brink, is thus the key factor behind the regime's survival. </p><blockquote><p><em>'The Kremlin needs to keep alive the fear of a violent uprising. This is why the police and the investigators enjoy a licence to prosecute the «enemies» of the regime in an arbitrary fashion.'</em></p></blockquote><p>In other words, Russia is divided not between radical and moderate parties, which in any case don’t exist, but between those who would like to occupy the centre (the majority) and those who need a constant state of emergency. You only have to watch the news: enormous contracts being given to the president’s cronies. That’s how an emergency can be turned into dollars and euros. </p> <p>The vast majority of Russians are in agreement about one thing – the need for a peaceful political process with free elections and a formalised procedure for the handover of power. And there is a very small group of people who are also in agreement about one thing – that rules are unnecessary, because in a country whose government is based on the rule of law they will be out of power. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/julia-pettengill/putin%E2%80%99s-draconian-new-laws-%E2%80%93-sign-of-his-limited-options">Putin’s draconian new laws – a sign of his limited options? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/susanne-sternthal/optimism-in-diversity-moscow%E2%80%99s-march-of-millions">Optimism in diversity? Moscow’s March of Millions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-borogan-andrei-soldatov/what-force-and-forces-can-kremlin-use-against-opposition">What force (and forces) can the Kremlin use against the opposition?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitri-travin/is-russia%E2%80%99s-protest-movement-flash-in-pan">Is Russia’s protest movement a flash in the pan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/shamil-yenikeyeff/big-business-under-threat-in-putin%E2%80%99s-russia">Big business under threat in Putin’s Russia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/artemy-troitsky/vlad-putin-and-loneliness-of-long-distance-president">Vlad Putin and the loneliness of the long distance president </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tikhon-dzyadko/how-moscow-protesters-turned-from-angry-urbanites-into-enraged-citizens">How Moscow protesters turned from angry urbanites into enraged citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/lev-rubinstein/cosmonauts-have-landed-tales-from-occupied-moscow">The cosmonauts have landed: tales from an occupied Moscow </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrew-wilson/putin-returns-but-will-russia-revert-to-%E2%80%98virtual-democracy%E2%80%99">Putin returns, but will Russia revert to ‘virtual democracy’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-konchalovsky/living-legacy-of-russia%E2%80%99s-slavery">The living legacy of Russia’s slavery</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/russia-theme/the-end-of-russia">The end of Russia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Democracy and government democracy & power russia & eurasia russia Maxim Trudolyubov Politics Wed, 20 Jun 2012 15:21:15 +0000 Maxim Trudolyubov 66576 at https://www.opendemocracy.net