Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Pavlovsky’s ‘Fantasies’ Point to Bankruptcy of Putin’s Approach, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 8 – Gleb Pavlovsky’s recent effort to claim “Vekhi” as “our book” in the course of singing the praises of Vladimir Putin’s regime as a realization of tsarist-era Prime Minister Petr Stolypin’s goals for Russia highlight the intellectual and political bankruptcy of the current Russian government, according to a Moscow commentator.
In her latest essay on Russian politics, Irina Pavlova takes aim at pro-Kremlin political technologist Pavlovsky and also at those in both Russia and the West who are taken in by his efforts to portray the Russian Federation today as having anything to do with a law-based democratic state (
Two weeks ago, in advance of the centennial of the publication of “Vekhi,” a collection of seminal essays by Russian intellectuals discouraged by the events of 1905, Pavlovsky claimed that “Vekhi” is “our book,” thus, in Pavlova’s argument, “placing himself and his comrades in arms at the Effective Politics Foundation in the same rank as the authors of ‘Vekhi.’”
“In his rich imagination,” she continues, Putin is presented as “the completer of the program of Stolypin” and Pavlovsky himself is equated with “Vekhi” author Petr Struve, who indeed argued that the government must organize a Duma majority and have the initiative on all matters political.
But both in that essay ( and in a subsequent one (, Pavlovsky does not “limit himself” to these fantasies alone but rather presents a description of contemporary Russia which is either entirely cynical or a display of just how out of touch he and the regime are with reality.
The current Putin-Medvedev regime -- which Pavlova calls “a criminal dictatorship of the special services of the Stalinist type constructed not without [Pavlovsky’s] help -- the Moscow political technologist describes as “the first non-communist intellectual regime in the history of Russia.”
Unfortunately, Pavlova continues, “one must acknowledge that in [Russia itself] and in the world as a whole up to now there are not a few people who are prepared to deceive themselves when they look at the façade of the Kremlin regime which is beautified not only by euphemisms like ‘sovereign democracy’ and declarations that ‘Putin is the new Stolypin.’”
But even the briefest exposure to reality not mediated by pro-Kremlin media or even a careful reading of its servants like Pavlovsky is enough to show how absurd and fraudulent such assertions are, Pavlova says, however widely they are put about and accepted by people who consider themselves experts on Russian politics.
Many even manage to convince themselves, she continues, that the carefully orchestrated “pluralism” of opinion in the media including the criticism by some members of the media in the special “spaces” allotted to them by the regime is evidence of the institutionalization of democracy in Russia.
But while there are differences of opinion in Russia – “the Putin regime has not yet been able to solve the task of ‘internal reconciliation’” because there are still those who continue to disagree, Pavlova points out – that is not evidence of democracy in fact or of the intent of the regime as Pavlovsky shows by his remarks.
Pavlovsky writes that “our political scene is asymmetrical,” by which he means, Pavlova says, that “the Putin majority” dominates the center of the political system and will not give up power to anyone. The current opposition can function only if it operates according to conditions laid down by the Kremlin.
Those conditions, which Pavlovsky argues constitute “a system,” define “a narrow but real field of play for those who want to change it within the framework of the constitutional consensus.” But those who do take part must recognize that the regime is not prepared to “give too much.”
From the point of view of those in power and those like Pavlovsky who sing the praises of that regime, Pavlova suggests, “a victory by [their] opponents would be equal to ‘the victory of a virus or a worm,’” and would lead to “a new cycle of times of troubles and to the destruction of [Russian] statehood as such.”
“It is no discovery” to find that Pavlovsky is “an unqualified state person,” the Moscow commentator says. For him, Russian authoritarianism is “’power based on knowledge.’” If he had been alive before 1917, he would have been “in one rank with Russian conservatives” who defended the tsarist system.
But the Moscow political technologist does not appear to recognize that tsarist autocracy was as different from the authoritarianism of the Russian state which has been built over the last decade as “Petr Stolypin, who attempted to lay the foundations of a legal state with guarantees of civic freedoms is from Vladimir Putin.”
“Contemporary Russian authoritarianism” of the type Pavlovsky prefers, Pavlova continues, is “a degenerated version of pre-revolutionary autocracy,” one based on force and lies and depriving the country of yet another generation and yet another decade in its historical development.
Pavlovsky, she notes, argues that “the Putin result is the occasion and basis for further moves forward.” But she asks rhetorically, “just where?” “Toward greater enserfment of society and then a new explosion and again through the latest stabilization to a still more primitive level and with worsened human material?” Or some other way?
“It is time finally to understand,” she writes, “those who pretend to a knowledge of the history of the fatherland and to recognize that this is not simply a traditional Russian march in circles” because “every time stabilization occurs at a lower level up until the complete degradation of the country and its disappearance from the map of the world.”
For Russia as for everyone else, “the essence of the [political] problem is simple: either freedom and law, or forced and arbitrariness. But freedom for all and law for all, and not as in Russia now, freedom for the powers that be and for the elect and law for those subordinate to them.”
Many people, including presumably Pavlovsky, are impressed by the fact that there are two people with law degrees in power in Russia now, and “one of them recently declared that he has not only a legal education but also a legal way of thinking.” Unfortunately, Pavlova says, “no sign of legal consciousness can yet be observed in either.”
Tragically, she writes, the legal consciousness that people like Stolypin tried to introduce was “pulled out by the roots” in Soviet times. And she quotes Stalin’s henchman Lazar Kaganovich to the effect that Bolsheviks “reject the term legal state” as being something foreign to “the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the state.”
These words were pronounced at the Moscow Institute of Soviet Construction and Law. Unfortunately, they could be repeated in only slightly modified form by Pavlovsky and those he admires, especially as Russia again proceeds along its “special path, with shouts about its special spirituality and exclusiveness being swallowed up by a mix of lies, illegality and theft.”

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