Friday, October 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev Urged to Create ‘Parallel Power Vertical’ to Modernize Russia

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 30 – “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reports today that the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, whose advisory board is headed by Dmitry Medvedev, has recommended to the Russian president that he create his own competing “power vertical” to promote the modernization of Russia.
According to the paper, the proposed “Medvedev vertical,” which would consist of those committed to a new and modernized Russia would initially co-exist with the one established and run by Vladimir Putin but over time would gradually “drive out” the old from various spheres of Russian life (
The proposal, which bears the title “The Modernization of Russia as the Construction of a New State,” was prepared by various experts and officials under the direction of the Institute’s director Igor Yurgens in the form of a proposal for Medvedev’s upcoming annual message to the Federal Assembly.
Its authors, “Nezavisimaya” says, are “certain that it is impossible to realize the plans for the modernization of the country under the conditions of the rule of the Putin elite” but the current economic crisis means that now is not the time to “dismantle” Putin’s vertical. “The way out” of this impasse, they say, is “the creation of a parallel power vertical.”
The report calls for more than “the formation of as shadow government or parliament.” Instead, “the Medvedev parallel” would involve “the organization of two types of staffs: extraordinary and strategic,” the former to block “the de-modernization” of the country that Putin’s vertical has promoted and the latter to promote modernization.
These two staffs, the report continues, “constitute a parallel power vertical subordinate directly to the president and responsible for responding to the sharpest challenges [Moscow currently faces] and also [for the development of] a strategy of development of Russia,” even as the current bureaucracy “supports the existing social system.”
The current bureaucracy, one headed and directed by the prime minister, is important in many respects, the report’s authors, including political scientist Mikhail Remizov, say, but it cannot by itself promote the kind of radical change Russia needs and that Medvedev has talked about. For that, Russia needs “extraordinary” and parallel institutions.
The authors of the report acknowledge that relations between the new “Medvedev” vertical they are calling for and the old “Putin” vertical which already exists may not be easy, but one author, Ilya Ponomaryev, a Just Russia Duma deputy, says that the creation of such intra-elite “competition” is not their intention.
The “modernizing” vertical, he told “Nezavisimaya,” is “by its essence extraordinary,” using the word that Lenin used for the Cheka at the dawn of Soviet power. “Its task,” Ponomaryev continues, “is to complete the transition to the situation which we would like to see in the future” and then “transform itself” and replace the existing bureaucracy.
Not surprisingly, the paper says, many Moscow commentators are quite critical of this report. Gleb Pavlovsky, the president of the Effective Politics Foundation, described the proposal as “comic” and “banal,” a piece of paper that recalls the situation of the early 1990s when “parallel to the Union vertical of power was established a Russian one.”
More generally, Pavlovsky continues, this report reflects “an old Russian idea” – if a new leader cannot break the old bureaucracy, then he will try to create a new one, “a model [which in Russian conditions] leads only to the multiplication of the size of the bureaucracy” rather than any real or at least immediate change.
In the current environment, he says, “this is simply the shortest path to throw us back into the Stone Age. Modernization is an all-embracing process which involves an enormous number of citizens” and cannot be created by decree from above, however much leaders are committed to “modernization.”
Mikhail Delyagin, the head of the Moscow Institute of the Problems of Globalization, however, says that the creation of such parallel institutions is “a typically Russian path to the creation of a new elite. Of course,” he continues, the proposed vertical “will in no way be a modernized one but it will be a Medvedev vertical against a Putin one.”
Every time an “energetic leader” has come to power in Russia, he has sought to create his own bureaucracy in place of the one that he found. “thus, Ivan the Terrible founded the oprichniki,” Peter the Great, the table of ranks for the nobility, and Stalin, his peoples commissars and special agents.
“The slogans [that leaders may employ] can be any one at all – from modernization to modernism,” Delyagin argues, but the message is the same: “it is senseless to reform the old system, it is necessary to build a new one. But this correct idea can exist in the most stupid and funny forms – including talk about modernization and innovations.”

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