Staunton, August 10 – President Dmitry Medvedev has replaced more than a third of the heads of federal subjects over the last two years, producing a greater change in personnel at that level than over the previous decade and thereby engineering “a genuine cadres revolution,” according to commentator Leonid Radzikhovsky.
In today’s “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” the Moscow political scientist points out that part of the reason for this massive change over so short a period is that there had been so little change earlier, a pattern that meant many of the incumbents were now out of step with current developments in the country (www.rg.ru/2010/08/10/radz.html).
“Life has changed fantastically between 1990 and 2010,” Radzikhovsky says, and anyone who came to office at the start of that period could hardly be capable of dealing with the situation now. And Medvedev has promoted a serious change: Three years ago, there were 12 regional heads who had been in office since 1990-91; now, there are only three.
Most of those who have retired or been retired, the Moscow analyst continues, have been given a position of honor in the Federation Council, “which ever more resembles a club of ex-governors.” A few now have “a feudal pension.” Others have taken more junior posts. Only Aleksandr Khloponin has been elevated to vice premier “responsible for the North Caucasus.”
But far more important than what has happened to those who have departed, Radzikhovsky argues, is the nature of those who have taken their place. While some are “consistent bureaucrats” must like their predecessors, even they are different because they are ten to 20 years younger.
“The overwhelming majority of ‘the new Russian governors,’ the analyst suggests, “represent a different kind” of individual altogether. They are exemplars of the businessman-bureaucrat, people who “typically in the 1990s were businessmen and in the 2000s part of the powers that be.”
More than that, however, “all these people were unusual: to create a business in the 1990s” and not to have been killed, exiled or put in jail and then “to be able to enter the power structures in the 2000s are far from simple tasks.” No one without significant “organizational abilities, toughness and charisma” could have done so. In short, they are “strong” people.
In short and “contrary to the mantras popular among the population and the opposition,” who are angry about the elimination of gubernatorial elections, “cadres are changing and quite energetically and the heads of the regions are becoming not ‘Chekists,’ ‘Leningraders’, or ‘friends and relatives’ of Putin and Medvedev.”
Instead, these are energetic and “as a rule, wealthy and [even] VERY wealthy” people who as a result “are not so interested in taking bribes” as others might be. Consequently, Radzikhovsky suggests, they may be more prepared than their predecessors to take on corruption and fight for modernization.
Most opposition figures have assumed that there cannot be any change in the governors until there are “honest elections,” but in fact, Medvedev is carrying out at least as important a change by his selection of governors of a new type, people who might not be elected if they had to run but who will pursue a different course than those they replaced.
And that in turn, as Radzikhovsky documents, with lists of all those who fall into the various categories he describes, constitutes “a cadres revolution,” even if as he also writes, it is one that has been largely ignored by the opposition and by Russians whose lives these changes will certainly affect.