Monday, July 12, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russia Today Lacks a State in the Usual Sense, Moscow Scholar Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 12 – What people call the state in Russia is not “a system of public institutions” as the state is in Western countrie but rather “a mechanism for the enrichment of the powers that be who control the excessively privatized substance called only by mistake is called the Russian Federation,” according to a leading Moscow political scientist.
In an interview posted on, Tatyana Vorozheykina, who teaches at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences, argues that the Russian state at the present time is “in fact a private corporation for the servicing of the private interests of a narrow group of people” (
And what is more, Vorozheykina says, “everyone knows these people. They come from one city, from one agency, from one dacha cooperative” – an obvious reference to the St. Petersburg mafia of Vladimir Putin. “And the essential quality of this arrangement of power is one involving the translation of orders, ideas and opinions from the top to the bottom.”
Only “if we begin in relation to the state and among ourselves to insist on a different type of social behavior, a type of cooperation, discussion and respect for the worth of another, only then will the state also begin to change,” with influence passing not from the top down but from the bottom up.
According to Vorozheykina, the notion that political life consists of “bosses” speaking to “fools” is “the essence of Russian power.” Moreover, she says, “this is a dead end in civilizational and human relations and in economics as well because such an individual cannot be the carrier of modernization … In unfreedom, innovations will not multiply.”
The Moscow scholar’s comments came as part of a discussion of the possibilities for Russia to modernize. Vorozheykina suggested that real modernization will take time and require steps that will lead individuals to defend themselves and their interests against the state rather than simply have the state build one or another new project.
That “process,” she argued, “must grow from below and not on orders of the powers that be and not on orders by the opposition. The art of the opposition consists in establishing fruitful cooperation and interrelationships with various initiative groups as happened in Poland at the end of the 1980s and in Brazil over the last 20 years.”
Asked for her reaction to the criticism of those on the left “who assert that even Western governments embody the power of capital,” the Moscow scholar said she agreed with some of this but believes that “the democratic arrangement of the state is already not a Western value but a universal one.”
Her interviewer then enquired about her reaction to the assertion that the Soviet powers that be proclaimed “the destruction of the state based on rule and subordination.” Voroheynkina’s answer is worth quoting at length because she addresses the issue far differently than most do.
In her view, she says, “at the time of the Revolution and the ensuing Civil War, there was a clash not of two forces but of three. The third force was popular resistance against autocracy, against the land owners, and against the terrible excesses of Russian capitalism, which in 1908 was not ready to eliminate the 12 hour day and introduce a ten-hour day.”
Vorozheykina says that this popular movement was “suppressed by the Soviet powers that be already in 1918. Its clearest political expression was of course the anarchist movement of Nestor Makhno. All that really remained from the revolution was then divided up between the Whites and the Reds.”
Vorozheykina says that she does not want to be misunderstood in this regard. Having given “anarchism as an example,” she says that she disagrees with it because anarchism “rejects the state as such” while she believes that “it is possible to reform the state” and that this is “the inevitable extension of civil society.”
“In an enormous space such as Russia,” she concludes, “one can’t do without a state but it must be built from the bottom up” rather than the other way around.” Anything else, she suggests, will not bring modernization but rather more of the same problems that Russia has suffered with for a long time.

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