Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev Says Egyptian Scenario Won’t Happen in Russia, But Not Everyone Agrees

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 23 – Extremist groups have long wanted to impose on Russia “an Arab scenario” like those which are shaking the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East, President Dmitry Medvedev told a meeting of the Naitonal Anti-Terrotirst Committee in Vladikavkaz yesterday.

But he assured the Russian people that “this scenario,” with all its potentially disastrous consequences, “will not take place” in their country however much these groups try to push this agenda because the Russian people and their government will be able to block such efforts (

At the same time, however, he suggested that no one should avoid facing up to the real problems in the North Caucasus and elsewhere. It would be an act of “self-deception” to do that. But he concluded that he wanted “to say one thing: this is our country and our land. We are required to impose order … and we will impose order.”

The Russian president clearly meant his remarks to be reassuring, but by making them in this way, Medvedev unintentionally provoked the already ongoing discussion in the Russian Federation about the possible impact of the events in the Middle East on Russia and whether or not similar things could happen there.

One nationalist site referred to Medvedev as “the Kremlin Mubarak,” a description that probably says more about DPNI, which the authorities are trying to ban as extremist than it does about Medvedev ( But two other more sober if no less alarming articles today merit attention.

In the first, commentator Vladimir Nadyein discusses the reasons why the kind of personalist regimes that exist in many countries of the former Soviet space are likely to fall. And in the second, sociologist Igor Eydman argues directly “why in Russia an Arab-style revolution could repeat itself.”

Writing in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Nadein says that the recent events in the Middle East have “made obvious” the ways in which personalist regimes are born, grow and ultimately fall” and that these generalities apply to many of the countries in the post-Soviet space (

Nadein begins his commentatry by observing that many thought that “with the fall of communism,” that the idea that some leader may be a bastard but at least he is “our bastard” would cease to be relevant. Indeed, he notes, there were various “scholarly works” which suggested that this term would disappear “forever.”

As events in the Middle East have shown, that did not turn out to be the case. In place of the Samosa and Trujilos” of the past have emerged “the Qaddafis, Asads and Mubaraks” whose regimes are now falling as well as “the Aliyevs and Kerimovs, Nazarbayevs and Niyazovs, Lukashenkas and Putins,” the “national leaders” of the post-Soviet space.

Such leaders, Mukhin suggests, are quite different from the dictatorships which dominated the past century. Their regimes turned out tobe “idceologically” baseless,” and the attempts to fill this gap with nationalism or patriotism “have failed.”

“The single idea,” he continues, by which the new dictators have been able to control society is personal well-being.” That creates serious problems not least of all because “at the basis of such a regime” is arbitrariness and the lack of competition which opens the way to massive corruption.

And those trends in turn lead to “an enormous gap” between the richest and the poorest segments of the population, the isolation of the elite “from the life of simple people, the destruction of the institutions of law and justice, the cynical manipulation of elections … the usurpation of the means of mass information” and hence the rule of the lie.

The “new dictators side on the needle of the lie. They lie to themselves, they lie to others, they lie to themselves about themselves and every day they need this in ever increasing narcotic doses.” All that can be seen in the countries now facing revolutions in the Middle East, but it can also be seen in the post-Soviet states.

For example, he points out, “Putin has been ruling 10 years, Lukashenka 16, the junior Aliyev in Baku 12, Nazarbayer and Kerimov (Uzbekistan) 22 years each, Ben-Ali from Tunisia 21 years, Mubarak 30 years, Qaddafi 42 years.” All of them have tried to buy themselves security, but none can be absolutely confident in that any more.

Putin’s Sechin, for example, recently told an American newspaper that Russia is one of the most politically stable countries in the world. The US journalist noted that “Mubarak certainly would have said the same,” to which Sechin replied “I don’t know; I hadn’t heard that.” But of course, Nadyein pointed out, Sechin had.

Unlike the greatest dictators of the past century, the current ones have sought to seize as much money as they can and to put it in offshore accounts which they deem reasonably to be far more secure than in their own countries. To imagine Hitler, Stalin or Mao doing that is completely “laughable,” Nadyein suggests.

Confronted with popular anger, the new dictators try to present themselves as democrats. “Yesterday they shot the opposition; today, they promise to sit down at the negotiating table. Yesterday, they declared they knew better than the others .. today they promise to change everying in a week or two.” But no one is likely to believe these new “Jeffersons,” he argues.

There is another feature the new dictators share, Nadyein concludes: “Each of the new dictators thinks that he will somehow avoid his own Egypt” and will be able to succeed where so many others have failed. Such people, the “Yezhednevny” writer says are truly children in their naivete, “bastard children” at that.

As blunt as Nadyein is, Igor Eydman in his blog of Ekho Moskvy is even more so. He argues that despite what “Russian bureaucrats” say, “an anti-bureaucratic revolution is the most probable end of the current regime” in the Russian Federation just as it has been in Egypt and elsewhere (

“Like in the majority of countries which are seized now by revolution,” Eydman writes, “there is in Russia the very same system of state-bureaucratic capitalism,” the kind of system that originated in Turkey to promote national welfare but that rapidly came “to serve the narrow egotistic interests of the ruling family-clans and bourgeois-bureaucratic elite as a whole.”

Such regimes have a number of common characteristics, the sociologist says. They displace an intermixing of the bureaucracy, the force structures and business, bureaucratic control of the economy, “total systemic corruption,” “an imitative model of democracy,” and “the profanation of elections,” government control of the lading media,” “the strong influence of the force structures on political life.”

Moreover, he continues, they typically display “the authoritarian power of ‘a national leader,’” and a government-promtoed “hurrah-patriotism [as] the official ideology.” As a result, there is social and economic stagnation, a sense of hopelessness on the part of the young, and “the degrataion of a corrupt elite.”

Tragically, “the majority of these characteristics are present in many of the former Soviet republics,” including in Russia, Eydman says.
The revolutions sweeping the Middle East, the Russian sociologist continues, “testify that such regimes are experiencing a systemic crisis,” one that has arisen because of the contradiction between their way of rule and the level of technological development of their populations. They had been able to count on a monopoly of information; the Internet has made that impossible.

No one can say what the revolutions in the Middle East will lead to, nor can one predict exactly what kind of regimes will replace those now found in the former Soviet space. But those online are likely to play a key role, Eydman suggests, all the more so because Russia has far more Internet users than are to be found in many Arab states.

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