Thursday, October 27, 2016

Putinism a Parody of Sovietism, Not Its Revival, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 27 – Putinism, Yevgeny Ikhlov says, “is not neo-Sovietism but rather its complete opposite as in a camera obscura in which right is left and the top is the bottom” most obviously in its lack of any project for the future and in its playing at actions that may resemble Soviet ones but that lack their specific content.

            Soviet society, the Moscow commentator says, was always about achieving goals. “Everyone participated and recognized themselves as a participant in the pursuit of historical super-tasks which gave specific meaning to their existence.”  There is none of that now however much Vladimir Putin talks about goals (

            In Soviet times, “society was both ascetic and focused on opposing the rest of the world.” Sacrifices were justified, Ikhlov continues, because there was no other way to oppose the outside world and promote the Soviet Union and its goals.  Putinism might like people to feel the same way, but it has provided no reason for them to do so.

            “Putinism in principle is not about ‘projects.’ It is not utopian” but rather a pathetic playing at appearing to have them. Indeed, Ikhlov argues, it is best described as a country not pursuing a utopia but rather one pursuing exactly the reverse: exactly what already exists or that can be achieved with great speed and ease.

            Thus, “it simply plays at being the USSR with its anti-cosmopolitan campaign, straining at being a great power, and Brezhnev-style parades.”  That can be seen in the case of “the only ‘all-national idea’ of Putinism – Crimea is ours, but it, in a record for all human history, was achieved in a couple of weeks.” Before it happened, no one talked about it.

            The rapid increases in Russia’s military spending under Putin have not contributed to the sense of participation and solidarity that similar boosts in spending did in Soviet times, Ikhlov says, because while the masses believe what television tells them  about Putin’s triumphs over the West, the elite (or more precisely pseudo-elite) groups have a more adequate understanding.”

            And that divide, he suggests, “very much interferes with any all-national consolidation on the basis of state greatness.” 

            There is a precedent for what Putin is doing, but it is unlikely to be one he would be happy to cite, Ikhlov continues. During World War II, “Stalin played at tsarism having killed the monarchist ideal at the basis of which was aristocratic honor and not just an animal fear before a despot-tyrant.” But even Stalin, it appears, recognized the dangerous limitations of that.

Russia Suffering Because of Top Elite’ Ever Shorter Time Horizon, Gontmakher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 27 – A major obstacle to Russia escaping from its current situation and avoiding the risk of falling ever further behind the rest of the world is that the country’s most senior decision makers suffer from an ever shorter term approach to problems and thus cannot address Russia’s most deep-seated problems, according to Yevgeny Gontmakher.

            The Kremlin elite, the Moscow economist and commentator says, appears “uninterested in seriously thinking about the future of their own country” and “in the best case, the time horizon of strategic planning is the electoral cycle (five to six years)” or three-year budgets which are so often changed as to be meaningless (

            And that is true, Gontmakher continues, despite the government’s proclivity for announcing all kinds of long-term plans, most of which have no real impact on what Moscow does. What such plans do allow for is a self-satisfied approach that Russia can proceed along its own “’special’ path.”

            Were the country’s senior leaders willing to think longer term, they would be compelled to consider more fully than they have just what that “’special’ path” will lead to. In Gontmakher’s opinion, they then would quickly discover that Russia doesn’t really have a realistic option of going its own way unless it is ready to fall ever further behind the West.

            There simply isn’t any other “human and humanistic alternative to the European way of life.”  And that “civilizational train is slowly but truly moving away from us.” What is more, Gontmakher says, “it is going away forever, having left Russia outside the world mainstream” and in the company of places like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and North Korea.

            That is not a prospect anyone who cares about the future of Russia and Russians can view without horror, he says; and as aresult, he and those who share his position have joined together in an expert group, “European Dialogue,” to try to generate discussion about the West and Russia’s course by bringing together people from both sides to think longer term.

            If the Kremlin elite won’t think about the longer term, then the expert community has no choice to do so unless they are prepared for a future that none of them want, Gontmakher concludes.



Chinese on the Way to Becoming Second Largest Nationality in Russia, Moscow Demographer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 27 – If current trends continue, with ever fewer immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus coming to Russia and with birthrates among Russia’s larger non-Russian nationalities remaining low, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya says, the Chinese will be the second largest nationality in Russia by mid-century.

            The senior scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Economic Predictions said that Russia has no choice but to rely on immigrant workers and that it has no other source except for China on which it is likely to be able to rely in the next several decades ( and

Zayanchkovskaya added that Russia will not be able to do without massive immigration even if it raises the pension age. Doing that, she said, “will not level out the demographic waves or the problems of having a sufficient number of working age people. It will solve the problems of the pension fund, but the demographic situation will remain just as complex.”
There are three reasons why her remarks are likely to be especially disturbing to many Russians:
·         First, Russians have long been accustomed to believe that the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation are the Tatars, a group which Russians generally view as integrated or at least Russian speaking, qualities not found among immigrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus or China.

·         Second, Zayanchkovsky’s words also suggest that one or more of the Central Asian or Caucasian country migration flows into Russia is larger than the six million Tatars, a conclusion that if true means immigration into the Russian Federation is far larger than any Moscow official has ever acknowledged.

·         And third, her projection not only feeds into Russian fears about the overwhelming size of China’s population opposite Russia’s underpopulated Siberia and Far East but also may have consequences for the country’s ethnic mix far sooner than even the Moscow demographer suggests.

The reason for that final point is that there is evidence that an ever larger number of young Chinese men who can’t find spouses at home because of Beijing’s notorious one-child policy that led to gender-selection-driven abortions are coming to Russia to find brides (
Many of these new mixed couples are returning to China, but at least some are remaining to live and work in Russia, a trend likely to transform the ethnic mix in Russia east of the Urals if not yet in the country as a whole.