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Putin Is Replaceable

Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)




  • Photo:

Will Russia plunge intochaos anddarkness after President Vladimir Putin leaves? While its understandable that propaganda-brainwashed Russians might truly think so, it comes as asurprise when U.S. analysts repeat thesame idea.

Knowing theweakness ofthe liberal opposition andthe strength ofPutins security apparatus, its hard not tofear that his replacement will make us long forthe days ofhis thuggishly predictable unpredictability, warns Julia Ioffe onThe New Republic. If theU.S. gets rid ofPutin they will have no ability tocontrol what happens next, threatens Mark Adomanis onForbes.

Such pessimistic estimates, however, are hardly well grounded. Russias 140 million citizens should be capable ofreplacing their president with someone who isnt living in another world, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ofPutin.

Theanalysts who are scared ofpost-Putin Russia usually raise thefollowing points: 1) Putin ruined all independent institutions andmade himself theonly arbiter ofpower. This will lead tochaos once he leaves theKremlin. 2) Putin is theonly constraint onRussias highly motivated andorganized nationalists, who will transform thecountry intoa fascist regime once he leaves. 3) Personalistic regimes are rarely followed bydemocratic systems, so whats thepoint ofreplacing apples with apples?

Lets consider those arguments step bystep.

First, its true that Putin has successfully set up anautocratic political system over thelast 15 years. Bydestroying opposition parties, putting their leaders under arrest andblocking popular mobilization, theKremlin has succeeded inlimiting theRussian populations interest inpolitics. Theresulting void between theauthorities andthe people has led tocomplete alienation between theelites andthe masses.

But Russia would not be lost tochaos if Putin disappeared. Instead, it would empower one ofthe more politically successful segments inRussian society today: theliberal white-collar opposition movement. No other social group inthe last 20 years has been remotely able tomobilize 100,000 to200,000 protest participants (as they managed in2011-12 protests), or the630,000 Muscovites who voted foropposition candidate Alexei Navalny during last years election forMoscow mayor.

Thevery demobilization ofmost ofRussian society is also aguarantee against theemergence ofnationalistic groups. Many Russians might repeat certain ideas they hear onthe television, but they wont stand up forthose ideas. Theswings inRussians public opinion onthe major issues prove that point. Forexample, thesupport formilitary invasion inUkraine dropped 20 percent fromFebruary toJune following thesoftening ofthe media propaganda discourse.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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