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Putin Is Replaceable

Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)




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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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