November 8, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7754

Kremlin Critic Shevtsova: The Regime Failed To Rule Even Under Conditions Of Guaranteed Absolutism

November 8, 2018
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 7754

Kremlin critic Liliya Shevtsova, currently an Associate Fellow at Chatham House' Russia and Eurasian program, wrote an article,[1] titled "The Regime Has Diagnosed Itself", stressing that 2018 has become the year when the "Russian political system has nauseated itself on every level."

According to Shevtsova, the Kremlin demonstrated its failure not only to function in a democracy, but even to rule under guaranteed absolutism when it faces no threats. Despite such failure, coupled with the hope engendered by "the growing aspiration of our society for change" gives one hope," there is scant expectation for such change.

Shevtsova explains that the Kremlin has erected a system that blocks peaceful changes and precludes reforms. "The drama is that the Russian regime, in contrast to the spineless Soviet elite, will not go voluntarily and is ready to defend itself… That means they will fight on home turf, and will fight till the last man from the National Guard!" Shevtsova stated.

Below are excerpts from Shevtsova's article:[2]

Liliya Shevtsova (Source:

2018 Has Become The Year When The Russian Political System Nauseated Itself On Every Level

"The diagnosis is disheartening and, apparently, conclusive: 'We only work in our own interests; we are corrupted and cynical. Yes, we are becoming pathetic and ridiculous – but we don't care what we look like and we will never ever leave!'

"2018 has become the year when the Russian political system nauseated itself on every level. We have seen it without makeup. New frills and a change of stylists will not help anymore. The revolting sight will not be erased… We have yet to fathom the consequences of this self-nausea for subsequent course of events. But even now, much has become wholly clear.

"The regime has not only demonstrated its incapacity to live in a democracy, but even to rule in guaranteed absolutism when it faces no threats.

"From the pathetic GRU thugs to the Soyuz crash,[3] from Medvedev's comical government to conmen governors, from oligarchs and bureaucrats appointed by the Kremlin as Russian Orthodox Church hierarchs to tamed intellectuals – everything suddenly begins to shout about the degradation of structures that should 'provide guidance' to Russia. And the most important thing: the president, who has supplanted all institutions, must waste his non-sustainable legitimacy in order to imitate the work of his rusting and disintegrating 'vertical of power'. The transformation of the Kremlin's omnipotence into impotence is the true Russian reality.

"A new trend is the public consensus about the sort of deformed system we live in and who exactly rules us. Surveys conducted by the Levada Center and the Committee of Civil Initiatives confirm that this consensus includes, for the first time, broad segments of the population.

"But the true drama is not in the degradation of the Russian authorities and the government mechanisms they created. There have been numerous regimes and leaders in the world who degraded and turned to dust. The drama is that the Russian regime, in contrast to the spineless Soviet elite, will not go voluntarily and is ready to defend itself. The external isolation and the Western sanctions, which will only be extended, are closing the opportunity for the ruling class to relocate to the Western world. And which of these lads will want to seek refuge in China? That means they will fight on home turf, and will fight till the last man from the National Guard!

"The end of Putin's Russia will be different from the peaceful demise of the USSR. And not just because today's ruling class is made up of political animals of a different kind, those that are used to hard-core stuff. The problem is that a system is being created that blocks peaceful changes and precludes reforms 'from above'. Here are only the key challenges we will have to face when we have the chance to leave this utter darkness.

— A gap between the 10% of the rich who control 90% of the national wealth, and the mass disadvantaged population. This gap is a cause for a rebellion, not for reforms.

— The discreditation of norms that would limit aggressive human instincts and violence. Here is your ticket to the Jurassic World.

— The merging of property and power in the hands of a repressive apparatus. This is unprecedented in the Russian history, and it's unclear what should be done about it.

The transformation of 'liberals' into the central pillar of the system, which makes it hard to achieve order based on the rule of law. The 'liberals' compensate for the destructive activity of security officials and therefore are more valuable for the authorities.

— The marginalization of Russia and its transformation into a world pariah. And this will be for a long time.

"Some of these challenges exist in other non-democratic societies as well. But Russia's nuclear status and the readiness of the regime to use it in self-defense make our situation unprecedented.

"Of course, the growing aspiration of our society for change inspires hope. But we should be ready for the attempt of the authorities to drive Russia into the trap of military patriotism again. This trick worked in 2014, giving rise to the 'Crimea is ours' [phenomenon]. In order for it to work again, a more apocalyptic plan is needed. And who says that those who are at the top will stop? They have nowhere to go; after all, they have driven themselves into a corner… 'We can all jump so high, it won't be pretty!'

"Two questions arise in this context:

"Question one: will Russia be caught in the same trap? After all, the authorities do not have any other idea of how to neutralize the growing discontent.

"Question two: when will a force arise that will offer the people a way out of the Putin era and gain its confidence?"


[1] Liliya Shevtsova is a Russian political analyst based at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

[2], October 14, 2018.

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