July 28, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8197

Russian Expert Inozemtsev: The Recent Protests Do Not Threaten The Russian Authorities; The Majority Of The Population Does Not Perceive Putin As A Usurper Of Power

July 28, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8197

Commenting on the recent opposition rallies in Russia, the renowned Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev, the founder and director of the Centre for Research on Post-Industrial Societies, poured cold water on commentaries that viewed brewing social discontent and the outbreak of local protests as signaling an imminent revolution. [1] We are a long distance away from regime-threatening mass protest. Moreover, argues Inozemtsev, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not perceived by the majority of the population as a usurper of power and this most significant factor protects the regime from the explosion of popular unrest.

Inozemtsev also reminds those making what he considers extravagant predictions that today's Russia is not owned by Putin, but is effectively a corporation of bureaucrats, with ties to a significant part of the population. This too, argues Inozemtsev, acts as a retardant to the outbreak of revolution in Russia.

Below is Inozemtsev's article:[2]

Vladimir Inozemstev (Source.

(Source:, July 20, 2019)

The Right Of Choice Is Valued By A Very Small Fraction Of The Citizens

"For several weeks now, opposition-minded Russians have been talking about elections scheduled for autumn: who will be admitted, what surprises 'pro-Kremlin' candidates might face, what 'innovations' will be introduced into the electoral legislation according to their results. 'Experts' advise the authorities profusely on compromises that should be make, they talk about the 'only chance' that for example, the Moscow authorities have. This quite wide-ranging discussion from the very outset seemed to me personally extremely detached from reality.

"A week before the candidates for MCD [the Moscow City Duma, Moscow's regional parliament] handed over signatures to the Moscow Electoral Commission, I figured that none of them could be registered - just like B. Vishnevsky in St. Petersburg or O. Shein in Astrakhan were not. The system will not recognize the rules it itself established and will not respect its own laws - this, I think, should have become axiomatic long ago.

"It does not matter, for example, that a candidate for governor is nominated before the start of the nomination period — all his rivals are to be removed from the race, and the election is a done deal. And it doesn't matter whether living or dead people have signed up for the nomination of one or another deputy - after all, in dictatorship electoral laws are not a legal document, but a piece of decoration.

"Can the events that have happened in recent days provoke tectonic shifts in Russian politics? I'm sure they cannot. Yes, there is brewing social discontent over what is happening: both in the economy and in politics. But in order for such discontent to turn into a protest that would threaten the authorities, an entire series of factors and circumstances is necessary, none of which obtains today.

"First, we need a broad understanding of the dictatorial and anti-people nature of the regime; only this understanding can become the basis for a truly mass protest. This did not have to be proved in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt in 2011, where the most 'non-long-playing' ruler had been in power for 26 years, and the Assad family – a full 40. In Russia, V. Putin is not perceived by the majority of the population as a usurper of power and this is the most significant factor that protects the regime from the explosion of popular unrest. In a country where the population had the opportunity to change power via elections only in 1989-1991, the traditions of democracy are such that the struggle for them is not deemed important, and the right of choice is valued by a very small fraction of citizens.

Russia Is Not Owned By Putin, But By A Broad Corporation Of Bureaucrats

"Russia today is not owned by V.Putin, but by a broad corporation of bureaucrats, which in one way or another are connected with a significant part of the population and while still rejected it is not with such intensity as to spark a revolution. Business in this system is also not so much in confrontation with the state and bureaucracy, as it is merged with them and dependent on them - and therefore is also not revolutionary.

"Secondly, softer revolutions than for e.g. the Libyan one are possible only where the democratic element is not completely eradicated, and part of the elite is ready to flirt with the protesters or make concessions to them. Even in Venezuela, the last cycle of escalation (which didn't amount to anything) was initiated by the elected chairman of the National Assembly, and among the president's opponents were leaders from a several country regions. In Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014, many current members of the Verkhovna Rada were at the Maidan, and the opposition was widely and openly supported by many politicians and the media.

"Even in 2011 [after Putin was elected president], the protest in Russia had much more chances, as the four-year presidency of D. Medvedev gave rise to significant hopes for changes in the country's political course, and there was marked ferment within the elites (especially since the authorities gave an unambiguous signal, about making some concessions to the opposition forces). None of this is in sight now - on the contrary, the Kremlin sends a clear message that it is pointless to struggle.

"Many today in social media recall [Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin's tiles and curbs [2011 resurfacing project] – but elections in today's Russia are not akin to landscaping. Any protest will be soon rolled into asphalt and concrete – how do you like them tiles? And this is exactly the message that the authorities are trying to send by the arrests of activists and the searches in their apartments. Until 2018, the authorities tried to manipulate the elections (not a single Russian parliament in history was elected according to the same rules as the previous one) – now, it seems to me, full discreditation of the institution of elections or their cancellation is on the agenda.

"At the very least, this would be consistent with the logic of the Russian political system's development - which will follow the assigned path to the final collapse equally effectively with staged elections or without them. At least, I cannot imagine that something today can change the constructions created in the minds of Kremlin strategists. Yes, of course, one can stop the construction of the temple in the park loved by the townspeople. And even, probably, to stop the war with that part of the population, which for some reason do not want to live in landfills. But for them to share at least a bit of power is unimaginable ..."


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