July 21, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8184

Russian Political Scientist Solovey: The Situation Is 'Fraught' With 'Social Cataclysm'; Sentiments In Russia Are Increasingly Starting To Bear A Distinct Anti-Putin Character

July 21, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8184

In an interview with Russian online news site, Russian expert Valery Solovey commented that the situation in Russia is fraught with social cataclysm. He also added that of a year ago it was possible to talk about Putin's majority, now it is "crumbling before our eyes", and sentiments are increasingly starting to bear a distinct anti-Putin character.

According to Solovey, a political crisis is approaching in Russia and the next 2021 State Duma elections will tend to radicalize the crisis rather than hinder its development.

Below are excerpts from the interview with Solovey:[1]

Valery Solovey (Source:

All Social Groups Are Antagonized

Q: "Revolution is possible when antagonism occurs between classes. At least that is what Marxist theory says. Do you observe antagonism somewhere in our society?"

Solovey: "The contradictions between the government and society are becoming insurmountable and intractable. The authorities are not ready for self-modernization and to reform the style of their relationship with society. I have to talk with people who are in authority, and so lately they have been assessing the situation as fraught with social cataclysm. They only differ in the time frame for when this can happen. I do not remember such apocalyptic moods during the past few years. Moreover, we are talking about the highest level of the elite - both political and business."

Q: "What specific social groups come into antagonism with the authorities? I honestly do not see any. There is discontent, but I wouldn't call this antagonism."

Solovey: "Everyone! This is a result of an amazing ability of the Russian authorities to turn everyone against them. See what happens with small and medium businesses. Figuratively speaking, they are being steamrolled right now: new taxes appear, such as some kind of online cash desks, legal entities are being liquidated, and so on. The big business is suffering,[2] they keep their mouths shut and nod meekly. As the experience of Michael Calvey, David Yakobashvili, Sergey Petrov[3] and a number of other major entrepreneurs shows, it is easy for the authorities to come and take everything away from you, deprive you of freedom does not cost the authorities anything.

"As for the public, the government gives them only increasing tax pressure and a limitation of all economic, social and political opportunities. Even ordinary security forces are experiencing increasing pressure from the government: remember how much news there were recently about the suicide cases of security forces' members. For example, in June of this year, a senior police lieutenant committed suicide right at his workplace in Moscow.

"All social groups are antagonized. If a year ago it was possible to talk about Putin's majority, now it is crumbling before our eyes, and sentiments are increasingly starting to bear a distinct anti-Putin character."

'In The Modern World, A Revolution Does Not Require A Revolutionary Party'

Q: "As Lenin argued, a revolution cannot take place without a revolutionary organization or party. And where is such a party in Russia today?"

Solovey: "In the modern world a revolution does not require a revolutionary party. More than a hundred years have passed since the Bolshevik revolution, times have changed. Coordination of forces is enough now. We have an experience of decentralized political protests, such as, for example, the 'Yellow Vests' in France. By the way, the protest in Yekaterinburg against the construction of the cathedral [on the site of a park] was also decentralized. It is quite possible to carry out such an operation on a nationwide scale. But for this we need to make efforts and create a coalition.

"The subject of a hypothetical new revolution will be the civil coalition, that is, the unification of various forces on a non-partisan basis. Russia has a set of all-national demands, which are shared by 99% of the population. Sooner or later there will be a group of people who will synthesize these demands, formulate [them], advance [them] and propose a political strategy for their implementation."

Q: "What are these demands?"

Solovey: "They are: the government's resignation. The Cabinet of Ministers that cannot cope with a prolonged crisis and the fall in the citizens' income, has no right to exist. Next - the resignation of the parliament and the holding of elections under the new electoral law (or at least the electoral law in its 2003 version). The current parliament has approved all anti-popular laws. What it does now is to generate nonsense and destructive decisions. Therefore, it is not merely useless, but also harmful. And following the elections [we then proceed to] the formation of a government of public confidence. Another requirement is the renunciation of an aggressive foreign policy. We need to help not the Syrian brothers and Venezuelan comrades, but Nizhny Tagil, Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Nizhnyaya Salda, and so on. Our basic national interests are within Russia.

"Further. Any environmentally harmful production and garbage landfills can be created only after the local referendum. And finally, a gradual transition to real federalism. Here are the demands that are supported by everyone, the base for a nationwide platform..."

'Today, Nationalism As A Political Movement Does Not Exist'

Q: "Once you were one of the theorists of Russian nationalism. What is the role of nationalists today? Where are they, who are they and what is their place in the new revolution?"

Solovey: "The conflict with Ukraine delivered a crushing blow to Russian nationalism. Nationalist rhetoric was appropriated by the authorities and successfully compromised by them. Now, when you hear about the 'protection of the Russophones', the 'Russian world', the 'great Russia', you understand that the authorities once again want to rob and deceive. I observed a similar mood at the end of the Soviet era, when the idea of patriotism was also compromised.

"At the same time, politically active nationalists were prosecuted: someone did a term in prison, someone is still behind the bars, and many had gone underground or had strayed away from the movement. But at the same time, the FSB still considers nationalism as the main threat to the regime. The KGB operatives learned the experience of the Ukrainian Maidan, when the liberals and nationalists united and the nationalists became the spearhead that drove through the government. Therefore, even today, the security forces suppress any manifestations of Russian nationalism, everywhere they encounter it.

"In any case, today nationalism as a political movement does not exist, and it will have no chance for a political revival in the next 5-10 years. The remnants of nationalism will have to unite with someone: either with the left or with the liberals..."

'If Discontent Reaches A Critical Point, Concessions By The Authorities Will Mean Very Little'

Q: "Can there be a self-deception in your interpretation of the events? You often invoke the protest events in Yekaterinburg as an example of a harbinger of the revolution. But many of its participants have repeatedly stressed that this is a non-political action - they just want to save the park so they could walk in it. Moreover, if someone tried to express some political demands as part of the protest, many were annoyed and tried to drive him out of their ranks, saying that he would discredit the whole idea. That is, you record as revolutionaries those who are not going to become them at all, moreover, they shy away from politics as from the devil. Doesn't it seem strange to you?"

Solovey: "Whatever anyone declares, the story of the public park in Yekaterinburg has turned into a political event. This is the normal logic of protest. It all starts with local demands: 'We don't want a garbage site here'; 'We do not want a cathedral here'; 'We want [investigative reporter] Golunov to be released.' But politicization is happening very quickly, especially as the number of protesters grows and as the authorities become more inflexible. If the authorities in Yekaterinburg had not retreated, then the protest would have gone beyond its scope and struck the authority of the federal government. The same applies to the protest against the arrest of Golunov. If he had not been released, an unforeseen mass dynamic could have developed in the center of Moscow on June 12."

Q: "Let's talk about the possibility of 'revolution from above'. What do the latest criminal cases against security officials say to you, in terms of your expectations of the revolution? Maybe this is a purge prior to refreshing the elites in order to stave off a revolution from below?"

Solovey: "On the contrary, for people it is an additional argument supporting the view that the government is corrupt, rotten and hopeless. These selective repressions feed on the model of the 1930s [Stalinist purges] and were undertaken to make the elite work. And we all know only of the biggest cases, but up to 1% of regional officials have already been impacted by repressions. And the result turned out to be exactly the opposite of expectations: not an increase in the efficiency of the apparatus, but its semi-paralysis. All officials began to fear, so the issue remains unresolved. This is noticeable in the center, but best of all - in the provinces. This merely serves to illustrate my words about a regime that has taken the path of self-destruction.

"As for the 'revolution' from above, it is possible with strong pressure from below. But I think, even if the government decides on any political reforms, it may be too late. Remember how contemporaries characterized the reforms of Nicholas II, 'too little too late.' If discontent reaches a critical point, concessions by the authorities will mean very little…"

'What Definitely Will Not Be - Is A Civil War'

Q: "We remember the Great French Revolution, one of whose symbols was the guillotine. Somewhere you wrote that the revolution does not have to be bloody. But the question is that politically active groups want to enter politics, they want to become deputies, officials, governors and presidents. Today it is impossible because of administrative barriers or elementary due to the fact that participation in elections of a municipal deputy can cost millions of rubles. The young politician simply does not have that kind of money. If he does not end up with power, why does he need such a revolution? So it is clear that there will be contradictions between the nascent counter elite and the ruling country's elite starting from the smallest rural settlement and up to the federal level. Some will demand that the others leave, there will be resistance, and people would cling to their seats. The question is, how do you see this situation being resolved? Will it prove possible to forego the guillotine?"

Solovey: "I believe it will be. It is enough to adopt a law on lustration [atonement] on political grounds. [It will be] enough to adopt a new law on political parties and elections. The competitive space will immediately open. You are right that social tension has accumulated, there are significant groups of citizens who want to avenge all the injustices that have been committed against them. Of course, these groups, feeling that the regime is vacillating, can move on to the massacre of their offenders. But what definitely will not be - is a civil war. It is impossible. The sooner the authorities will transfer power to the temporary civilian committee, the more likely everything will go peacefully. In general, the revolutions of the last decades were mostly peaceful. Prolonged bloody excesses are possible only where there is a high proportion of young people. But this does not apply to Russia…"

Q: "You are talking about lustration. Can you name the criteria of it, who should fall under it? For example, if a journalist once worked at the elections for United Russia, because he needed money, would he fall under the law on lustration?"

Solovey: "I'm not sure that we need to dig so deeply now. The lustration law will be developed by the new government. But I believe that full lustration of the judiciary would be highly desirable. The current Russian court is a stronghold of lawlessness and insult in the eyes of the Lord. It is better to let graduates of law schools to come, there will have more sense. Everything else is the subject of discussion. I know that a lot of bureaucracy was forced to join the 'United Russia'. Why should they suffer? Restrictions on rights should relate only to the United Russia higher ups, who are responsible for the adoption of laws that are stupid, harmful, and retardant for the country's development.

"Plus there is such a wonderful thing as voluntary amnesty. If you did not commit crimes against humanity, did not participate in robberies, and your fault is solely in property crimes, then you write a full confession in which you repent and pay a large penalty tax. After that, you get all civil rights, except for the right to hold any public office and participate in politics.

"And those who committed crimes against humanity, who are guilty of murder and robbery, should no longer just be subjected to lustration, but should bear responsibility to the full extent of the law.

"In addition, it is highly desirable to prosecute those who destroyed the human consciousness. I'm talking about television propagandists. They committed consciously evil acts, and they should be held accountable for it. They, too, need not just to be prosecuted, but pay a criminal penalty. Now we are discussing the idea, but its legislative design should be granted to future lawyers. So let's not go further now…"

The Next Legislative Elections Will Radicalize The Crisis Rather Than Hinder Its Development

Q: "In 2021 there will be elections to the State Duma. How will they affect the development of the political crisis?"

Solovey: "The State Duma elections will be held in a completely different political context than the 2016 elections. I believe that they will resemble the election of deputies to the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR in 1990 [where the Communists were beaten]. That is, they tend to radicalize the crisis rather than hinder its development."

Q: "We are at a doorstep of a new decade with the hope that it will finally lead Russia to a new path of development, including the socio-political one. How do you see Russia in 2030?"

Solovey: "Russia will change beyond recognition. The power will change, and not personally, but by its nature. It will be a very 'beautiful Russia of the future,' as Navalny says. It will be a presidential-parliamentary republic, rather close to the French model. It will be a genuine federation. Centralization is contrary to common sense and the modern world. And there will be a real parliament, without a one party monopoly consisting of artists, athletes and other people who got there via the patronage of the presidential administration. It will not be an ideal country. However, it will be much more efficient, fair and humane in relation to its own people. And this country will be the result of the changes that will begin in the next two or two and a half years."


[1], July 12, 2019.

[2] In original Solovey used one of Vladimir Putin's words "koshmarit'".

[3] Calvey was the founder of Baring Vostok and was arrested together with five colleagues for allegedly defrauding one of Putin's associates, David Yakobashvili, one of the founders of Wimm-Bill-Dann Company, a dairy and juice producer is accused of buying stolen masterpieces; Petrov, a foreign car dealer was charged with illegally withdrawing funds to an offshore company.

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