March 10, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 263

Special Announcement: Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev Joins MEMRI

March 10, 2021
Russia | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 263

MEMRI is honored to welcome renowned Russian economist and political scientist Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev as a special advisor to MEMRI's Russian Media Studies Project. Dr. Inozemtsev is the director and founder of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies in Moscow and a member of the Scientific Council of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). Until 2016 he chaired and taught at the Department of World Economy at Moscow State Lomonosov University's Faculty of Public Governance, and also taught at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Between December 2011 and March 2012, Dr. Inozemtsev was a senior adviser to Mikhail Prokhorov, then a Russian presidential candidate (who came third in the 2012 elections) and drafted his presidential program. He served as a member of the Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (known as the 'Open Government') from 2013 to 2016, and from 2013 to 2014 he was a senior member of the Russian center-liberal party Civilian Power.

Between 2013 and 2019 Dr. Inozemtsev served as Senior and Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington (DC), at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, at the Polish Institute for Advanced Studies in Warsaw and at the German Council for Foreign Affairs in Berlin.

Dr. Inozemtsev has authored more than 20 books, which have been translated into English, French, Chinese and Polish, as well as numerous articles published in Russia and abroad. He has contributed articles to leading newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Le Monde, Financial Times, The Independent, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, La Razon, La Repubblica, Gazeta Wyborcza, and on various media outlets, including Project Syndicate.

Below, in a special announcement, Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev elaborates on the start of his academic cooperation with MEMRI:

Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev

I am hugely honored and privileged to accept the invitation to join MEMRI's team in the capacity of Special Advisor to MEMRI's Russian Media Studies Project (RMSP) and thus involve myself in the Institute's evolving Russia program. Since I am not an expert in Middle Eastern affairs – MEMRI's core focus for over two decades, I hope to contribute to the understanding of both Russia and the nations that once constituted parts of its vast centuries-old Empire in its diverse forms, from Muscovy to the Soviet Union. I will be contributing essays on different aspects of Russia's current affairs and will be happy to assist my colleagues at MEMRI in providing deeper insights into events within the world's largest country as well as its historical periphery.

I would like to preface two general remarks that I believe are vital for understanding today's Russia and to evaluate current studies of Russia's domestic and foreign policies:

First, I would argue that 21st-century Russia seems to be a most unique nation, and it's really sui generis among the world's most significant powers. The core explanation for this peculiarity is that the Russia that emerged in recent decades as molded by its 'national leader' Vladimir Putin is a societal system where politics and business have effectively merged in a sense that renders them inseparable. The new power elite that matured, and is still maturing, in Putin's years, doesn't rule, or manage the country – it effectively owns it. The public service has turned into the most lucrative kind of business, and the officials are allowed to become the country's richest people not by violating Russia's laws, but by obeying them. Not only did the separation between legislative, executive, and judicial powers deteriorate, but the boundaries between entrepreneurship and bureaucracy, civil and military service, and even ordinary pursuits and expert and scientific communities disappeared as well. Social status can be acquired for money, and money seems to be the exclusive goal for those in public service. Therefore, it's impossible to understand either the Russian 'politicians' aims without tracing their assets and money flows, or to explain Russian 'business' behavior without tracing its connections to the authorities. Russia has now become what I would call a 'commercial state' to which the traditional logic for studying either democracies or dictatorships is largely inapplicable– and this should be considered by anybody delving into the study of this fascinating country.

Second, not only is Russia itself unique, but the most prominent Russia scholars are very special people. Contrary to Soviet times. when many Western nations consolidated a long-term local tradition of Soviet studies, today I see a huge difference in this field. As Russia turns into a more authoritarian nation, the differences between the loyalists and dissenters increase. Since no meaningful political opposition exists in the country (i.e. the opposition lacks the legal ways and means to promote political agenda different from Mr. Putin's), all the controversies become concentrated in the ideological sphere. The same applies to the Western scholars approach as well, for two reasons: on the one hand, Western analysts find themselves either involved in, or confronted by, an intensive propaganda campaign initiated by the Kremlin so they are forced either to 'appease' Russia or to 'bash' it, without resorting to any non-partisan stance; on the other hand, once again contrary to Soviet times, hundreds if not thousands of Russian scholars and experts who emigrated from Russia in recent years, became engaged in the debates and most of them embraced strong anti-regime positions. Therefore, both narrow political interests and deep emotional feelings overwhelmingly dominate the Russia debate, both domestically and internationally. One can hardly find a scholar who claims to oppose Mr. Putin but still argues that his regime can survive for another decade, or conversely a scholar voicing wholehearted support for the Kremlin policies but can still concede that the existing system is under serious threat.

In joining MEMRI's team, I hope to avoid the most typical shortcomings of current Russia studies. I will do my best to depict 21st-century Russia as it is – as a truly unique social system that should not be regarded as some 'deviation' from any possible 'norm' (à la 'imperfect democracy' or 'soft authoritarianism') and that must be studied by looking deep into its social fabric. I will do my best to suppress all my emotions and feelings in conducting research that may produce reasonable forecasts and serve as a basis for responsible decision-making rather than engaging in one episode or another of the 'hybrid war' between 'good' and 'evil.' As time passes, MEMRI's readers will draw their own conclusion as to whether I have succeeded or not.

Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev,
Washington (DC), March 10, 2021

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