By Paul Goble
Pavel Pryanikov, the always interesting and sometimes provocative editor of the Tolkovatel portal, says that the three most important trends of the past year that are likely to cast a shadow on Russian domestic politics in the year ahead are the return to high office of the methodologists, the end of Russian nationalism, and the revolt of the regions.
“The main event of 2016,” the blogger says, is the return of the methodologists “to the levers of power.” They first emerged out of the technical intelligentsia in the 1970s, were brought into midlevel positions by “the liberal Chekist” Andropov, and played a role in perestroika (ttolk.ru/2017/01/01/три-с-половиной-тренда-внутренней-пол/).
The second trend of the last year, he continues, is “the continuation of the active departure of Russian nationalists from the ranks of ethnic Russians.” The largest number of these are turning to Islam, some to the Ukrainians and a still smaller part to the “all-European” position. There are compelling reasons for this, Pryanikov argues.
“In Russia, there are only three groups with solid support and traditions of activity over the last two to four generations: the special services, the old Moscow liberals and Islam. But the first two are closed: entrance to them is now by birth. And the most democratic [of these options] is Islam.”
And the third trend which emerged last year and is likely to become more important in 2017 involves protests by the regions. “The destruction of the USSR also began with the fronds of national regimes.” That by itself makes the protests from the Transbaikal, the Middle Volga and the North Caucasus significant.
Pryanikov adds a fourth to this list, one he says is for the moment still “a half-trend.” That involves “the erosion of supreme power” because of the presence in the Presidential Administration of the methodologists who control the media, and the Volodin command which controls the United Russia Party and the governors.
Putin retains control over both, but this system of “’checks and balances,’” one that recalls the arrangements in Boris Yeltsin’s time may or may not prove stable, especially given that Putin is “already a real grandfather, a pensioner of 65” just as Yeltsin was in 1997 when the former president “rapidly lost the levels of rule on those checks and balances.”
What remains to be seen in the year ahead is whether this “half trend will grow into a trend” or not.