Prigozhin Mutiny Direct Result Of Putin’s Destruction Of Government Institutions – OpEd


The Prigozhin mutiny was a combination of rebellion and struggle among two partners in a criminal business when one finally went for broke, Margarita Zavadskaya says. As a result, the possibility of the collapse of the regime while still small increased dramatically.

The political scientist at St. Petersburg’s European University argues that “a week ago, we watched live the tragedy of two people who had known each other for a long time, trusted each other, and were friends but between whom something went terribly wrong” (

“One side shouted: ‘pay attention to me! I don’t agree with what you are doing and if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll take a city hostage.’” According to Zavadskaya, this was “a blackmail situation with a constant increase in the stakes” where there is “no system of checks and balances but only personal relationships.”

There are no institutional arrangements for relations between Prigozhin and Putin to be regulated, she argues. “This is a gray area. Neither the FSB, nor the GRU, nor the regular army knows what to do;” and the fact that “everything ended exactly as it did is a random coincidence.” It would have resulted in Putin’s exit much like the Maidan did Yanukovich’s.

The Putin regime knows how to work with opposition groups, but it doesn’t have a worked out procedure for dealing with those it believes are its allies and supporters. As a result, the Prigozhin revolt showed everything that “the situation is very precarious and unstable and that their own positions are insecure.”

Not surprisingly, people are hedging their bets against a possible repetition. That doesn’t mean Putin’s regime will end soon. “Regimes that last as long as his has, where the leader is over 65, seldom end in coups.” But there is a struggle going on, and now everyone is compelled to see that their fate depends on how it develops. 

Zavadskaya says that “Putin is a coward: he is far more afraid for himself than is the average dictator,” and that opens the way to the possibility of unexpectedly rapid changes. What will follow him depends on what the population does as the situation spirals out of control, political science research suggests.

“All studies suggest that the next regime, if there are no mass protests, will be yet another authoritarian system,” she continues. Initially, it may look reformist as the new crew tries to win support. But unless the population gets involved, any liberalization will be walked back as the new people consolidate power.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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