By Paul Goble
The need for Kremlinology to understand what is going on in Moscow is increasingly important, Yakub Koreyba says, because “there are no politics in Russia in the classical understanding of term,” and consequently people must once again draw conclusions about what is going on from things like the ranking of figures on the mausoleum.
The Polish commentator, an MGIMO graduate who writes regularly for Russian outlets, argues Putin’s announcement of his candidacy for president, something that came as no surprise to anyone, underscored this “Brezhnevization” of Russian political life in which people must focus on form rather than content and on how rather than what.
In a Rosbalt essay, he says that “the ‘who is who’ in Russia to an ever smaller degree is connected with formal laws and institutions and ever more dependent on their personal position in the court in which finally has been converted all that is usually called the political elite” (rosbalt.ru/posts/2017/12/07/1666714.html).
At the same time, Koreyba says, “the public portion of the political process finally has been transformed into an element of propaganda which is intended to mask rather than to reflect the true essence of the process.” That means observers must look beyond what is said to how it is presented to gain some insight into what is taking place.
By using this approach, the commentator offers four conclusions on the basis of the way Putin announced his candidacy. First of all, he says, the Putin regime remains fixated on formal procedures of the democratic process even though there is no real alternative to the incumbent, an indication that it has not found an alternative way to proceed.
Second, the announcement was intended to send a message that Putin is opposed to the elite: “Everything is in the best Russian traditions which were creatively developed by the Bolsheviks: the tsar is good, the boyars are bad, the bureaucrats are thieving, and the intelligentsia is traitorous.”
Given that, Putin wants to stress that he bases his power on the people rather than the elite, a strategy that may make for good electoral politics but that could lead to trouble after the election with those who will form his immediate entourage and carry out – or not – his orders and commands.
Third, the announcement sent a clear signal that the Putin regime will continue to rely on a mobilization of the population because under the current economic crisis, it has no choice but to do so if it is to have any hope of maintaining political stability.
And fourth, the announcement ceremony shows that the Putin regime has an almost “Freudian fixation on young people and on youth as such,” a focus intended to suggest that there are good reasons to be hopeful about the future. All this means that “life will become better” for “comrade political technologists” if not for the country over the next six years.