August 12, 2011
by Andrei A. Piontkovsky
A fundamental difference between developments in Russia 20 years ago and in Central Europe and the Baltic countries is that Russia has never had a democratic revolution.
The driving force of change was the ruling nomenklatura, which conceived and implemented a plan to convert its absolute collective political power into huge financial power for its individual members.
All the golden dreams of the Communist Party and KGB nomenklatura, which launched perestroika in the mid-1980s, have come true by now. What have they achieved as a result of this 20-year period? The total concentration of political power, just as before, but with huge personal fortunes they could not even have imagined and a completely different lifestyle (in Moscow's exclusive Rublyovka neighborhood, Courchevel, or Sardinia).
Most importantly, the rulers no longer have any social and historical responsibility. Now they do not need to howl in unison: "The purpose of our life is ordinary people's happiness." They were sick of that hypocrisy. Now they repeat matter-of-factly that the purpose of their lives is "the continuation of market reforms" and "getting Russia off its knees," though none of them believes that or even knows what it means. The regime has promised the people to take "unpopular but necessary measures" for 20 (!) consecutive years of reform as it was implementing measures very popular among a handful of people and aimed at their personal enrichment.
The history of authoritarian regimes succeeding one another in Russia reveals a pattern – they do not die from external blows of fate or attacks by their opponents. They tend to die suddenly of a strange sort of internal disease – the irresistible existential disgust for themselves, their own exhaustion and what Sartre described as the nausea (la nausée) of existence.
Today we are witnessing the Putin regime, which paved the political space with asphalt, waste away from the same chronic disease. The simulacrum of a big ideological style, it could hardly avoid such a fate. In its short biography of one decade it went through all the classic stages of Soviet history only to become a vulgar parody of each of them.
Soviet communism took 40 years to die. Simulacra collapse much faster because they lack any organic matter.
One distinction of Nausea 2011 is that the leadership suffering from it has no project for the future. It can only lose. Yes, of course, many would like to put an end to the excesses of the national leader and his Tonton Macoutes destructive to the object of their power and the source of their wealth.
But the will of our glamorous haves is paralyzed not so much by fear of the alpha male still roaring menacingly, but by the prospect of being left alone without this male to face the alien and silent community of have-nots.
Thus conscience does make cowards of them all …
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
The elite's unresolved nausea and the burnt-out political space beyond it stop Russia's historical time, turning it into a sticky and dreary eternity.
Putin's eternity is the black hole of Russian history, Svidrigailov's rustic smoky sauna with swollen spiders creeping at the corners, veterans of the KGB's Dresden field station, and the members of the Ozero dacha cooperative.
The ruling corporation has no people or ideas, or even desires. For them Francis Fukuyama's end of history came a long time ago. Time stands still in the viscous eternity and our original Eurasian pride – the vertically structured government – is about to collapse to form yet another black hole of Russian history for the third time in less than a century.
The solemn inauguration of Putin as the Father of the Nation on 8 May 2012 for the third and, in fact, life term will be a control shot to Russia's head. In the coming decade, events will evolve rapidly along a trajectory predetermined by the lack of freedom and steady destruction of the nation's gene pool for centuries.
The control shot will trigger the final wave of emigration of professionals and talented young people (5 to 7 million of them) from Russia.
After their departure, science, education, and health care will finally crumble. The continuing plunder by Putin's gang of KGB agents/raw materials traders and the Yeltsin-era oligarchs who have sworn fealty to them will lead in 2013 or 2014 to the collapse of the financial system, a sharp depreciation of the ruble, pension fund bankruptcy, and mass unemployment.
North Caucasian republics, starting with Chechnya, will finally break away from ailing Russia after they stop receiving tribute. The government will not dare to use force to retain them for fear of terrorist attacks by Islamists.
Spontaneous protests by disadvantaged people will begin in various provinces of the country. The regime will use force, like Syria's dictator, in an attempt to quell riots.
In the end, Putin will find himself in a hopeless situation and will be overthrown in 2015 in a Romania-1989-style military coup.
After taking power, the military will try to rely on nationalist sentiment, which will lead to a rise of separatism in the remaining ethnic regions and overt political, economic, and possibly military pressure from China on Russia's Far East and Siberia.
In 2016 and 2017, the Chinese will establish two puppet Russian-Chinese states, the Far Eastern Republic and the Republic of Siberia.
In 2018, the Baltic region, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Karelia will break away from Russia. In 2019, central Russian regions will ask for accession to Ukraine, which will have concluded an agreement on associated membership in the EU by that time.
Lengthy negotiations, including on the fate of the residual nuclear capabilities of the once-great power, the status of the Russian language, and the interpretation of World War II history, will end in the resurrection in 2021 of the bilingual Slavic state of Kievan Rus destroyed by the Mongols nearly a thousand years ago.
Andrei Piontkovsky is a visiting fellow with Hudson Institute.
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