What is ‘Putinism’?

13 april 2004

Andranik Migranyan is Director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York.

Resume: Russia has everything that is required for developing a normal consolidated democracy: private ownership, a pluralistic political system and an enlightened leadership which understands all the difficulties and obstacles that a course toward totalitarianism or authoritarianism can entail. It also has the support of the consolidated West to steadily encourage it through the democratic process.

The first steps by President Vladimir Putin’s administration and its key political and personnel decisions, including recent developments surrounding YUKOS, immediately sparked stormy debates in political circles and among analysts. They questioned what was happening to the Russian authorities and the regime, originally founded by President Boris Yeltsin. Putin set upon harnessing a group of oligarchs who had seized control over the financial, media and administrative resources of the Russian state and sought to manipulate the political authorities.

These developments were proceeding against the background of the ongoing Chechen war and the complex and painful reconciliation efforts there (the adoption of a new Constitution, presidential elections in this North Caucasian republic, and the so-called Chechenization of the Chechen problem, that is, the transfer of power to Chechens loyal to federal authorities; the latter move has been questioned by many in the Russian political class, especially the liberals, as well as by the Western mass media and political circles. Observations by particular Russian politicians and liberal analysts about the nature of the Putin regime have been especially worrying and even alarmist since the Duma election last December. In that event, oppositional parties describing themselves as liberal and pro-Western, e.g. the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and Yabloko, lost the election by a wide margin. Serious liberal analysts have proclaimed that a bureaucratic authoritarian regime has been emerging in Russia as a result of the Duma election. In that contest, United Russia won an impressive victory, while the Communist Party’s position substantially weakened; SPS and Yabloko failed altogether to get seats in parliament. The regime, the analysts say, will lead the socio-political system to stagnation, freeze the badly needed economic and social reforms and may even reverse Russia’s development in certain areas.

However, before characterizing President Putin’s first term in office, it is worth briefly tracking the evolution of the Yeltsin regime before 2000 in order to understand why Putin has, as many believe, radically severed his regime with it. Only in this context is it possible to evaluate the nature of the Putin regime and bring to light its inherent trends that can produce both stagnation in the political system of Russia or preconditions for the regime’s evolution toward consolidated democracy.

YELTSIN’S LEGACY

The Yeltsin regime, formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, had passed through three important stages by the time power was handed over to Putin. The first stage ended in 1993 as the former parliament was terminated and a new Constitution adopted. During that period of reconstructing the old political institutions and forming a new Russian state, Yeltsin’s regime could be described as a ‘delegative democracy’ – a term first proposed by the Argentine political scholar Guillermo O’Donnell. Regimes that emerge during a transition from one system to another are characterized by the presence of a charismatic leader, as well as extremely weak political institutions with no ability for mobilization. There is a lack of feedback between the people, who legitimize a charismatic leader’s authority through popular elections, and the leader himself after the elections. At the initial stage, a charismatic leader, while being extremely popular, can promise a lot of changes but will not be able to achieve his goals. As a result, the leader’s charisma is impaired, leading to a loss of support from the population. In this situation, such a regime may develop according to the following two scenarios: if democratic reforms are successful and civil institutions are strengthened, they move toward consolidated democracy; on the other hand, if serious problems block economic and social reforms, the regime may experience a deep crisis, chaos and even the inability to properly govern. At this point, the country may evolve toward a consolidated authoritarianism. The main feature of a delegative democracy is that this regime is not consolidated in principle. Such a regime is incapable of putting forth sensible objectives; it fails to mobilize – via various institutions – financial, institutional, human and information resources that are necessary for resolving problems facing the country.

On Russian soil, problems arose as a result of the struggle between the charismatic leader, Boris Yeltsin, who relied on the broad masses, and the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People’s Deputies. This latter resolutely opposed Yeltsin’s course, and did everything possible to block his plans. They were even ready, if the opportunity occurred, to depose him. Under those conditions, the regime’s decentralization was aggravated by the need for the president, who was struggling for his very survival, to find the support of allies. He was forced to make very serious concessions to regional political and business elites, which would help the president to gain the upper hand over his opponents.

After President Yeltsin crushed the Supreme Soviet, his regime entered the second stage in the confrontation. This was characterized by the president’s loss of charisma and mobilization potential. At the same time, the threat of a regime change by radical political elements who desired the return of the old system of government in one form or another, no longer presented a problem. As the opposition was defeated, a regime of delegative democracy drifted toward a rather moderate military-bureaucratic consolidation of power. The consequential weakness of Russian society, together with the forceful removal of the institutionalized opposition, enabled the decentralized military-bureaucratic authorities to begin the large-scale process of transferring state property into select private hands. In fact, the authorities no longer expressed the interests of society. They focused their attention exclusively on creating their clientele which, having acquired huge slices of state property (financial outlets, media resources and natural resources), would become the authorities’ stronghold. During that period, the officials in the top echelons of power did not care to consider the acute problems that were plaguing the country and the people.

At that time, no consideration was given to the need for retaining the nation’s research and development potential and advanced technologies, creating ‘points of growth’ in the economy, and promoting integration within the post-Soviet space. The authorities dealt exclusively with state property redistribution. That was a period when the majority of the people were struggling for their survival, and the strong and serious independent actors appeared on the political stage. It was a time when many of Russia’s constituent republics and regions had turned into semi-independent, neo-feudal entities.

In Moscow, there emerged new financial groups which coined money at the expense of the national budget, and laid their hands on the most profitable sectors of the economy which produced and exported raw materials. The sweeping property redistribution, together with the formation of new segments in the bureaucratic and business structures with a view to supporting the existing regime, was accomplished through the absolute decentralization of the government authorities. These officials failed to formulate common national interests and goals, and to mobilize the necessary resources for achieving them. It was during this period that corrupt government officials merged with the rising Russian businesses; the business leaders sought to resolve their problems by circumventing the law and lobbying bills that would fit their own interests. Corruption was rampant and assumed unprecedented dimensions: it was necessary to pay a lot of money to obtain a government official’s signature, while the need for acquiring a large number of referrals made business activities ineffective. Moreover, the numerous control agencies, with their endless checks and audits, turned the lives of normal businesspeople into a nightmare. On top of that, law enforcement agencies began engaging in protection racketeering. The fierce battles for assets resulted in the murder of many people by their rivals.

Thus, during the period between the crackdown on parliament, the adoption of the new 1993 Constitution and the 1996 presidential election, Russia had a regime with weak political institutions unable to control the state’s media, financial and administrative organizations. The top brass of that regime, together with the top brass of the newly formed businesses, were engaged in the carve-up of assets and power. The situation was similar in the provinces, where regional leaders controlled local businesses or, together with local business organizations, also engaged in the redistribution of assets and power. Separatist trends intensified, as did the trends for turning Russia into a de facto confederation. The provinces blatantly ignored the decisions of the federal government, and oftentimes violated federal laws.

But this decentralization of power, together with the state’s loss of central authority, created an illusion of democracy. This was intensified by both the state and non-state mass media outlets, which unanimously supported property redistribution, as well as the state’s inability to be a mouthpiece for public interests. Under these conditions, high-ranking officials and businesspeople that had connections with the government turned into multimillionaires overnight and got away with it.

Although many political analysts insisted that the 1993 Constitution had created a super-presidential republic, it cannot be denied that by 1996 this super-presidential republic had lost its substance. True, the president had the authority to dismiss the Cabinet or sack one or another minister, and even decide the fate of a governor or an oligarch, although this required painstaking efforts on his part. However, in reality, the president’s authority was limited to downtown Moscow. Whenever his authority extended beyond this limit, he used all of the available resources to resolve private issues related to himself or his near circle. By the 1996 presidential election, when Yeltsin ran for his second term, Russia still had decentralized power, weak institutions, and a leader who had totally lost his public support. The state as an institution expressing society’s combined interests had lost control over the main sectors of society and over its own resources.

The third stage of the Yeltsin regime started after he won the 1996 election. The regime then totally degraded and the Russian state completely lost its central authority. Even in the opinion of our incorrigible liberals, there occurred the privatization of state institutions by oligarchs, as well as the privatization of the Cabinet, the president’s administration and the president himself – or rather the president’s family. The privatization of the president’s family resulted in the emergence of an ugly phenomenon: the non-institutional center of power, which the Russian political journalism, and later the political literature, branded as the ‘Family.’ It included members of the president’s family proper and the leading oligarchs who controlled financial and industrial groups, as well as the main mass media outlets. This power center made all of the political and personnel decisions during President Yeltsin’s second term in office.

Those were the main characteristic features and specifics of the regime Russia had by the end of President Yeltsin’s first term and throughout his second term. To retain his personal power under such a regime, when the state had no central authority, the president used his powers for redistributing property and preventing a transfer of power to the Cabinet. The president constantly instigated conflicts inside the Cabinet and parliament, thus effectively paralyzing their activities. This was the only way for him to retain personal power and prevent its transfer to the prime minister and government. This explains why centers of power – alternative to the prime minister – were created and supported inside the government. This eventually led to numerous reshuffles of the Cabinet until Vladimir Putin came to power, first as prime minister and then as president.

Summing up the results and describing the Yeltsin regime in general terms, I can say that the regime was least of all characterized by democratic elements and features. For the above reasons, the regime failed to create conditions for the development of real democratic and political institutions, first and foremost mass political parties and civil society institutions. During the 1996 presidential election, administrative pressure was employed on an unprecedented scale, let alone across-the-board mobilization of financial, informational and other resources in Yeltsin’s favor in his fight against a Communist candidate. By that period, oligopolies were formed. Each one of these comprised a financial and industrial group, political party, presidential candidate, analysts, journalists and media outlets. This made it possible for them to build up their influence within the political, economic and personnel decision-making process.

THE MAKING OF THE PUTIN REGIME

Putin started his first term in office as president when the worst of all regimes known in political theory and practice had been created in Russia. Alongside democracies, Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan distinguished a whole range of non-democratic regimes, including authoritarian, totalitarian, post-totalitarian and sultanistic. However, the regime in place in Russia by 2000 was beyond compare with even a sultanistic one; the best example of the latter is supplied by Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime in Romania, according to the analysts. Despite the nepotism and dictatorship under Ceausescu, the state in Romania retained central authority and was powerful enough to express public interests. The state had certain ideological brakes as it was ruled by a Communist party. In its foreign policy, Romania had to maneuver between Russia and the West. While keeping control over key power institutions (a feature which made Romania similar to a sultanistic state), the Communist Party still managed to leave the Romanian state virtually without debts to the West.

The regime inherited by Putin was totally decentralized; the state had lost central authority, while the oligarchs robbed the country and controlled its power institutions. To mend the situation, Putin began to build a hierarchy of power. He ended the omnipotence of the regional elites which were led by regional barons in the person of the governors and the presidents of constituent republics of Russia. Furthermore, he destroyed the political influence of the oligarchs and oligopolies in the federal center. During his first two years as president, Putin succeeded in restoring vertical governance in general. The establishment of seven federal districts, together with the appointment of the president’s envoys to those districts, formed a common legislative space in the country and brought local laws, with rare exceptions, into line with federal legislation. The Family – which included members of the Yeltsin family, leading oligarchs, and chief executives of mass media outlets controlled by those oligarchs – was ruined as a non-institutional center of power. As a result, the Russian political and economic actors who sought to privatize the state, together with all of its resources and institutions, were weakened. Strangely enough, Putin’s efforts to restore the country’s controllability and the state’s central authority triggered a strong negative reaction among liberal critics of the Yeltsin regime, both in Russia and abroad.

The reason for such a reaction was not that Putin was really dismantling Yeltsin’s “democratic” regime and creating an authoritarian regime. By destroying oligopolies which had claimed control over the state, Putin actually stripped several groups of active Russian political actors of their financial and media resources. Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and other oligarchs and major businesspeople were stripped of the ability to use the mass media to maximize their economic capabilities. By denying those groups access to the Kremlin and destroying the Family power center, Putin barred them from decision-making on key political and personnel issues. The move deprived some leaders of the ‘democratic parties,’ as well as many journalists and analysts who served those politicians and the Family oligarchs, of strong political and financial support. The oligopolies identified the regime’s ‘democratic’ nature from the premise of whether or not they were close to the center of power, and whether or not they could successfully maximize their political and financial well-being, rather than from objective characteristics and unbiased estimates of the situation in the country.

The criticism voiced in the “free” press controlled by Gusinsky and Berezovsky had been a source of contempt for a long time. Most people can still recall the first ‘blacklists’ which emerged at the TV channels owned by those oligarchs: these television channels were only allowed to air reports that met the oligarchs’ economic and political interests, and only people who were ready to serve their interests could appear on those channels. All other politicians and analysts were denied the right to go on the air. The printed media controlled by the oligarchs adhered to similar policies. The same approach was used for filling positions in the president’s administration and the government.

It is no wonder, then, that Putin’s attempts to restore central authority, and reintroduce their status, rights, powers and capacities of the political institutions, faced the resistance of oligopolies. They interpreted these efforts as the strengthening of authoritarian and totalitarian trends in the Russian political power structure and as an assault on freedoms. However, the activities of oligarch-controlled media outlets had nothing in common with the functions of the mass media in the democracies of the West. Therefore, it was quite natural that occasionally, when the oligopolies failed to divide the most select slices of state property amongst themselves, we witnessed fierce information wars crowned by the dismissals of government officers of various ranks, depending on how close they were to the Family.

President Putin started with an attempt to restore the state’s role as an institution expressing the combined interests of the citizens and capable of controlling the state’s financial, administrative and media resources. He also began establishing common rules for all economic and political actors. Naturally, in line with Russian traditions, any attempt to increase the state’s role causes an intense repulsion on the part of the liberal intellectuals, not to mention a segment of the business community that is not interested in the strengthening of state power until all of the most attractive state property has been seized. In the absence of common rules, this part of the business community received unilateral advantages, taking avail of its closeness to the ‘Family.’ Naturally, both liberal intellectuals and a particular segment of the business community view Putin’s efforts to restore central authority as a threat to democracy and an attempt to establish authoritarian rule.

The consolidation of state power naturally enhances the role of law enforcement agencies as the strengthening state tries to set barriers against criminals, particularly those in big business, who are particularly keen on tax evasion and the maximization of their profits – if the state is weak. Ongoing efforts to put an end to these breaches of the law are also seen as restraints upon free entrepreneurship and the destruction of free market foundations of Russia’s statehood. Claims that the authorities have been ruining the environment for the further development of market relations have been disproved by key economic indicators. These have clearly shown the attractiveness of the Russian economy for domestic and foreign investors during the past several years. Actually, changes within the political sphere have promoted economic stabilization.

Toward the end of his first term, President Putin succeeded in consolidating the political regime. Under the new conditions, Russia is in a situation quite similar to that of the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. In 1985-1986, he was just starting to think about ways to modernize the regime which lacked any internal dynamics, yet was consolidated enough institutionally and ideologically.

What are the gains, losses and essential properties of Putin’s consolidated regime? A comparison of Putin’s Russia with Gorbachev’s Soviet Union of 1985 allows the conclusion to be drawn that today, after almost 20 years of reforms and shocks, there is a wide chasm between the Gorbachev regime and the current regime in virtually all spheres. It is clear that the social revolution, initiated by Gorbachev’s reforms, has been seen through to fruition in 2004. In my opinion, which is shared by many other analysts, the radical change of the economic components of the social system was the main goal and meaning of this social revolution. The absolute dominance of private ownership in Russia, recognized by all political forces today, has been the greatest achievement and result of this social revolution. In the political sphere, the reforms have produced a high level of pluralism, which rests on private ownership and the concomitant development of civil institutions. In turn, these institutions promote the development of a pluralistic party system.

Naturally, the level of civil society is not high enough at the current stage. Public interests are not taking shape as fast and effectively as could have been the case had mid-sized and small businesses developed more rapidly. But as was mentioned above, this is largely due to the fact that during a long period, the alliance of former government officials and leaders of several major oligarchic groups prevented the state from actively pursuing an effective policy toward creating a favorable environment for mid-sized and small businesses. The authorities only offered exclusive conditions to several groups which – sometimes in accordance with the law, but for the most part bypassing it – strengthened their own positions which allowed them to achieve monopoly status in many segments of the Russian economy.

The regime formed under Yeltsin obstructed the emergence and development of a civil society, as well as a political party system structured on such a society. This explains why Russian political parties, with the exception of the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, mostly remained parties that were controlled by particular oligarchs. While these parties had a certain level of grass-roots support, they actually totally depended on their sponsors. It was no accident that when Gusinsky’s media empire collapsed and Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s YUKOS began to face problems, Yabloko and SPS began to experience serious problems as well; they even failed to win any seats in the State Duma. Many of these parties’ sponsors began to display their loyalty to the authorities, while several joined United Russia. They realized that if they wanted to keep their businesses, they had to moderate their political ambitions. Otherwise, in the heat of the moment, they could fall under strong pressure from the authorities seeking to clean house in the sphere of big business.

The above does not mean that the existing political system has lost its democratic nature. If democracy is the rule by a majority and the protection of the rights and opportunities of a minority, the current political regime can be described as democratic, at least formally. A multiparty political system exists in Russia, while several parties, most of them representing the opposition, have seats in the State Duma.

Clearly the state, having restored its effectiveness and control over its own resources, has become the largest corporation responsible for establishing the rules of the game. A fundamentally new problem has emerged for the authorities and society: How far does the state intend to expand into society in its bid to control and regulate anything a bureaucrat chooses? Today, on the foundation of a new economic structure, President Putin’s consolidated regime must address the development of civil society, and enhance its position against the state. Mikhail Gorbachev failed to solve this problem, and this failure resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We must realize that under the current conditions, given the absence of a developed civil society, it would be absurd to insist that civil society control the state. This has never happened in any society which is experiencing a transition to democracy, whether we are talking about a transition from a post-totalitarian or even authoritarian regime to democracy. The transition period will require a long period of time, during which broad democratic rights and freedoms can be retained. But it is absolutely clear that the authorities and political parties and forces loyal to them will have certain advantages.

In particular, this was the case in postwar Italy where a one-and-a-half party system existed for 50 years – democratic rights and freedoms existed for everyone, but the opposition never had a chance to come to power. This was also the case in Japan, Mexico and, for quite a long time, France. A one-and-a-half party system, which guarantees a long stay in power for one party, emerges when there are strong anti-system forces in the country, which can radically change the country’s social and political system if they come to power. The one-and-a-half party system may exist until the anti-system forces begin to share the basic democratic institutions and values of the existing political system and become integrated into it. For that reason, the process can be rather lengthy. This process has taken many decades in countries with far greater democratic traditions than Russia.

If Russia is lagging behind the developed capitalist nations in regard to the consolidation of democracy, it is not the quality of democracy, but rather its amount and the balance between civil society and the state. I must briefly digress into theory here. While there are qualitative dissimilarities between totalitarianism and democracy, there is no clear qualitative distinction between authoritarianism – especially at its advanced stages – and democracy. There exists a quantitative difference and an innate organic link between these two types of regimes. In the 20th century, it was no accident that many developed authoritarian regimes broke with the past on the basis of a contract between old and new elites, opening up opportunities for consolidated democracy and civil society’s control over the state when the preconditions had become possible. I believe that Putin’s regime is in many respects more democratic than any other regime that has ever existed in Russian history. If Russia succeeds in firmly establishing its current positions, this regime will be able to resolve a whole range of other issues, consolidate itself and move the country forward toward consolidated democracy. This corresponds with the development of civil society and civil society’s control over the state. This presupposes the development of the party system and turning the one-and-a-half party system into a real two-party system. However, good wishes alone cannot expedite the process. It can be facilitated by the substantial growth of the Russian economy, the development of small and mid-sized businesses, and the improvement of the population’s living standards. On the other hand, the authorities themselves must efficiently reform the political system as the country’s economic and social spheres develop.

The present regime in Russia can transform into bureaucratic authoritarianism or consolidated democracy. It would be inaccurate to describe the existing regime as bureaucratic authoritarianism. Under bureaucratic authoritarianism, there exists a serious alienation of the regime and state institutions from the people. The authorities seek to retain their powers and control the key spheres of life. Their actual goal is to continue with the status quo, while reproducing the socio-political system without its development and modernization. It is impossible for such regimes to adequately react to internal and external challenges, as they are characterized by the omnipotence of bureaucrats and rampant corruption.

The Putin regime possesses certain features which differentiate it from bureaucratic authoritarianism. It can best be described as a plebiscitary democratic regime with a charismatic leader at its helm. This type of regime has been already described by Max Weber: there is a direct relationship between a charismatic leader and the people; the leader’s ability to mobilize the masses is great. He controls the institutional system and is also able, while relying on the masses, to overcome the resistance of bureaucracy. Naturally, there is a serious threat that bureaucratic authoritarianism may emerge. In principle, for a democratic political system to retain its dynamism and ability to develop and adjust itself, three types of conflicts must exist inside it: a conflict between the politicians and the government bureaucracy, a conflict between the bureaucratic sphere and the political sphere (the executive and the legislature), and a conflict between a charismatic leader and the political system in general. In the absence of such conflicts, braking mechanisms emerge in the socio-political system and it begins to stagnate, Weber noted.

In my opinion, the conflict between a politician and bureaucracy tends to be diminished today, and politicians have been increasingly replaced by bureaucrats. As a result, the Kremlin’s control over the legislature, as well as the necessary conflict between the legislative and executive branches mentioned above, diminishes as well. Naturally, this may create serious prerequisites for the political system’s stagnation. Fortunately, there still is a conflict between a charismatic leader staying above the political system and having direct access to the population (especially via the mass media) and the left and right opposition, which finds itself in and out of parliament. This inspires the hope that the political system will advance toward resolving a whole range of pressing problems, rather than narrowing the potential of the political opposition and grounds for conflict (rivalry of ideas and approaches capable of making the political system more dynamic, rather than a destructive conflict). If the authorities really seek to build a civil society which is capable of establishing control over the state, they themselves need to be reformed first and foremost.

Obviously, under the current conditions it is necessary to overcome the ‘double-headed’ nature of the executive. It would be expedient for the president to head the executive branch himself, which would stop the overlapping of functions, cut down the swollen bureaucratic apparatus of the president’s administration and the Cabinet, and let the president pursue energetic policies. In this respect, he would continue to rely on a parliamentary majority and the majority support of the population.

Priorities for advancing the regime toward a consolidated democracy include separating the state bureaucratic apparatus from business in order to weed out the roots of corruption. Only an enlightened leader and his administration can achieve this. It is impossible to effectively combat corruption by occasionally picking this or that corporation, checking it, ruining it, or redistributing its assets. The state must establish stringent rules common for all, which must be observed by government officers and the authorities, as well as the business community. Naturally, this requires changes in bureaucratic ethics and the formation of a special caste of government officers; these officials must be offered higher remuneration to enhance their well-being, otherwise, it would be difficult to detach bureaucrats from the sphere of business. The exchange of political and economic resources corrupts both officials and businessmen. The mass media should be aware of this problem and report their findings to society and the highest levels of authority.

An enlightened leadership can prevent the political regime from descending into bureaucratic authoritarianism, and achieve a civilized market and effective consolidated democracy.

Along with certain domestic factors, there is a serious external factor that inspires hope that the regime will advance toward consolidated democracy. The state now has sufficient resources for serious maneuvering and setting strategic goals in the interests of society – and it has the levers for attaining these goals. Russia’s economic weakness and dependence on the world market, together with the need to create a competitive economy, may also prompt the Kremlin to make decisions that will promote the system’s modernization toward consolidated democracy – especially given that the West insists that Moscow cultivate liberal values and institutions as a precondition for Russia’s integration into the Western economic, political and military structures. This factor can prevent the Putin regime’s transformation into a bureaucratic authoritarianism. For the same reason, it is hardly worth lamenting the fact that SPS and Yabloko are no longer represented in the State Duma, and that there is allegedly no one to criticize the Russian authorities from the liberal positions, nor push Russia along the liberal path.

The course of events, as well as the Western liberal communities, pushes Russia down the liberal path. They have steadily challenged Russia, making it compete with the liberal West on Western terms and on the basis of Western principles. Therefore, I find ridiculous the claims that if Boris Nemtsov, Grigory Yavlinsky or Irina Khakamada are not Duma members, the Russian authorities are spared the need to consider competition, freedom and democracy. Formerly, internal and external challenges forced the Communist leadership to modernize the Soviet regime. Now, too, it is the Western nations and the G-8 group that exert effective pressure on the Kremlin so that the Russian authorities can continue to build a more competitive economy. And a competitive economy will lay the foundation for building a developed civil society, which would then form a developed political party system. All of this will create the mechanisms for civil society’s effective control over the state.

To sum up, Russia has achieved a colossal divorce from the past, and the social revolution is over. Russia now must endure its evolutionary development toward consolidated democracy which will nurture a civil society capable of exercising control over the state. In 2004, Putin is launching this advance from a foothold that is totally different from the sort experienced by Alexander II, Sergei Vitte, Pyotr Stolypin or Gorbachev. We have never been so close to the creation of a real consolidated democratic system which would crown Russia’s modernization and permit the country to join the family of civilized nations, thus putting an end to disputes over whether or not Russia is part of Europe. Russia possesses all of the requirements to settle this question: private ownership and a pluralistic political system, although its civil society and party system are not yet fully developed. We have a consolidated power system. We have an enlightened leadership which understands all the problems, hardships and deadlocks that a course toward totalitarianism or authoritarianism can entail. We have the consolidated West, which is strong enough to steadily encourage the process. And we have a society that is educated and developed enough to accomplish the transformation of Russia. There is simply no other way to retain the integrity of the Russian state.

Last updated 13 april 2004, 17:25

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