08.02.2005
The Spiral of Russian History
№1 2005 January/March
Fyodor A. Lukyanov

Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

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The year 2004 has proven to be Russian President Vladimir
Putin’s most difficult year since he took office in 2000. Apart
from an upsurge in terrorism, which culminated in the horrible
terrorist act in Beslan, Putin faced a decrease in economic growth
rates, the declining position of Moscow in the post-Soviet space,
and a marked deterioration in the West’s attitude toward Moscow. As
a result of these negative developments, Russia’s leadership is
forced to make grave decisions. It is no wonder that heated debates
have begun in Russia as to whether the president has a development
strategy, and if he has, is it adequate to the problems now facing
Russia?

The contributors to our journal provide different answers to
this question. One of Russia’s leading political analysts, Vyacheslav Nikonov, says
that Putin adheres to a straightforward strategy which can be best
described as conservative – with an allowance made for the
specificity of Russia’s very young democracy, of course. The
designers of the present regime did not have a systemic
restructuring plan, argue Svetlana Babayeva and Georgy Bovt. They hold that the
Kremlin has focused all its efforts on a search for ways to
preserve its power after Putin’s presidency expires in 2008.
Journalist Alexander
Budberg
fears that Russia has “lost” the Putin who was bent on
transforming the country into a modern developed state.

Businessman Mikhail Yuryev blames the numerous problems
confronting Russia on “internal foes” who criticize Putin not with
a view to changing the regime but in a bid to liquidate Russia per
se. Economist Mikhail Delyagin believes that Russia’s loss of status
as a great power, as well as its setbacks in the ongoing
competition with the West, can be blamed on the ruling bureaucracy.
The analysis of the role of the bureaucratic machinery continues in
an article by
Russia’s most famous prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky
, who
observes that the unique and mixed attitude of the Russian people
to their own state is rooted in the past.

In general, analyzing the past is a characteristic trend of
Russia’s present socio-political context. Many politicians,
scholars and ordinary citizens seek to find answers to these
contemporary questions in Russia’s recent and more distant history.
Critics of President Putin accuse him of seeking to restore –
deliberately or unconsciously – the Soviet system of government.
Many of his supporters view the centralization of power as a return
to the traditional Russian (pre-revolutionary rather than Soviet)
matrix, which they believe corresponds best to the Russian national
tradition.

This issue also focuses on Russia’s relations with the former
Soviet republics. Moscow has been cut to the quick by the loss of
its leadership role in the post-Soviet space. It views the
developments there, above all in Georgia and Ukraine, as the
shameless expansion of the West into a legitimate sphere of Russian
interests. Analysts and journalists Yekaterina Kuznetsova, Vadim Dubnov and
Robert Bridge
examine what has happened to the fragments of the Soviet Union and
whether Russia has a chance to restore its influence there.
Sergei Kortunov
focuses on a unique problem that Russia has inherited following the
breakup of the Soviet empire – the Kaliningrad Region, a Russian
enclave that is surrounded by countries of the European Union.

Global governance and the formation of a new world order is
another highlight of this issue, and we have included policy
articles by two Russian authorities on this issue – Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov and
foreign-policy patriarch Yevgeny Primakov. Specific aspects of the
governability issue are analyzed in articles by American scholar
Naiem Sherbiny
and Tommaso
Padoa-Schioppa
(Italy), a member of the Governing Council and
the Executive Board of the European Central Bank. Prominent
scholars Alexei
Bogaturov
and Nikolai Zlobin explore the policies of the United
States, the main candidate for the right to rule the world.
Finally, the most acute problem of our times – international
terrorism – is the subject of articles contributed by Alexei Arbatov and
Yevgeny
Satanovsky
.

Our next issue will be dedicated to a crucial event in Russian
history, when, in the spring of 1985 the Soviet Union acquired a
new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was also destined to be its last
leader. We will sum up some of the results of those two tumultuous
decades, and analyze how much Russia has developed since then.