13.04.2004
What is ‘Putinism’?
№2 2004 April/June
Andranik Migranyan

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

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.