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A New Thaw for Russia?
April 26, 2009 4:01 PM   Subscribe

The global financial crisis has severely affected the Russian economy. The unstable situation in the country has contributed to a growing rift between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. As increasing numbers of Russians become disillusioned with Putin's promise of comfort and security in exchange for authoritarianism, Medvedev has shown some willingness to take the country in a more liberal direction. Some analysts, however, remain unconvinced.
posted by nasreddin (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm worried about what Nashi and the other pro-Putin organizations, that were specifically designed to prevent liberalization such as what we saw in The Ukraine, might do.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:38 PM on April 26, 2009


I'm worried about what Nashi and the other pro-Putin organizations, that were specifically designed to prevent liberalization such as what we saw in The Ukraine, might do.

Well, as a poet once said, "Revolution in Russia was always the most ancient privilege of autocracy." I don't think liberalization from the top is really a concern for them. They're more afraid of the appearance of bottom-up reform.
posted by nasreddin at 4:47 PM on April 26, 2009


The Novayagazeta interview was really enlightening. I hope Medvedev backs up the rhetoric of growing freedoms. Putin is an artefact of the old guard; the dying breed. If Medvedev can convince the economic powers that he's better for the economy, his new direction might take hold. But Putin hasn't been around this long out of sheer luck. Peter Truscott's Putin's Progress really opened my eyes to what a natural gift for playing the byzantine power structure of Russia Putin has. Pretty tense times overall.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Autotranslation strikes again (from the "some analyists" link):

Last steps liberal Dmitry Medvedev, is, from your point of view, what is a temporary phenomenon or is it a line, which he will adhere to?
posted by ornate insect at 5:12 PM on April 26, 2009


New Yorker writer Keith Gessen arrested (and later released) in Sochi.
posted by gerryblog at 5:24 PM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


From gerryblog's link:

"I just talked to him and he's fine. He was like 'yeah I got arrested no big deal.'"

Hardcore.
posted by JHarris at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2009


Putin is an artefact of the old guard; the dying breed.

Words that show a complete lack of understanding of the centuries-old Russian character. Putin is precisely what appeals to the average Russian.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:37 PM on April 26, 2009


Words that show a complete lack of understanding of the centuries-old Russian character. Putin is precisely what appeals to the average Russian.

If Garry Kasparov heard you say that, he's smack you. (Spesifically, he got really pissed off at Bill Maher when he said something similar)

What appeals to people, regardless or origin, is a government that works well. Since Putin brought in a lot of wealth due to the high price of oil, people liked him. Now that he's not, people like him less.
posted by delmoi at 7:54 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


People were saying Yeltsin was the old guard and that Putin would westernize the country when he got into power. We all know how that turned out.
posted by afu at 8:12 PM on April 26, 2009


People were saying Yeltsin was the old guard and that Putin would westernize the country when he got into power. We all know how that turned out.

The country saw a tremendous boost in the economy, had some military engagements that played on national sentiment (with mixed results), but I don't think many people had any illusions about a former KGB bureaucrat veering too far off what he knows best. Medvedev's background with the former Soviet system isn't nearly as extensive. But like I said, whether his rhetoric plays out remains to be seen.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:29 PM on April 26, 2009


Garry Kasparov is hardly an average Russian.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:37 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regardless of questions of what the Russian character consists of in terms of authoritarianism, not wanting to be broke or lose wealth is a fairly universal human trait. If the Assembly becomes convinced that Putin is ruining the economy, and that Medvedev can fix it, my guess is most people will be motivated by their bank accounts.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:46 PM on April 26, 2009


I think it's a mistake to chock Russia's various problems with freedom and rule of law up to some defect in the Russian character. Not only is that sort of 1909 thinking, to harp on national identities, but it ignores the strident evidence of the 20th and now 21st centuries that even the denizens of such bastions of freedom as the U.S. and the U.K. will heartily eat up some quite despotic practices if served with the right sauce and garnish.

In the last few years I've been more and more inclined to think that it's the blind, deaf, and dumb presence of mere institutions and customs of a certain type, moreso than the perspicacity or good will of politicians or even of the public at large, that is what really keeps authoritarianism and other social pathologies at bay.
posted by XMLicious at 8:54 PM on April 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Putin is precisely what appeals to the average Russian.

Just as GWBush is precisely what appeals to the average American. Right, Krrrlson?

As Marisa says, once it becomes clear that one candidate/party has steered the ship of state into the iceberg of WTF?, then people vote for the opposition, regardless of their "centuries-old character." Assuming free elections, which you may not.
posted by dogrose at 9:07 PM on April 26, 2009


Putin is precisely what appeals to the average Russian.

Yeah, probably not. I think what more likely appeals to the average Russian is the same thing that appeals to the average citizen of any nation - to have that nation viewed with respect by citizens of other nations. Given that Russia went from being considered a superpower to the laughingstock of the world, it's no surprise that many ordinary people felt that accepting a little authoritarianism in exchange for clawing back some of that prestige was a more-or-less fair trade.
posted by Ritchie at 9:34 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Russia was a laughingstock? When was that?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2009


Russia was a laughingstock? When was that?

You don't remember the '90s?
posted by nasreddin at 9:43 PM on April 26, 2009


People were saying Yeltsin was the old guard and that Putin would westernize the country when he got into power.

Actually, most people responded with the old-media equivalent of WTF? He wasn't well-known and there was widespread speculation that his elevation represented an internal KGB coup.
posted by dhartung at 10:30 PM on April 26, 2009


"Russia was a laughing stock? When was that?"

That was when the Harvard economists were done with it.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:22 AM on April 27, 2009


Words that show a complete lack of understanding of the centuries-old Russian character. Putin is precisely what appeals to the average Russian.

Coming up next from Krrrlson's House of Hypocritical Bigotry: Why nig^H^H^HBlacks will vote for anyone who offers them fried chicken.

You don't remember the '90s?

Evidently not.
posted by rodgerd at 12:59 AM on April 27, 2009


I suppose it's entirely likely the US media would have made ha-ha over Russia's crisis.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 AM on April 27, 2009


People in Russia have lived through times which make the current "crisis" seem a bit lame by comparison.

I think we can somewhat disregard the "ancient Russian mentality". The recent lived experience of people is crazy 90s followed by Putin's prosperity. In other words, democratisation is accompanied by bad things, a strong hand lets you make a living. If that was my experience of government, I'd be straight behind whoever promised the most gradual change.

Also, weirdly, people seem to be cynical about government at all levels, with one exception. Putin has credibility that I can't imagine in the UK. I mean, I've seen normal, educated people with Putin as the background on their mobile phone. I go out of my way to avoid politics in conversation, but I know how much people respect him. And I think I understand why they do. It's very easy to be liberal when you're not actively worried about financial catastrophe or disrupted food supplies.

In any case, if Medvedev can really tackle corruption, that's a nice, Argumenti i Facti-endorsed cause which would bolster him up nicely, but that's a rather big if.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:59 AM on April 27, 2009


"Russia was a laughing stock? When was that?"

I remember
the eighties....
posted by IndigoJones at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2009


nasreddin, the idea is interesting but the way you set up the pros vs cons, you've replicated an age-old exoticization on the part of the western media. the people who are believing his move to the left are time, guardian, etc - i wouldn't exactly expect these parrots of Liberal Democracy to tell us otherwise (just like how much they told us Iraqis wanted to be liberated, etc).
posted by yonation at 3:44 PM on May 4, 2009


sorry, also, i'm so apprehensive and anxious about equating liberal economic with liberal/left the way we use it here. i'm sure you know that given what i know about your posting background, etc, but its another danger of setting up a pro-dem/anti-dem dichotomy based on media representation.

not that i'm defending putin or anything
posted by yonation at 3:45 PM on May 4, 2009


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