Russian Politics, & Personalities


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As I said before, I think Gudkov does a good job of giving us answers some of the questions we have all had over the years as to what Putinism really is (besides a response to Yeltsinism).

Here is what I gathered from the article:

Putinism is not Soviet Authoritarianism because…

1. Putinism does not have “the former monopoly of a party state” with “ideological control penetrating all social life.” …. Putin is “a bureaucrat ‘from the organs.”

2. …Putinism is not interested in or able to promote through “a mobilizing ideology” the “construction or ‘a new world’ or the formation of ‘a new man.’

3. …again in contrast to the Soviet system, Putin’s foreign policy is not directed at forming “a second ‘socialist camp’” but at most “the creation of a cordon sanitaire” against the West.

4. …his [Putin’s] regime does not feature the totalitarian competition of “terror, mass repressions and total propaganda.” Instead, it works to control the media “in proportion to the size of its audience – harsh for television, weak for print outlets, and largely still absent in the Internet.”

5. …“there is no centralized, plan-distribution economy.”

6. …the regime does not seek to close off society entirely from the world.

7. …there is no system of “cadres reserves,” although “the cadres of the special services in part” play the role of the former nomenklatura.

8. …far more than its Soviet predecessor, the Putin-era elite is far more “opportunistic” and would be quite prepared “to sell out the current leadership, as soon as the regime begins to shake,” thus making the collapse of the current regime far more likely and the probable reaction of the powers that be to any “shaking” far more spasmatic.

Putinism is similar to traditional authoritarianism.

1. it [Putinism] has “a quasi-paternalistic character,” reduces or degrades the public political sphere, and seeks to transform the government into “a technical apparatus for fulfilling ‘the will of the autocrat.’

2. …Putinism seeks to “strengthen ‘traditionalism,’ conservative interests and anti-modern orientations.”

3. …because loyalty is more important than competence for both, Putinism has lowered the quality of administrative officials at all levels.

4. Putinism promotes “the rapid growth of corruption, which has seized all spheres of the government structure,” a reflection of “the primitive (‘by hand’ character) of administration and the ineffectiveness of the state” and a feature that leads to even more “arbitrariness” by officials and alienation of the population.

But Putinism is not traditionally authoritarian.

1. “The ‘personalism’ of the regime is external. ‘Putin’ is not the creator of the regime but a pseudonym or nominal expression for the existing arrangement of forces in a narrow circle of people who have worked out and taken all important cadres and economic decisions.”

2. Putinism’s “personalism reflects the amorphousness or archaic quality of the Russian institutional system. Precisely this lack of differentiation is what people are referring to when they mistakenly speak about personal power [or] the concentration of power ‘in one set of hands.’”

3. …it promotes “imitative traditionalism” with “modernizing rhetoric,” even though it does not include within itself a variety of traditional elements like the Orthodox Church.

4. …[it] needs “elections as a plebiscite-type sanction of its legitimation.”

5. The distinguishing feature of the Putin regime is that “the political police are not so much an instrument for the powers that be as in fact the powers that be themselves,” one part of the bureaucracy which, “lacking counterweights and control works only for itself” and increasingly ignores anything but the specific interests of its component parts.

Gudkov’s Definition of Putinism:

‘Putinism,’ …is a system of decentralized use of the institutional resources of force retained by the force structures from the totalitarian regime but now made use of by the holders of power for securing their private, clan and group interests.


Written by Nina Jobe

December 17, 2009 at 6:55 PM

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