Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Vanishing Democracy

In Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, Yevgenia Albats writes about the new political trend in Russia [my quick tr.]:
Have you noticed that the principal oxymoron (from Greek oxy-moron – “sharp-stupid”) of Vladimir Putin’s first government – “managed democracy” – has completely disappeared from official language? The president himself still occasionally allows himself the amusement of the word “democracy”, enriching political science with notions of its special path of development for Russia, while everyone else, including Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s principal specialist (if we recall his recent interview for Der Spiegel) studiously avoids it. And for this – I write it without irony – we must say a big thank you.

Firstly, with time it will make it possible to level the confusion in the brains of one's fellow citizens, who hear one thing, but in reality observe the direct opposite. Most of them don't know how democracy functions in the countries where it exists, and they judge it according to the precepts of various political technologists, who don’t know either, and who derive their information exclusively from translated texts and fashionable Western clothes boutiques. Secondly, it will make it possible to cleanse the word of all those many stratified layers it has acquired during the years of Russia’s post-communist transformation. Thirdly – and this is perhaps the most important thing – the approximation of official political language to reality makes the closed politics of the Kremlin more predictable.

During the past year, for example, we have obtained a much clearer idea of what sort of political system the Kremlin is trying to erect and, consequently, how and where we are going to be living. This name of this regime is bureaucratic authoritarianism, and in it all the main decisions are taken and all the country’s main resources are distributed inside a narrow coalition of officials and soldiers – whether from the army, as in quite a few countries of Latin America, or in civilian garb, i.e. representatives of the special services, as was recently the case in Peru, as is the case in Paraguay and, it seems, is going to be the case for us in Russia. Accordingly, the whole of the real political struggle is also taking place within that coalition (hence such a low effectiveness of control), while everyone else is assigned the role of silent observers.
But Albats sees a ray of hope: the situation, she comments, isn't likely to persist for long before public protest begins to make itself heard:
on all the flanks of Russian society - on both the left and the right - young politicians are appearing who, so far at least, are not prepared to play according to the set rules. Consequently there is a source of resistance, and it will grow: as is written on one of the leaflets of the "Oborona" [Defence] youth organization, right underneath a portrait of V.V. Putin: "We've Had Enough Of You!"

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