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See the new Russia? Same as the old Russia.
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gorby is not impressed with Putin or his election process in Russia - not that anyone is listening:
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, has criticised Russia's electoral process and called for extensive reforms to a system that has secured power for the President, Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin's inner circle.

"Something is wrong with our elections, and our electoral system needs a major adjustment," Mr Gorbachev said in remarks published by the Interfax news agency on Monday.

His comments were made after the Russian Government rejected the only serious opposition candidate in the March 2 presidential election.

The timing was pointed, and the remarks - ignored by Russian television news broadcasts that are controlled by the Kremlin - were the most vocal criticism by a prominent political figure of the state of the country's politics as Mr Putin prepares to pass power to a chosen successor.
If anyone would understand how the "new look" Russia was amazingly similar to the old USSR it would be Gorby.

The Kremlin has set up another rubbber stamp vote for Putin's candidate:
The opposition candidate, the former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was denied a place on the ballot on Sunday by the Central Election Commission, which said 13 per cent of the more than 2 million signatures submitted with his registration documents were invalid.

Mr Kasyanov has said that the signatures are valid and that the Kremlin ordered the commission to block his candidacy as a means of ensuring the election of Dmitri Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister and the candidate selected by Mr Putin.
And, to insure they don't take international grief about their process, they've even winnowed the list of "international observers" invited to the event to insure a friendly audience (I bet Jimmy Carter's still on the list):
A spokesman said on Monday the Government had halved the number of foreign observers invited to the elections and suggested some monitors in the past had been hostile to Moscow.
Said Gorby about all of this:
Mr Gorbachev, in the published statements, said the election's result was "predictable from the outset" and "predetermined by the enormous role that Vladimir Putin played".
It may not be the USSR, but it certainly seems to be a cheap imitation of the old regime, and Gorbachev should know.
 
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Of course — Russia has an authoritarian political culture going back to even reformist Czars like Peter the Great. Communism in Russia can’t be understood without also harkening to that past. And, while Putin is not democratic, he certainly is better than Yeltsin, who was more democratic, but had no real rule of law which allowed corruption and instability to flourish. That’s why Russians like Putin, he at least creates stability. Whether or not he takes them a couple steps towards being able to embrace a more open democratic society depends on the future. Small steps, you know. Russia is not going to change overnight. It could be democracy Russian style.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union,
You know, I could have SWORN there was a guy after Gorby, but before Putin...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Yeltsin was the first leader of the Russian Federation, after the fall of the good ’ol USSR.

as for Putin: NEVER TRUST KGB.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
Ah. I see where I misread. I thought they mean last leader as in "the guy just before Putin.

My bad.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
That’s why Russians like Putin, he at least creates stability. Whether or not he takes them a couple steps towards being able to embrace a more open democratic society depends on the future.
I’d say the trend line is clear, not MORE democracy, but less...Dr. Erb. The rest of your statement I’d have to agree with.

Just a comment I read a blog statement that seems quite good, Russia is the first Secret Police state, not a state with a secret police, but a state where the secret police actually are managing the country..Putin, KGB, many senior managers, former KGB...it’s not communist it’s just the Good Ole Boys of the KGB helping one another out.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"a state where the secret police actually are managing the country"
I remember an article in the Economist not to long ago (perhaps a year back) that noted Putin’s admiration of Andropov. It seems the KGB feel that, had their guy had more time, they could have really "gotten it right." (And I don’t think that included a lot of democracy.)
 
Written By: capital L
URL: http://
It seems the KGB feel that, had their guy had more time, they could have really "gotten it right."
If by that they meant, "Got all the really high paying jobs and opportunities to graft like maniacs" I’d ahve to agree.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"a state where the secret police actually are managing the country"
I remember an article in the Economist not to long ago (perhaps a year back) that noted Putin’s admiration of Andropov. It seems the KGB feel that, had their guy had more time, they could have really "gotten it right." (And I don’t think that included a lot of democracy.)
 
Written By: capital L
URL: http://
I remember an article in the Economist not to long ago (perhaps a year back) that noted Putin’s admiration of Andropov. It seems the KGB feel that, had their guy had more time, they could have really "gotten it right."
Andropov recognized in the seventies that the Soviet Union had internally ceased to function and collapse was likely if things weren’t changed. He brought Mikhail Gorbachev into the Politburo as his protege. The KGB had been ignored by Brezhnev who considered their alarming reports to be bureaucratic panic. Andropov did start reforms, but he got sick, and the bureaucracy rebelled (and Chernenko, who was extremely conservative, replaced him when he died, and tried to halt the reforms). By 1985 it had gone so far they realized they needed change, and hence Gorbachev was chosen.

Would it have been democratic or enough to save the USSR? No to both questions. Communism could not survive, it was untenable as a system. Can Russia become a true democracy that can fulfill western standards? Perhaps. First they have to establish rule of law, create a functioning civil society, and the culture has to shift its expectations of government. Civil society is really important though. Russia now has a political culture that essentially requires an amount of authoritarianism in order to have order and stability. To go purely democratic now would yield something akin to the Yeltsin years. If Putin moves forward by setting the foundation for a gradual increase in freedom — which is very possible, given globalization and influence from the EU, whose relationship with Russia is moving closer — then you can see real improvement. But it’s hard to buck centuries of history.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
If Putin moves forward by setting the foundation for a gradual increase in freedom — which is very possible, given globalization and influence from the EU, whose relationship with Russia is moving closer — then you can see real improvement. But it’s hard to buck centuries of history.
That whole japan and Korea thing was a fluke....Putin is NOT laying ground work for further democracy. He’s laying the ground work for more Putin-in-Charge and Putin’s cronies in charge. You become democratic by BEING democratic...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Boris Erb has been reading the newspapers again:
Communism could not survive, it was untenable as a system.
Good start, Boris.

And you say that Andropov recognized in the 70s that the Soviet Union had been collapsing since the 1920s? Pretty slow on the uptake for a KGB man. I guess keeping yourself busy with arrests and murders kind of gets your eye off of the economic ball.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Japan started modernizing, copying Prussia first, in the 19th century, had a failed attempt at democracy and then after WWII emerged as essentially a single party state with connections between business, finance and government. Post-WWII Japan wasn’t that much different than pre-War Japan, except they lost the militarism. Even now, after over a half century of change, Japanese culture is only slowly changing, the LDP grip on power was only slightly loosened by the crises of the early 90s, and Japan is moving, gradually, to a more open society, but one with a very distinct culture.

Korea was authoritarian as it instituted capitalism, with brutal repression for forty years before the 90s saw a move to democracy. So far, that’s been working out relatively well, though Korea is very different from the West, and the political transformation is slow. Your examples, Joe, tend to reinforce my point.

Past reforming Czars also ended up not doing much to truly open and westernize Russia, and Putin may be in that position. But Russia isn’t as isolated as in the past, it needs and wants global trade and connections, and the internet, media and the like create real checks against longterm authoritarianism as a country becomes wealthier. We’ll see — neither of us can know for sure, but Russia is not a closed hell hole any more, and in fact every day life has gotten much better. People travel, change jobs, move about the country, talk politics openly, make deals, trade...it’s nothing like Communism!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But Russia isn’t as isolated as in the past, it needs and wants global trade and connections, and the internet, media and the like create real checks against longterm authoritarianism as a country becomes wealthier.
And authoritarian regimes can easily counter-check the flow of "dangerous" information on the Internet. Just look at developments over the past few years in China; definitely one of the most connected societies. There we can see that a savvy regime can clamp down on public dissent quite vigorously without damaging its economic output. Russian authorities are surely no less technically able than their Chinese counterparts and can apply the same measures should things get out-of-hand.

The correlations between economic and democratic advancements are not very direct.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
And authoritarian regimes can easily counter-check the flow of "dangerous" information on the Internet. Just look at developments over the past few years in China; definitely one of the most connected societies.
It’s just holding back the tide a little bit, China’s going to be forced to make real changes down the line, the middle class is soon not going to be satisfied with just being rich, they’ll want some power.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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