Russia will not disappear

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will certainly not be in power in three years. The war he foolishly unleashed in Ukraine fatally undermined his political credibility with the Russian elite (and with a large, albeit silent, section of the population). One way or another, it will be replaced.

He can even save everyone from trouble by dying before he can be removed. He really doesn’t look well, his behavior is increasingly erratic, and rumors that he has a terminal illness abound.

Russia is not a fascist state, just a kleptocracy where thieves and thugs have taken over, but Putin’s personal behavior is starting to resemble Adolf Hitler in his last days bunker, and Hitler too was very ill.

Putin knows nothing about military matters, but he is said to be micro-managing unique “battalion combat groups” (about 1,000 men) in the currently stalled Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, trying to recover from a military situation that has descended into stalemate. Very Hitlerian. So what will happen to Russia when he leaves?

Alexander J. Motyl thinks he might just disappear. In an opinion piece published on The Hill, Washington’s leading political website, Motyl, a political scientist at Rutgers University, suggests that “the Russian Federation could metamorphose into 10 or more states, only one of which would be known as the name of Russia. It would forever change the face of Eurasia.

It certainly would, but it implies the permanent demise of a state that has dominated northern Eurasia for the past four centuries (the first Russians reached the Pacific in 1647). It also ignores the remarkable homogeneity of the population of this state: 81% are ethnically Russian, while none of the many minority groups even reaches 4%.

There were occasions, most recently during the Civil War of 1917-1922, when Russia was temporarily divided into rival jurisdictions, but these interludes never lasted long. The feeling that there is a particular Russian identity, even a unique “Russian civilization”, is always reaffirmed.

It is as unlikely that Russia will separate definitively as France or Japan. Motyl’s split speculation is wishful thinking, perhaps driven by the fact – not mentioned by The Hill – that his parents were born in Ukraine.

It is understandable that the Ukrainians want Russia to disappear, but that will not happen. What will happen when Putin leaves?

We cannot yet know what a truly post-communist Russia would look like. Although 31 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost everyone in senior political positions started their careers in the Communist Party. The ideology has been abandoned, but the administrative style and factional struggles remain.

Moreover, one man, Putin, dominated Russian politics for more than two-thirds of that time. It’s hard to disentangle what’s inherently Russian about the way Russia was run at that time from what was part of Putin’s personality, but we’re about to find out.

The default position is to say that Russians are somehow fundamentally different from other Slavs. After all, the Poles and Czechs got real democracy and prosperity after 1991, while the Russians got Putin, border wars and, for most people, genteel poverty.

But there were two big differences that had nothing to do with “national character,” whatever that might be. The first was that all the former Eastern European ‘satellite countries’ immediately ditched their local communist collaborators and got a whole new set of politicians, while Russia was basically stuck with the old commies wearing new hats. .

The other difference was that the West Slavs experienced the change as a liberation, while their former rulers saw it as a loss of empire that locked tens of millions of Russians into places that were suddenly foreign countries. .

It would have been unreasonable to expect these two groups of people to react the same way, and of course, they didn’t.

But it is equally unreasonable to be convinced that Russians will continue to behave in the same way when the ex-Communist ruling elite loses power – which may be imminent – and a new post-imperial generation takes over. relay.

We have no idea what comes out of the box then. It might even be something good.

About Lillian Coomer

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