Russia: Modernization and reform – from Stolypin to Medvedev

Versiunea în limba română poate fi citită aici.

In Moscow apparently dumbfounded, literally and figuratively, Vladimir Putin left his office from the White House and went to the Kremlin where Medvedev expected to return the function that was entrusted to four years ago. According  ceremony, the road between the two locations lasted 7 minutes. About what will be thought Putin in those 7 minutes ? I do not know.🙂 Certainly is that in his short speech from the Ceremony of inauguration, Putin said that Russia is entering in a new phase of national development, that Dmitry Medvedev has spurred the modernization of Russia and the country’s transformation must to continue. Putin spoke about the need to strengthen democracy in Russia and its citizens’ constitutional rights. “Taking over the duties of President, I know full responsibility to the people, the country’s interests, security and welfare of citizens which have been and will remain for me above all. I will do my utmost to justify the trust of millions of our citizens” said Vladimir Putin.

Needs a non-revolution to modernize Russia

Is not the first time when Vladimir Putin refers to the need of change gradually, in several phases of evolution. Making an appeal to memory, I remember that in 1999, just before Yeltsin’s resignation, was published which later was called the Millennium Manifesto, and its text is attributed to Putin. The central message of the Manifesto is centered on the idea that Russia during the entire its history has lost its great power status when the Russian people was left divided, when they were overlooked common values that give Russian greatness and set it apart from other nation. A vision that we thought belonged to one of his favorite predecessors  – Petr Stolypin. And behold, this year when Russia is celebrated Stolypin, as one of its great reformers (150 years anniversary of his birth), the famous phrase uttered by Stolypin to the front of the State Duma in 1907 – “You, gentlemen, you need big riots. We need a great Russia. “- is strangely actual and seems to have become the axiomatic root of power authority in Moscow.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov and Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko at the international conference “Stolypin Readings. Russia’s Modernization Routes: From Stolypin to Contemporaneity.”

Attending to the recent works of International Conference “Stolypin Readings. Russia’s Modernization Routes: From Stolypin to Contemporaneity”, Deputy Prime Minister and ex-Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov opened the conference by a welcoming speech in which he underscored that “respect for homeland, for its traditions and for national character along with an attempt to make necessary transformations in the interests of the nation” were the most important features of Stolypin’s policy. Surkov noted that Stolypin (known as a proponent of modernizing Russia gradually, through non-revolutionary ways) asked for his reforms 20 years. “The situation is somewhat similar now. We need 20 years to implement the strategy to modernize Russia. We have received already 10 years. We need another 10” said VYS, the Creator of the current political system in Russia. Skipping the poor math of the gray eminence of  Kremlin (from 2000 to now are 12 years, and if he will take a view on the percentage of mortality in Russia, likely to be horrified to see how many Russians will not catch the The great Russia in those two years that they requires in addition😀 ), we notice another major impediment of this calculation – time. Time (and growing discontent of the population), the daily complaints (from overly zealous police who they meet to corrupt bureaucrat), news that are associated in the collective mind to the political changes that characterized other nations when they are dissatisfied, all this seems to be the greatest enemies of Russia’s new government. Moreover, Vladislav Surkov seemed quite less optimistic and a lot realistic, recognizing that although long-term solutions are on the table of authorities, they takes time. Time that people, like in Stolypin’s time, they still could not give those in power. The fact that recent Western model protests  Ocuppy Abai were turned into an anti-Putin summer camp, with symptoms that remember from hippie ideology rather than a riots that  decided to remove a regim, is not enough to believe that real possibility of riots can be excluded. Historical experience has demonstrated repeatedly that the forces and political pressures, sometimes, choose their one own path, despite the carefully calibrated efforts to channel them in a way.

The great reforms and the little  Medvedev

Medvedev in the Kremlin’s office was well received by the West, who saw in him a mix between the soft replica of Russian authoritarianism and openness to Western-democratic paradigm. West society sees democracy as a precondition for economic modernization and social prosperity. The fact that things are perceived differently in Moscow stems from the different perception that the Russian population has on these concepts: thus, 47 percent of Russians consider that democracy is synonymous with freedom of speech, press and religion, in contrast, only 24 percent believe that democracy involves primarily the economic prosperity of the country. That given that only 8% believe that Russia is a democracy and 40% think it is a partial democracy – according survey made by VITsOM. But what chance has the proposed modernization strategy of Medvedev – a real liberal view – under the circumstances of global crisis and the lack of support from the population (disappointed with the performance of Medvedev in relation with the great President Putin)? Like Stolypin, and also like Putin nor Medvedev does not want revolution. “The social and political need to be thoughtful, rational, progressive and consistent”. “Today, we are trying to develop democratic institutions insufficient, try to change our economy and political system” said the former president and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in March 2011 in St. Petersburg, in opening a conference around the theme “Great reforms and modernization of Russia” (conference tried to establish a parallel between tsarist and current policy reforms). And, like in the recent speech of his Deputy PM Surkov, Medvedev then, at that time, added : “We continue the policy actually implemented 150 years ago.”

Since he came to Kremlin, Medvedev has made the modernization of the country one of his main priorities, focusing particularly on modernizing the Russian economy, too dependent on oil exports, through the development of High Technologies.  Skolkovo and the main partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – is a project which does not anyone to negate  its importance. But one swallow does not make a summer, says a word ! Biotechnology, telecommunications, nanotechnology, microelectronics, avionics and space technology, high performance computing devices are just a few of the areas in which Russia would like to affirm (as a collaborator or as a competitor). High ambitions, infrastructure from the past century. Russian people do not remember the spectacular results of the reform. But is more easy for them to speak about a series of recent setbacks of space and aviation industry. The attitude of Russian society became much more refractory to the consensus and social solidarity dreamed by “Cardinal” Surkov. Modernization of Russia creates the sensation of attempts to reaching the moon by airplane of the Little Prince’s creator. Sociologist Alexander Ansan believes that “modernization strategy should be based on specific national priority as such anachronisms can be converted into resources if modernization is adapted to the values and traditions of the nation”. While PM Medvedev seems completely absorbed by his new toy – Open Government – the experts from Stratfor finds a good thing: “The crisis has not seriously affected trade between the EU and Russia (although trade has declined significantly in 2009, it has back in 2011) “. But also they remark a fact that is likely to not enjoy to the vice-premier in charge of modernization, the same Vladislav Surkov, course … Stratfor says that “the great problem of Russia were the modernization and privatization programs  – were supposed to bring $ 10 billion in 2011. Contrary – what happened  was a decrease in these investments. Moreover, capital outflows from Russia in 2011 were $ 70 billion – twice more than the $ 35 billion planned – mostly  in the capital went to Europe“. In other words, while the economic foundations of Russia – exports to Europe – remains stable, investments are declining, which means that Moscow will needs to reassess plans that depend on European investments and eventually set to compute these or even to cancel if things in Europe will continue to worsen (that is more likely).

Published by Cadran Politic Review, May 2012

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