"What will happen with Russia?"

Thursday, 30. October 2008     0 comment(s)
Arkady Moshes
Programme Director - The EU's Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme

This is the title of an analytical report published this week on the web-site of the Russian INDEM Foundation, mostly known outside the country for its work on Russian corruption. The paper outlines several scenarios of Russian political development.

The difference between this report and many other works in the same genre is twofold. First, this is a mathematical model, based on calculations and a really complicated methodology. Of course, what the authors analyze mathematically is originally expert assessments, which are not free of subjectivity, but in the end they probably approach the “scientific level” as closely as realistically possible, and in any case closer than most of other writers, with degrees in humanities, could ever dream of.

Second, the time-frame of this report is between October 2008, when the financial crisis hit Russia, and the end of 2009, i.e. it is very short-term. Contrary to all wise advices that we hear already as students – “never predict things that will happen when people still remember your forecasts” – the authors do take this brave and noble stance.

They operate with five scenarios:

- Stagnant Russia (“vialaya” in the original language, which stands for inert, slack or dull), which would mean the prolongation of today’s trends, systemic instability and the weakness of power;

- Dictatorship for Development, a sort of Pinochet recipe for modernization;

- Protective Dictatorship, or dictatorship for the sake of staying in power;

- Revolution, or the illegitimate change of the regime by “the street”, regardless of whom “the street” would follow;

- Smart Russia (symbolically, for this scenario English is used without translation), or modernization following the western model, with political competition and the effective rule of law.

The probabilities are 37% for the stagnation, 56% for the Pinochet model, 4,5% for the self-protective dictatorship, 1% for the revolution, and 1,5% for Smart Russia.

To compare, in 2005, the same model allotted 30,6% to the stagnation, 24,8 – to Pinochetism, 23,4 – to protective dictatorship, 11,2 – to revolution, and 10,1 – to Smart Russia.

Why is it so interesting? Because these forecasts and comparisons run contrary to a wide-spread (and optimist) assumption, that a crisis may make Russia return to the path of real democratic and liberal reforms.

Instead, what one can see in the model proposed is doom and gloom. The Pinochet model was once sold to the Russians. The whole narrative about the dictatorship for development was told when Vladimir Putin was ascending to power in 1999-2000. Back then even many Russian liberals were ready to accept it to the point that they repeated the thesis about “the Russian army resurrecting in Chechnya”. Did they get modernization and reform or something else? Why would the results be different this time?

After I read the report, I finally understood why science and optimism do not always go along.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

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