Russia Today is Not Where USSR was in 1991 in Three Important Respects, Two Bloggers Say

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 21, 2018)

The Russian commentariat ever more frequently features apocalyptic predictions about the rapidly approaching end of Russia, with some like MGIMO professor Valery Solovey suggesting that the situation in Russia today is very much like that in the Soviet Union in 1990-1991 and that the results will be similar.

But two Moscow bloggers, A.Nalgin and Ivan Lapin argue there are three fundamental differences between 1990-1991 and today as far as Russia is concerned that make such prophecies extremely doubtful if not excluded altogether even if the country is suffering real and serious problems (publizist.ru/blogs/4796/28055/- and a-nalgin.livejournal.com/1607894.html).

“First,” they write, “in present-day Russia there is neither a real opposition, systemic or extra-systemic nor even a bureaucratic fronde.” Thirty years ago, there was “an alternative leader” in the person of Boris Yeltsin who enjoyed enormous support in the population and in the bureaucracy, including that of the CPSU. There is no one equivalent now.

“Second, in the Russian Federation today, regional separatism both at the official and popular level is tightly controlled. The artificially unleased in the media Chechen-Ingush conflict is more like an everyday argument than something which recalls the separation of the Baltic which legally was formed in March 1990.”

Moreover, the two write, “there is nothing similar to the itner-ethnic fire in Karabakh and so on.” What is perhaps most striking is that “the region which was the most separatist in the 1990s – Chechnya – is today Moscow’s best friend.”

And “third, the attitudes of present-day Russians and Soviet citizens then are very strongly distinguished one from the other.” Soviet citizens really had come to conclude that they couldn’t continue to live as they had been, but while “doom and apathy with a touch of anger” dominates Russian feelings now, almost all are afraid of another 1991.

That fear “outweighs everything,” they write, and means that the apocalyptic predictions of some like Solovey should be dismissed at least for now. “The Russian kettle” may continue to “simmer” for some time, but the temperature will have to go up considerably before anyone should be talking about the end of Russia.