‘The Emperor isn’t Just Naked: He Doesn’t Exist’ But in Russia, That Doesn’t Threaten His Power, Radzikhovsky Says
(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, September 24, 2017)
Because Russians have long realized that there are no real elections in their country, Leonid Radzikhovsky says, they talk instead about “the emperor’s new clothes. But the emperor is not simply naked: he doesn’t even exist.” But because of the nature of Russians, that alone doesn’t constitute any threat to his continuing to rule.
Their “fear of power, their national boasting and acceptance of lies about the enemies surrounding [them] and most important of all, the eternal Russian Oblomovite indifference and fatalism” nonetheless ensure that the emperor will not be challenged anytime soon, the Russian commentator says (theins.ru/opinions/72014).
Whether Putin goes to Yandex or not doesn’t matter. Russians will vote for a non-existent candidate if they think he is what the rulers want. But in fact, “how is Putin any different” from that candidate – except by name,” Radzikhovsky asks. No one, including him, knows what he is offering.
Indeed, he continues, “I think he would be curious to find out about it himself.”
Tragically, those now arrayed against him offer no hope either. Grigory Yavlinsky is running again because like a fading screen star, he has no choice but to appear “even in very bad programs and insane comedies. If he stops, he will cease to be invited” to do so again; and thus he has no choice even as he has no chance.
As for Aleksey Navalny, the Moscow commentator says, one should not exaggerate his popularity. For Russians, their “poet is Pushkin, their country Russia, their machinegun the Kalashnikov, their tsar Nicholas, their mad woman Poklonskaya and their president Putin” and that isn’t going to change.
Moreover, Radzikhovsky says, “to hope for a change of power as a result of economic decline isn’t justified either,” no matter how bad things get. If there is another crisis, Putin and the Kremlin will manage to excuse themselves by blaming others – and all too many Russians will accept whatever they are told.
Even if life became much worse, as Lenin used to say, “one must be able to transform the masses into revolutionaries, to inspire them with a revolutionary ideology, to organize spontaneous protest, and to direct it and make it political.” That requires a revolutionary organization, and one doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
Look how long it took Gorbachev to destroy the USSR and how only a war and the weakness of the tsar himself took to destroy the Russian Empire, Radzikhovsky continues. There may be a palace coup, but there is no prospect for a real change for the better unless Russians change first – and there is little sign of that at present.