Translation: When do Russian Officials become Democrats?

When they are fed to other bureaucrats. Or so argues Mikhail Rostovsky in an op-ed for Moskovskij Komsomolets, in analyzing the resignations of Surkov and Alexei Chesnakov.

Surkov for Breakfast, Medvedev for Lunch, and where do Russian Democrats come from?

Solve this riddle. What does it mean when you hear the clatter of plates, knives, and forks, loud chomping noises, and the desperate shrieks of the devoured: “I’m leaving the party! There have appeared some serious ideological differences between us!”

You haven’t guessed? Shame on your bald (and not so bald) heads! This is the acoustical accompaniment to the Russian political process – or to be more concrete, the process of the change of command at the top of the Russian vlast.

In our not so distant past, there was in Russia a fairly important official, the right hand man of the “king of public politics” Vladislav Surkov – Alexei Chesnakov. He served, this official of ours Chesnakov, and he served well, promptly implementing all the directives of “the party and the government.” But then, a new time came upon us. Neither Vladislav Surkov, nor his team remain in the Kremlin. And they “slighted” Alexei Chesnakov – they didn’t allow him to get elected to the Senate. And our model public servant Chesnakov “saw the light,” so to speak, and left United Russia, explaining the move by referring to ideological differences.

“I have accumulated some baggage of stylistic disagreements with the party. I do not agree with some of United Russia’s legislative initiatives, including those concerning regulations of the media space and the Internet. Apart from that, most bills aren’t discussed at all by the party’s regional structures, which stymies a full debate,” as Chesnakov said in his own words.

Bravo, O Heroic Democrat Mr. Chesnakov! Finally there has appeared someone to open our eyes. And we’d never even realized that under Surkov, apparently, it was all different. The authorities didn’t try to excessively regulate the media and the Internet back then. We could have never guessed that all legislative bills were floated down to parliament by United Russia – here, rubber-stamp this, if you please – as opposed to first being comprehensively and thoughtfully debated by all of the bear’s party organizations. {Translator: The logo of United Russia is a bear}

Am I hearing loud cries of “I don’t believe this!” just now, or am I imagining it? Nonetheless I, dear comrades, I not only fully sincerely believe Alexei Chesnakov, but I also consider this statement to be an important contribution to science. For we now finally have an answer to a question that has long bothered many: Where do democrats come from in Russia?

How is, for example – as it is commonly explained in the West – that one specific person has precisely these political views, rather than their direct opposites? Here is one theory, which, believe it or not, I don’t even fully consider to be a joke. A conservative – is a former liberal, who had recently been robbed. A liberal – is a former conservative, who had just spent a few sweet hours in a pretrial detention center.

But Russia, as we well know, has its own pride. As the calculations of Western political science don’t apply to us, I present you instead with a scientific discovery I made together with Alexei Chesnakov: A fresh-baked democrat in Russia – is, with a large degree of probability, a recent loyalist bureaucrat who’d been tossed out of the nomenklatura’s cage.

Naturally, despite all his obvious talents, a new “freedom fighter” like Alexei Chesnakov cannot move the Russian democratic process greatly forwards just by himself. But no need to despair. It’s quite possible that comrades-in-arms will join up with Chesnakov sooner rather than later.

The famous expert on the life of the Russian elites, the politologist Evgeny Minchenko, has recently issued yet another white paper in his cult series “Politburo 2.0.” This time round, the paper is titled thus: “One year of Dmitry Medvedev’s government – Results and Prospects.”

As one might expect, Evgeny Minchenko comes to the basic conclusion that despite the short period of its existence, Medvedev’s Cabinet already clearly has more “results” than it has “prospects.” Minchenko writes that the dismantling of the “Medvedev coalition,” – which coalesced in 2007 around Yeltsin’s “Family,” and parts of big business and the federal bureaucracy – along with the lingering elements of the tandemocracy, is accelerating and, consequently, fast becoming irreversible.

In the wake of this conclusion, Minchenko describes the Prime Minister’s “dekulakization” in detail. I was particularly impressed by the following thesis: “The main characteristics that became associated with Dmitry Medvedev’s public profile have been neutralized. Traditionally positioning himself as a liberal, Medvedev as head of government has been forced into realizing a non-liberal course of action. As United Russia’s leader, he publicly declared himself as a conservative; leadership of the ruling party has become a burden for Medvedev.”

So you now have every right to ask the following question of yours truly: If Medvedev has been turned from a liberal into a conservative, then where are the “born again democrats” going to come from? Here’s where. “The dynamics within the government are going to be expressed in the resignations of its members,” writes Minchenko, indicating that this can refer to resignations from both individual members of Medvedev’s team, as well as of the Prime Minister himself.

If Dmitry Anatolyevich is “asked” to step aside, it is unlikely he will be given the opportunity to become an open oppositionist. Far more likely, the former President will be offered a position in Saint-Petersburg, to unite all the court structures and keep his nose away from government. That said, I’m willing to bed that in private (and not so private) conversations, members of Medvedev’s team are going to claim that they suffered “for their democratic views.” Most likely, they will even believe in their own words. But I still can’t understand just one thing: Why do Russian bureaucrats only acquire democratic views then they are “served for lunch” to other officials?

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