Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#1 - JRL 7245
June 30, 2003
Does our future include a militarized Russia and authoritarian rule?

Author: Olga Kryshtanovskaya, head of the Elite Studies department at the Institute of Sociology
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]


The resolute President Yeltsin made staff changes in the elite so often that any official could be dismissed at any moment. He brought to power the "raznochinets" - people who had never before been in state service. The mysterious President Putin is acting quietly and unnoticeably. However, over the three years of his presidency the Russian elite has been fundamentally changed. Corridors of power have become full of people with a military or security background. Parliaments at all levels are swarming with businessmen. If personnel really is the key factor, the future of democracy in Russia is in question.

It is widely known that Vladimir Putin has confidence in his colleagues and people from St. Petersburg. However, the extent to which government is militarized is only evident to an attentive researcher. Over 2001-03, the Elite Studies department at the Sociology Institute has done a survey entitled Putin's Elite. Analyzed in the survey were 3,500 biographies of Cabinet members, head of the Presidential Administration, members of both chambers of the Federal Assembly of Russia, the regional elite, and business leaders.

The results are impressive. The apparatuses of federal districts suffered the most impetuous invasion of the military: there, the people with shoulder straps make up to 70% of the personnel. Apparatuses of presidential envoys consolidated forces of federal structures in the regions. If earlier heads of local FSB, Interior Ministry, Federal Border Guard Service (FBGS) and prosecutors had been under real control of governors, presidential envoys have now received this control, which has deprived the local elite of a serious support and weakened the governors.

However, serious changes occurred in the camp of governors. Representation of the military in this sphere rose by 100% over the past two years. A couple of years ago, the electorate assessed affiliation with the security structures as a big defect for a contender for governorship. Following 2000, the situation changed: now being military (especially a security officer) is in fashion. This is now an additional plus which means: the Kremlin is behind me.

The military has come into the Cabinet as well. This was partially connected with increasing the number of military departments. After the KGB collapsed in 1991, the number of federal security structures exceeded 20 and, consequently, their role in the government has increased.

However, something different seems to be more curious - abundance of the military in economic departments. Among the ministers appointed between 2000 and 2003, the share of the military is 35%. The majority of them came from the FSB units and retained their status of the "active reserve officer." This status implies that an officer is posted to a position into an outsider department, but his wage is retained as well as the privileges from the "parent" organization, and such officer must account for his job not to the minister alone, but also the FSB. Deputy ministers among the military are mostly concentrated in the economic development ministry, the ministry of science, industry and technology, the communications ministry, the media and justice ministries.

Proteges from big business, whose numbers in the Cabinet increased 600%, is another significant feature of the Putin's era. This process had begun under Yeltsin and, unlike from the raid of the military, hadn't actually depended on the new president.

The making of bourgeoisie in Russia inevitably caused it political role to grow. The "new Russians" made a way from naive attempts of personal involvement in the politics until development of an entire network of their representatives at all levels of power. At the moment, they have 16% in the supreme leadership of our country, 17% in the Federal Assembly and 5% in the Cabinet.

Personal representation of local oligarchs has only retained in regional parliaments, where their share reaches 60-70% of the number of deputies. Government and business have interlinked in the provinces, what has considerably reduced the ability of civil society to delegate its representatives.

As a result, over three years of Putin's presidency, the elite has become more militarized, less intellectual, and more closely linked with business. In the early 1990s the elite's strategic group had mainly consisted of economists, but under Putin the military and security officers have begun determining the strategy of social development. This has changed the priorities of state policy. Issues of security, military reform, Russia's geopolitical place in the world have been given the foreground. Clannishness, the corporate spirit for association, typical of security service agents being the base of it, rather than the kinship ties or the financial contacts of a so-called family, is a significant danger of militarization. The agent networks, specific channels for data exchange, manipulation channels - these skills make officers who had either worked or are working with the KGB/FSB a special caste, in which the spirit of mutual assistance reigns. This kind of power is steadier, especially since the ideology of patriotism, partially diluted by liberal economic ideas, fastens it.

Recruiting the military into the elite, the president and his circle have imparted a certain direction to the immediate future of the reforms. The military milieu is authoritarian and the democratic style of administration is out of place here. Undoubtedly, the military varies. If the matter concerned a few generals who have taken up politics, the conversation about the dangers of this circumstance for society would probably be groundless. However, the matter concerns flooding all levels and branches of power with the military, who makes 15% to 70% in various groups of elites.

The number develops into the quality. The authoritarian method of government, typical of military structures, may well be transferred to all of society.

However, the military people recruited by Putin have gone through the school of democratization and have worked in the private sector and abroad, so their authoritarianism has been modernized. The aspiration to total control is now limited by the law, Western living standards, and reference to reactions of the international community. But Putin's military proteges cannot give up their aspiration to control. Their control is acquiring covert forms: pro-government candidates use the administrative resource in elections; the Kremlin assigns its envoys to regions, initiates civil society institutions, and commissions its agents of influence into business and the media.

Now that actual separation of powers is absent in Russia and the government is trying to restore its control over all spheres of public life - now that there is no actual opposition in Russia - entrepreneurs are just about the only force able to oppose this neo- authoritarianism. The Russian scenario offers a strange role of checks and balances for big business; so the state needs to steer between the Scylla of militocracy and the Charybdis of oligarchy.

(Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin and Kirill Frolov)

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