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

#9 - JRL 7269
July 29, 2003
An interview with political scientist Mikhail Savva
Author: Galina Tashtamova
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]


Question: The Duma elections show the most precise picture of the present political palette of Russia. Has it changed for the last four years?

Mikhail Savva: Rirst, let's agree on the terms, on the meaning of the word "party". A party in Russia is just a cover. A common source of income consolidates the members of Russian parties. It is no coincidence that such structures as financial and economic industrial groups have developed actively lately. As for any other differences between parties, they had practically disappeared by 2000; the parties all use the same rhetoric, the same slogans. None of the registered parties in Russia has an economic policy program which could differentiate it from the others. Of course, I don't take radicals into account. The rest parties differs form each other only in their leaders and are constructed on the principle of a gang. The leader stuck his banner into the ground, issued his call and his pals gathered. The parties of Russia today are parties of individuals. Fatherland-All Russia - Sergei Shoigu, Yuri Luzhkov, Mintimer Shaymiyev. Yabloko - Grigori Yavlinsky. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) - Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The regional branches of parties, as a rule, are oriented to the local departments of the financial and industrial groups which stand behind each party.

Question: Who, in your opinion, politicizes most actively among the present financial and industrial groups in Russia? Berezovsky and Gusinsky are no longer part of big-time politics.

Mikhail Savva: There is no doubt that it is the so-called Moscow lobby. The basic financial flows have been concentrated in Moscow since the early 1990s. It is not Moscow's fault. Everything formed evenly and there couldn't be another way during the period of the primary accumulation of capital. However, the capital should go to the regions in order to be reproduced. Basically, the local authorities determine the position of small and medium business, but not the legislation does it. That's why the capital strives for influence on them. The simplest method is purchase of the loyalty of the local authorities. However, as it is cleared out, it is not the safest way. There is no guarantee that you won't be deceived. It is safer to promote your people to the legislative and executive power. However, as far as it is almost hopeless for a Muscovite to be elected, for example, in Kuban region, it is better to stake on "your" candidate. It isn't important what party he represents; the main thing is that he should be elected. If to analyze the votes of each Duma candidate, one can determine whose interests he lobbies in the Duma. Even the Communist Party, the biggest faction in the Duma, doesn't express solidarity in some questions, which don't attract the public attention. The emissaries of different financial and economic industrial groups began to choose the candidates in the regions long before the official start of the elections. They have also done it in our Krasnodar region.

Q.: Can you concretize, who act as Moscow "matchmakers" in our region?

Mikhail Savva: Famous financial and industrial groups, which are connected with such persons as Khodorkovsky, Potanin, Deripaska, Bryntsalov and even Alla Pugacheva, who have their business in our Krasnodar territory. As a rule, it is manufacturing, reprocessing and export of the agricultural production. The Duma elections are not so important for them as the governor's elections are. The Duma elections are a dress rehearsal before the decisive battle for power in Kuban region. However, one shouldn't understand it word for word that, for example, Deripaska and Khodorkovsky will nominate themselves during the Duma and governor's elections.

Question: What do you think about the rumors concerning the combination of the governor's elections in Krasnodar region with the presidential elections?

Mikhail Savva: I don't exclude such a development of events. It is advantageous to any present governor, because Putin's rating is rather high and voters will vote for both candidates in this case. It's quite another matter that, obviously, the presidential administration is not interested in it but it gives the go-ahead to anticipatory candidates from among the governors. Or it doesn't give...

Question: Are there any home-grown financial and industrial groups in the Kuban region with claims to power?

Mikhail Savva: I'd like to emphasize two biggest groups: agrarians and longshoremen. The peculiarity of the Kuban region is that there is not one leading economic branch, which would determine everything. Our agrarians only begin to understand that it is necessary to unite in order to defend their own interests but it is not clear for them, what the core should be. The trouble of Kuban chairmen and directors is that each of them wants to be his own master and fears to loose his independence. All of them are disconnected. The last year's rich harvest and increase in export of Russian grain became the very core for Kuban longshoremen. When the representatives of the capital business structures drove them off this profitable business, the process of consolidation of the structures, which are connected with work of the ports, picked up speed. The bad harvest of this year can slow down this process but not for long. Moreover, both local agrarians and local longshoremen can find their common interest in the near future - to oppose "Varangians", defending their place in Kuban business. However, they won't be ready for their own claims on the power for a long time. At best, they will be ready for the next governor's elections.

Question: Is the suspension of membership in the Communist Party by Alexander Tkachev, Kuban governor, the start of political "polarization" before the forthcoming elections?

Mikhail Savva: I think it is a sign of strengthening the federal government in the regions. Our president is not a party member - and this is correct; but he favors United Russia. It is bad form for regional leaders today to be members of any other party but United Russia. At the same time, it is possible to be not a member of any party. I regards Tkachev's step as a correct tactical move. If the governor wishes the region well, he should give the radical Left opposition the go-by.

Question: Does it mean that Russia returned to the single-party system by the elections of 2003?

Mikhail Savva: The strengthening of the federal center concerns party-building too. It isn't bad that parties begin to create different blocs - it is a usual concentration of forces before the elections. It is bad that the state participates actively in this process. Parties is a part of the civil society, which determine, whom the power should be entrusted to, in a country of the developed democracy. In other words, people who are united in parties form the government; but unfortunately, the authorities form the party system in our country.

(Translated by Gregory Malutin)

Top   Next