Medvedev as the New Gorbachev?

Here’s an interesting bit of analysis from Reuters, suggesting that Dima Medvedev may be the new Gorbachev — something Russians will ever so delighted to hear. 

Something quite extraordinary is happening in Russia. Slowly but surely, the monolithic political system that has held together in Russia for most of the past decade is coming apart

Today, in an unprecedented step, deputies from all three of the opposition parties in the Russian parliament staged a walk-out, demanding a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. They are protesting against the results of local elections that were held in various parts of Russia on 11 October. Not for the first time, the pro-government United Russia party largely swept the board, amid widespread allegations by the opposition of vote-rigging.

There’s nothing new about opposition parties claiming violations in Russian elections. The most vocal opponents, liberals such as former chess champion Gary Kasparov, have long taken their discontent to the streets. But partly through its tight control of elections and the media, the Kremlin has largely succeeded in marginalizing these uncompromising critics.

What’s far more unusual is outspoken criticism of the regime from the three official opposition parties represented in the Russian parliament (or Duma): the Communists, left-leaning Fair Russia party, and nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. These parties have traditionally been extremely docile, and unwilling to criticize the country’s leadership. For them to stage a joint walk-out is remarkably out of character.

What’s especially intriguing is that this isn’t the first crack to appear in Russia’s previously solid political edifice. It follows several extraordinary events over recent weeks, all of which point towards growing tensions at the top.

The first of these events was an article which President Dmitry Medvedev wrote in September, containing remarkably strong criticisms of Russia’s political system, and the state of the nation in general. Medvedev’s article even contained a thinly-veiled criticism of United Russia, the major pro-government political party headed by Putin.

A few days later, an advisor to Medvedev, business leader Igor Yurgens, caused quite a stir by outspoken comments at the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. Yurgens predicted a coming confrontation between conservatives and liberals in Russia, and warned that if Putin attempted to run again for President, he risked becoming “a new Brezhnev”.

Then there’s the extraordinary situation that has developed around Alexander Podrabinek, a journalist and former political prisoner. Because of a bizarre row over the name of Moscow café,  Podrabinek got into a confrontation with Nashi, a Kremlin-backed nationalist youth movement, which has been noisily picketing his home. What was oddest about the incident was the public bickering it created between different parts of the Russian political establishment.

Last but not least, Medvedev has been less than whole-hearted in his support for Yuri Luzhkov, the veteran mayor of Moscow. In August, Medvedev sent out a message to local authorities, urging them to allow opposition candidates to stand in local elections. That message was ignored in Moscow, and many other localities, long used to pulling every string to help United Russia. Following United Russia’s controversial landslide in Moscow, Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told reporters: “Moscow authorities are not ready to live under new standards.”

All of this helps to provide context to today’s remarkable events in the Duma. Medvedev and his aides have been dropping more and more hints about their dissatisfaction with Russia’s present, tightly-regimented political system. This has clearly emboldened liberal advisors, opposition politicians, and other critics of the system, many of whom wouldn’t have dared to voice similar protests when the scarier Putin was still President.

That doesn’t mean that Medvedev is spoiling for a fight with Putin. On the contrary, both leaders are probably very conscious of the fact that their personal alliance is the main thing now holding the system together. They now face a considerable challenge in trying to keep the emerging tensions under control.

What it does mean is that, in his efforts to introduce a bit more democracy into Russia’s rigid body politic, Medvedev has inadvertently lifted the lid on simmering tensions between rival tendencies within the Russian elite.

And if that sounds familiar, it means you know your Russian history. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also found himself in much the same boat. In an effort to jump-start economic reforms, he promoted “Glasnost” – openness – introducing political competition and greater freedom of the press. What Gorbachev never anticipated was the shock his policy would deliver to the petrified Soviet system. Within a few years it had all fallen apart – much to everyone’s surprise.        

History never repeats itself exactly of course. What’s clear is that Russia is now heading into new political waters. And they may be a good deal stormier than the ones we have grown used to over the last decade.

27 responses to “Medvedev as the New Gorbachev?

  1. They are protesting against the results of local elections that were held in various parts of Russia on 11 October.</i.

    As well they should. Here's a video of election fraud in Moscow this month circulating

    As you can see they had stacks to pre-marked ballots in the closet to adjust the numbers with.

  2. Reuters is part of Bolshevik media controlled by British government. As Russia becomes more democratic and capitalistic, Britain becoming more socialist.
    The protest walkout was probably intended as gift to Hillary, like that “You Lie” guy in US.

    • There is no evidence tending to show that Russia is getting “more democratic and capitalistic.” To the contrary, even compared with the Yeltsin period, there are lots of facts showing that she seems to be getting much less democratic and much more autocratic.

      And capitalistic? I don’t know, Larry. Perhaps “crony-capitalistic” would be a better characterization. Or, maybe, “state capitalistic” which is almost the same as fascistic.

  3. More democratic???!!! What a joke! Could you please support your claim?
    And Medvedev is a fake Gorbachev. He and his buddy Putler are playing “good cop”-“bad cop”.

    • Larry can’t support his claim if he ment it the way he worded it.

      Like Margaret Thatcher observed….the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money’?

      The Brits are at that point. Labour won’t survive the next election. Russia doesn’t have free elections so Pootie’s fascism is their lot in life.

  4. Oops, scratch the ‘? from my quote.

  5. So, LR, it is beginning to look like you were wrong earlier, claiming that the Medvedev rule will be no more liberal and democratic than Putin’s rule.

    From the beginning, I pointed out that Russian presidents have a rule that the new President doesn’t do anything that contradicts what the previous President wants, but after this one year expires, the new President is free to rule the way he wants. I predicted that Medvedev, being a democrat in his views, will re-introduce democracy after one year in power.

    In fact, he didn’t wait for 1 year: his very first act in office was to ban Putin’s proposal to strengthen censorship, which was circulating in the Duma.

    • Should read: “Russian presidents have a rule that IN HIS FIRST YEAR IN POWER, the new President doesn’t do things that contradict what the previous President wants…”

    • You cannot “introduce” democracy; it has to emerge gradually and by itself, and it cannot unless the population wants it. it is my clear impression that the Russian population does not want it.

      Many Russians here and elsewhere have argued that they neither want nor need democracy, that the system under Yeltsin led to their massive impoverishment and so on. Is that what you think Medvedev plans to “re-introduce?” It must be. The word “re-introduce” means to introduce something which existed before, but no longer exists. The only thing somehow resembling democracy, however pitiful, was the Yeltsin regime

      Then they pointed out that their “national pride” (whatever that is) was hurt under Yeltsin, but the emergence of the Putin autocratic regime restored that pride and let them get off their knees, again whatever that means. (I have been wondering who put them to those knees to begin with?)

      All this indicates to me that the Russian population is not ready for any democratic changes at this time, and hence none are forthcoming. They want a powerful Czar they could complain to, so he would come and order bad managers to keep the factories open, bread prices low, and vodka plentiful. It’s not really that different from their mentality right after the abolition of the serfdom.

  6. More lies from Mr Tal.

    Medvedev the democrat? Is that why he endoresed an election as being without major fraud that observers are roundly condemning as completely fraudulent (and we are talking about Russian observers here, who are obvioulsy very brave and to be commended for telling the truth).

    “Voting analyses showing a correlation between high voter turnout and wins for United Russia appear to back the fraud allegations.

    But Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who most Russians believe really runs their country, have said the elections took place without major violations.”

  7. And the evidence of fraud is growing day by day.

    Try to remember Mr Tal, that Medvedev is presiding over this very fraud.

  8. And when the Russian state does finally come out as the next Nazi Germany, like the Germans of the 1930’s, Russians will only have themselves to blame:

    Democracy ‘not needed’ in Russia

    A growing number of Russians believe their country does not need democracy, a nationwide survey by one of Russia’s leading polling agencies suggests.

    The poll by the Levada-Centre showed that 57% of those questioned considered that Russia needed democracy – the lowest number since 2006.

    It said 26% believed that democratic governing was not suitable for Russia.

    Nearly 95% of respondents said they had little or no influence on what was happening in the country.

    ‘Rigged’ election

    Levada-Centre said 1,600 people across Russia had been questioned in the poll which was released on Friday.

    Although the majority of them believe the country needs to be democratic, the results of the survey are an intriguing mix, the BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says.

    The majority (60%) also said it would be better for Russia if the president controlled both the courts and the parliament, which can hardly be described as a democratic aspiration, our correspondent says.

    The poll also suggested that 43% agreed with the question that the country sometimes needed an “iron fist” leader.

    And nearly 25% said the Soviet Union had a better political system that the current Russian model (36%) or that in Western countries (15%).

    The poll came as Russian police arrested 10 people in Moscow who were protesting against an alleged fraud in last weekend’s regional and local elections.

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party tightened its already overwhelming grip on power after the polls, our correspondent says.

    But three parties walked out of parliament earlier this week, protesting against the outcome of the elections. Two later returned, but the Communists are continuing their boycott.

  9. Andrew,

    You are a vicious sadist. Seeing that I complained that you post your reply to most posts of mine, you are now tasting blood. You are now enjoying harassing me no matter what or where I post.

    Look, I am a human being. Discussions with normal people here at LR is my way of relaxing and unwinding. Why are you denying me the little pleasure of being able to have a discussion with normal humans? Why can’t my post exist alone as an invitation for some normal human to respond to it? Why do you have to flood my posts with your replies in order to hide my posts from normal people?

  10. Andrew wrote:
    > If you don’t want to talk to me, fine, stop posting your lies and fabrications. Otherwise, I will do a pit bull on you every time you open your mouth.

    Look, to me calling Medvedev a “democrat” is neither a lie nor a “fabrication”. This is just my humble opinion. And I am looking for a normal human being to argue about this with me. Why can’t you let anything good about Russians and Jews pass without your indignant flood of crap?

  11. Really, even if Medvedev was a democrat in any meaningful sense, which I sincerely doubt, or Putin would not have picked him for the role of puppet president, he is simply irrelevant.

    Putin ensured prior to leaving the office of President that all real power would be concentrated in his hands. Medvedev has no power base of his own and is reliant on Putin for political patronage. And Putin is no democrat at all.

    “YAROSLAVL, Russia (Reuters) – Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev spent the first 18 months of his presidency in the shadow of his predecessor Vladimir Putin.

    Now, with 2-1/2 years of his term still to run, his drive for political and economic reform is running into the sand.

    Putin’s teasing exchange with visiting academics and reporters on Friday, giving his strongest hint yet that he may return as president in 2012, made headlines round the world on Saturday and, more significantly for Medvedev, inside Russia.

    Russia’s president is looking increasingly irrelevant.

    Other world leaders are normally spared their ‘lame duck’ period until the final year in office.

    Timed one day after Medvedev published his vision for Russia’s economic and political reform, Putin’s intervention appeared particularly significant.

    “What happened was that Putin reminded Medvedev he has limits he must not overstep, and he chose this forum in which to do it,” said Alexander Rahr, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the German Council on Foreign Relations.”

  12. I think that a new Gorbachev is not Medvedev , I think Obama is one.

  13. Fascism is not all that bad. Just look at Germany, Japan and Italy. They are doing just fine.

  14. Not bad! not bad at all Craig, seeing that you only got one out of three right. Never mind it could have been worse.

    For your information in the Axis tripartite pact of WWII, only Italy was fascist. Germany was nazi and Japan was bushido with a monarch that was revered as a living god.

    But you are quite right in that “Just look at Germany, Japan and Italy. They are doing just fine.” – in fact much better then the poor Russian citizen under soviet communism and now under power crazy Putler’s fascism.

  15. You are right. Forgot to mention Chile under Pinochet. All doing great.

  16. Craig,

    Why are you talking in present tense?

    • Oh, I get your point now. Yes, these countries that went through terrible dictatorial times, are now doing great. Russia probably needed Putin the way Chile needed Pinochet.

  17. Every new Russia ruler simply has to assert his power by distancing himself from his predecessor and even vilifying him. Stalin had to exterminate Trotsky and other Lenin’s comrades and pretty much all old Bolsheviks. Khrushchev used to be Stalin’s closest assistant and henchman, but he rightfully vilified Stalin. Brezhnev was once part of Khrushchev’s entourage, but distanced himself after replacing him.

    Putin was appointed to power by Yeltsin, but had to vilify him.

    Medvedev knows that if he doesn’t make Putin look bad – Putin will replace him in 2012. Medvedev has enough ambition to want to keep the power to himself. look for him to indeed do a “Gorbachev” and re-democratise Russia, if for nothing else but to make it possible for the critics of Putin to make Putin look like sh*t to the Russian electorate.

    Expect a huge power struggle between Medvedev and Putin, with the media growing more and more open in anti-Putin criticism. Already, the dissident RenTV (owned by Medvedev’s Gazprom) is getting bolder and bolder. Another Gazprom baby – the Echo of Moscow Radio, one of 3 most powerful Russian media – is becoming even more directly Putin-bashing than ever before, if that is possible. Look for NTV to be next on the anti-Putin bandwagon, just like it was earlier. With anti-Putin media already totally dominating all areas, other than TV, Putin may lose.

  18. LOL Michael, really you are full of BS today.

    Meanwhile in the real world this is how Putin dominates the media and delivers his message to the Russian sheeple:

    “Delivering the Message
    The Kremlin deploys the conceptual vocabulary of the new Russia—national renewal, nostalgia, anti-Western xenophobia, sovereign democracy—through a sophisticated domestic communications strategy that marshals both the traditional resources of the state and muchexpanded control over virtually all mainstream mass media.11 This one-two punch, coming amid a period of rising prosperity after a disastrous decade, has had a significant impact on popular opinion, and the Kremlin’s message has resonated with its intended recipients.

    The traditional resources of the state include official pronouncements, the restoration of Soviet symbols, adjustments to school curriculums, the establishment of a ruling party, and the creation of youth movements. In 2005, Putin stressed in his “state of the nation” address to parliament that Russia “will decide for itself the pace, terms, and conditions of moving towards democracy”; he used the same speech to describe the collapse of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. By that time, the familiar strains of the Soviet national anthem were sounding once again at official gatherings (with updated words penned by the author of the 1943 and 1977 versions). New history textbooks and manuals for teachers laud Joseph Stalin, gloss over the murderous legacy of Soviet communism, and represent the Putin era as a restoration of greatness that is imperiled by the evil designs of Russia’s enemies. United Russia has a lock on the rubber-stamp parliament and tentacles throughout the power structure. And a number of youth movements, funded directly or indirectly by the Kremlin, act as capillaries to bring new blood into the elite, cudgels to cow opponents, and bullhorns to blare approved messages. While the fate of this enterprise is now unclear in light of reduced oil prices and a global economic crisis to which Russia seems particularly vulnerable, it remains a signal accomplishment of the regime.

    Mainstream mass media, from nationwide television stations to major newspapers, are now either under direct state control or owned by Kremlin-friendly business magnates. Violence against irksome reporters is routine, and a number of critical journalists, of whom Anna Politkovskaya is the best known abroad, have been murdered with seeming impunity in recent years. The official message resounds most clearly on television, where dissenting voices are blacklisted; newspapers enjoy somewhat more freedom, but with the balance clearly in favor of the Kremlin. Where the state does not have direct control, proxies like Gazprom-Media, which owns television networks, radio stations, and newspapers, perform a similar function, although they sometimes allow their holdings a longer leash, as Gazprom- Media does with radio station Ekho Moskvy.

    The internet at first glance appears to contradict the rule, with independent voices readily available in some outlets, and even flourishing on blogs. Yet cyberspace is also the focus of increasing manipulation, with a vast array of Kremlin-funded websites promoting illiberal ideologies and regime-friendly forces stepping up their ownership of key infrastructure, like hosting sites for bloggers. And if web-based new media in functioning democracies have improved access to information and forced mainstream media to become more competitive, docile mainstream media in Russia simply ignore inconvenient online revelations and discussions, cutting off the cycle of feedback and response that has enlivened the press and enhanced accountability elsewhere.

    The sophistication of the Kremlin’s domestic communications strategy derives from its recognition that total control is no longer possible, or even desirable, in a 21st-century media environment. The Soviet Union devoted immense energy and effort to cutting off alternative sources of information and spoon-feeding the population its carefully crafted, ideologically uniform propaganda. The Kremlin today focuses on the media that reach a majority of the public—not coincidentally, the same majority expected to vote as needed in the rote plebiscites that pass for elections. Message control, a “party line,” is considerably less important than reach and impact, with lively debates sometimes unfolding within the approved context of authoritarian restoration. Freedom flickers at the margins, with voices allowed to cry out as long as they do so in a wilderness bounded and policed by the powers that be.”

  19. > Britain becoming more socialist.

    So is USA in many ways: with our economy inploding, the US government is buying p our corprations. The financial sector is now pretty much owned by the government, and the car industry is almost there.

    The only difference between what is happening in USA and the principles of socialism, as practiced in Scandinvia, France, Netherlands and most of the rest of Western Europe is that there the taxpayer money goes to support the poor, while in USA – to support the rich. For example, most of the bailout money to the financial industry went to pay $tens of billions in bonuses for year 2008 to the very same people who bankrupted their companies and the US economy. In year 2010, more and more taxpayer money will go to pay such bonuses. And the more money you lose for your company – the larger your bonus. Go figure.


    Russian Parliament Gives Platform to Far-Right Extremists
    Posted October 8th, 2009
    The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, held a roundtable
    on migration issues that gave far-right extremists a platform from
    which to spread their hatred of non-Russian migrants, according to an
    October 3, 2009 report by the web site Kavkazsky Uzel, which covers
    events in the Caucasus. The October 2 roundtable, entitled
    “Immigration and Ethnic Relations in Moscow: Present and Future,” was
    organized by the Duma’s youth affairs committee, which is dominated by
    ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s party, the LDPR.

    LDPR Duma deputy Aleksey Ivanov reportedly said that migrants need to
    “earn the right to live with us,” while Vladimir Ermolaev of the
    extremist group the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, which has
    been linked to anti-migrant violence, struck an alarmist tone,
    claiming that millions of non-Russian migrants live in Moscow, a city
    that is consequently suffering from “a torrent of migrant

    Aleksandr Sevastyanov, the author of several racist and antisemitic
    publications, focused on prostitution by migrants, whom he accused of
    “corrupting our women.” Taking a classic white power position on how
    migration affects demography, he shared an anecdote describing how he
    once supposedly saw nothing but “men of child producing age” come off
    a Grozny-Moscow train. He added that he doesn’t really like Chechens,
    and then conveniently “forgot” that they are Russian citizens, stating
    in mock generosity that, “if they want to repatriate to Russia, they
    should be accepted and receive Russian citizenship.” Illegal migrants
    should be forced to work for the state until they pay for their own
    deportation, he concluded.

    Evgeny Proshechkin, an anti-fascist activist, was also invited to the
    roundtable, though the Kavkazsky Uzel report stated that the event was
    heavily skewed in favor of representatives of the far-right. Mr.
    Proshechkin pointed out that crime statistics do not bear out the
    far-right’s alarmist statements about migrant crime, which is actually
    lower than the number of crimes committed by people born in Moscow.

  21. So much for “Medvedev the democrat”, really Michael you should go into comedy.

    “The fact that the three protesting parties, which never had any respect for democratic norms or values, finally got a taste of their own medicine would be gratifying but for the quick and almost cruel rebuff which they received from Medvedev. The president would meet the opposition factions, but his view that United Russia’s victory was convincing has not changed, his spin doctor told journalists.

    Did the parties that staged the walkout expect anything different? They cannot have possibly believed there are any ideological divisions between Putin and Medvedev, who have worked together for the past 18 years. Didn’t Putin, quoting Rudyard Kipling, say recently about his partnership with Medvedev “We be of one blood”?

    It seems safe to infer that Medvedev realizes that without Putin’s blessing he would never have become president. Medvedev also appears to understand the perils of showing disloyalty to his patron. In the eighteen months he has been in power, he has not made a single statement that required courage, or taken a single step that could have upset the status quo.

    Following The Tsar’s Example

    The current division of power is not without historical precedent, as any Russian history buff will tell you. In 1574, Ivan the Terrible abdicated the throne in favor of his courtier Simeon Bekbulatovich, a baptized Tatar nobleman. A chronicler describes Ivan’s bizarre move as follows: “At that time Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich enthroned Simeon Bekbulatovich as tsar in Moscow and crowned him with the crown of the tsars, and called himself [simply] Ivan of Moscow…. All the offices of the tsardom he passed to Simeon, and himself rode simply, like a boyar…, and whenever he comes to Tsar Simeon, he sits at a distance from the tsar’s place, together with the boyars.”

    Ivan would return to the throne 11 months later. There is little doubt Putin will do the same in 2012.

    The most depressing aspect of the deputies’ rather farcical walkout is the notion, widely spread, it seems, among the political class in Russia that Russian citizens and voters are so pathetic, so completely worthless and brain-dead that they cannot see the utter dishonesty and depravity of such spectacles. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence has by now understood that the sole purpose of the Duma “revolt” was to serve as a lightning rod for the high-voltage anger that this latest election fraud had generated, especially among grassroots activist groups. Russian political strategists had better understand that next time such tricks may not work.

    In the commotion created by the three political parties, the news of the “restructuring” of Russia’s last remaining liberal TV channels passed almost unnoticed. As of next year, the content for the news broadcasts of REN TV and St. Petersburg’s Fifth Channel will be produced by the state-funded TV company Russia Today, the daily “Kommersant” reported on October 16.

    If that happens, it will, in effect, mean that Medvedev’s presidency was marked by the destruction of the last bastion of independent television journalism in Russia.

    Medvedev need not lose any sleep over that, however. He is unlikely to go down in history as the man who hammered the last nail into the coffin of media freedom in Russia. After all, few remember these days that it was Medvedev who, as boss of Gazprom Media at the dawn of the Putin era, was behind the takeover and subsequent silencing of a number of media companies critical of the Kremlin, including the independent TV channel NTV. Instead, Medvedev will be remembered as a wily courtier who was made a stand-in tsar by the real one.

    Aslan Doukaev is director of RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service. The views expressed in this commentary are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL. ”

  22. I think that a new Gorbachev is not Medvedev , I think Obama is one.
    :) this is good :)

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