Putin, the beginning of the end or a new beginning?
The USSR Communist Party and the KGB
Russia entered democracy with the demise of the USSR Communist Party, which had a monopoly over the political and economic life in USSR. After the fall of the USSR CP the future economic flows have been more or less strictly controlled by KGB.
The political wing of the USSR CP, which was ideologically much stronger and more attached to communism, was wiped off the scene during the breakup of USSR.
One should not underestimate the role that KGB played in the economy even at the best times for the USSR CP, but still the entire monopoly was in the hands of the party. The repressive apparatus of KGB sometimes governed the party and sometimes suffered poor relations with it depending on the court games in the Kremlin and the Central Committee of the USSR CP.
After the fall of Yeltsin, who fervently combatted the old USSR CP bureaucracy with partial KGB help, Moscow was controlled from St. Petersburg through KGB, Putin and his company, which finalized the removal of incompetent communist bureaucrats coming primarilly from Moscow or the provinces and only rarely from Leningrad.
In this latest financial crisis that affects Russia, Putin's tycoons already equate old communists with Romanov aristocrats. In other words, this means that populism knocks on the doors of Russia, where elitists like Putin and Medvedev will gradually start losing their political ratings and in the long run this course of events will be a generator of huge problems for the Kremlin and Russia.
It is certainly felt that in the Kremlin and in the entire federal Moscow bureaucracy there is a power struggle for the Kremlin and it is anticipated that the clash will be so violent that at least one of the two leaders from the Leningrad wing, Putin and Medvedev, will be sacrificed for peace in the Russian House.
It is interesting that Putin is in a very bad sitiation which was created by the financial crisis, while Medvedev as a President is not very competent for the economy but gained a lot of support by the Russian nationalists and the Army after the Russian operations in Georgia.
Rumour has it that even the main ideologist of the Kremlin, Surov, has already sided with Medvedev against Putin.
Lavrov and Evgeny Primakov should be the most worried parties in this story, considering the fact how influential they are in the Kremlin and Russian policy. The first one is famous for his relations in the military and industrial complex, the latter is well-known in the intelligence circles and Surov is the pillar of the Kremlin, meaning that all of them will be deeply involved in the events to come.
Drawing on past experiences in the analysis of political and ideological commissioners in the Kremlin, everything about them should be taken with a lot of reservations.
The Minsiter of Finance, Aleksey Kudrin, and Putin are severely criticised by their most serious opponent in Russia at the moment, Gennady Zyuganov, who will thus probably activate the old bureaucratic/political apparatus of the USSR CP, whose lower echelons have always feared KGB but also had a lot of aversion against it along with the independent intellectual part of Russia.
Regardless of the the development of the financial crisis in Russia, the ratings of Putin and his tycoons will erode, especially if there are no realistic programs for exiting the crisis with visible effects. The chances are that this crisis will last for a while and it will complicate things in Russia to the effect of Russia becoming split into two blocks - Putin and the others.
Maybe Medvedev will play the role of a catalyst balancing between the two sides but also he may be the cause for Putin and his tycoons seriously retreating from politics. As they own enormous resources, they will certainly not remain jobless.
The extent of the political and economic changes in Russia will depend on how seriously Russian economy, i.e. middle and lower class, is affected. Medvedev's stabilization measures, which he announced from faraway Sibir, are along the lines of "preserving production and jobs", which sounds like a slogan from communist times and actually means "we have no control over the situation, we still have no ideas for exiting the crisis and we have no idea how serious this crisis is going to be."
This course of events will most seriously affect the middle and the lower class in Russia and statements as the one mentioned above indicate that the New Russia project will be frozen for an indefinite period of time.
Dame Chkatroski is WSN editor and FORUM-CSRD senior analyst.