A Charity for Overfed Zombies

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The hordes of foreign journalists who descended upon Moscow for the presidential election were disappointed this time around. First, they could not detect any signs of a genuine election campaign. Second, Dmitry Medvedev's opponents looked apathetic on their chances. And third, even Medvedev seemed utterly indifferent to his anticipated victory.

It is easy to understand why the officially sanctioned "opposition" candidates did not show even the slightest interest in their election campaigns. But what happened to the liberal opposition with its Dissenters' Marches and street protests? Where was the promised wave of mass protest? The mirage of another Orange Revolution dissipated by itself without any coercion from the authorities.

But it would be a mistake to think that there is no support for mass protests in Russia. It is enough to recall January 2005, when, without any incitement by opposition leaders, more than 2 million people took to the streets in protest the monetization of government benefits. This protest accomplished more in one day than the opposition press had ever been able to achieve.

Any attempt at an Orange project in Russia was doomed from the start. Only pro-Kremlin political analysts who were looking for work spoke seriously about the project. Their dreams came true when the Kremlin hired them as part of an entire industry it created to cope with the Orange "threat." But what should be done with that industry now?

The solution was to create an unwieldy and senseless party system that does not reflect any public interests. The authorities have produced State Duma deputies who are not only incapable of functioning as legislators, but who can barely put two intelligible sentences together. Compared with these guys, the venerable proletarian factory workers, tractor drivers and milkmaids who were members of the Supreme Soviet under Leonid Brezhnev look like political geniuses. They at least knew what role to play. Today's politicians have no role at all.

Next, the Kremlin created the Public Chamber, almost as if to show the direct opposite -- that there is no civil society at all. In addition, authorities created a costly youth movement, Nashi, and organized mass meetings around the country. We later saw newspapers with equally nebulous content but printed on expensive paper. In addition, an endless list of funds, unions and expert councils emerged.

The only outcome of all of this activity will be a pile of problems in the future. These organizations do not serve as pillars supporting the Kremlin but as dead weight. They are incapable of independently resolving even the simplest problem, constantly relying on guidance from Moscow. The presidential administration is turning into a charity organization for the support of overfed zombies.

It is obvious that all of these miscreant organizations will have to be dismantled. Even those whose job it was to build them understand this.

The first victim has already been chosen. Nashi will soon cease to exist. And every other group that has outlived its function will follow in succession. Although it is easy to talk about dismantling them, it is quite another to actually do it. We are talking about huge numbers of people who are unqualified to do anything useful, including politics. The authorities must give them jobs or else they will transform overnight into members of an embittered and uncontrollable opposition force. If that happens, Moscow officials will find themselves looking back nostalgically at the harmless Dissenters' Marches.

Of course, the authorities understand this. That is why they are very cautious and are trying to avoid creating an army of disgruntled citizens. This appears to be the most important task for the administration at the moment.

Unfortunately, it will be more difficult to cope with the consequences of their own bureaucratic fantasy and creativity than it was to silence the opposition.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.