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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Era of New Stagnation

My home phone isn't working and the curfew is on, so I haven't been seeing or speaking to many people recently; the few I've had a chance to meet after you-know-what have all seemed very confused about what's going on, and especially about what is going to happen later. I personally have a very clear view so, if you don't mind, lost souls, I'll put it as straight and simple as possible.

What we had in Russia before Sept. 21 was a pluralistic mess - not so much democracy, rather a barely controllable anarchy, driven by insatiable corruption, some political vanity and little common sense. The power scene was divided into two parts: the president's majority and the parliament's minority.

From the point of view of ideology, Boris Yeltsin's team looked nicer because they didn't have any ideology at all. In fact, under the spell of two magic words, "democracy" and "market", this team was actually preoccupied with an orgy of self-enrichment - probably best displayed by the leaders of Moscow, who have turned the city into easily the world's biggest carnival of bribery and non-formal "taxation" and have never been too lazy to claim their percentage.

The minority watched enviously and desperately desired to increase their share in the Great National Theft - by exposing dirty deeds of the majority (usually, absolutely justly) and creating legal problems for it. Moreover, to boost their support among the hapless masses, they dared to promote ugly ideologies (chauvinism, Stalinism, fascism) and accepted some notoriously trigger-happy and riot-crazy leaders (Anpilov, Makashov, etc. ) in their "civilized" ranks.

This was a major miscalculation, which has: a) put off numerous important people in Russia (politicians, intellectuals, artists), who theoretically might have joined the opposition because of their full scorn for the positively unimpressive majority; b) scared the world community and its leaders, making them reinforce their support for Yeltsin despite obvious doubts; c) gave the president's team additional arguments in case the minority decided to act in an illegal and non-peaceful way.

Finally, a decision was taken: On Sept. 21 the president violated the constitution and dissolved the annoying parliament. The legislators did not obey, putting their trust in conservative regions and the would-be loyal army and ex-KGB. This, again, was a miscalculation, as they received active support only from the least desirable source - i. e. small militant groups of nazis and hardcore communists, plus professional mercenary terrorists, who soon got out of control and indeed stole the show from moderate opposition.

For a few hours on Oct. 3 it looked like the tiny, fanatic minority had managed to push the amorphous ruling majority in the corner (another example of its absolute incoherence), but in the end the David vs. Goliath business did not work. Which is rather good.

The actual choice Russia faced was between two forms of dictatorship. The first: a severe blood-letting dictatorship of the Stalinist type (I'm sure that Khasbulatov would soon have been dropped - probably dead - if the opposition had won, and replaced by no-nonsense political/military machos like Barkashov or Konstantinov). The second: a soft bloodless dictatorship of the Brezhnev type.

Yes, we now have the latter type, and this is where we stand: at the very beginning of the era of New Stagnation. Capitalizing on a "winner-takes-all" policy, the president's team has centralized all branches of power, destroyed all real opposition, taken the mass media under its control. Instead of one party we will probably have two with similar attitudes (like in Brazil during the military regime), namely Russian Choice, led by Gaidar and Travkin, and the Russian Democratic Movement, led by Sobchak and Yavlinsky. . . Maybe three.

Economically Russia may become quite a boomtown, with foreign investments secured by the ruling elite (like in Chile) joined by loyal entrepreneurs and legalized criminals. The human rights situation will be better than in Brezhnev's times, simply because all dissidents will be free (even welcome) to leave. The artistic and media elite will be catered to as nicely as in the 70s and will gratefully echo their master's "democratic" voice.

And the elections: The voter turnout will not be reported as 99. 9 percent, but 25. 1 percent - which doesn't make much difference, since under the new electoral law 25 percent is enough to make everything legitimate. Things could be much worse, but couldn't be more boring.