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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

INSIDE RUSSIA: Chubais' Fall Signals Rise Of the 'Family'




The dismissal of Anatoly Chubais from his post as first deputy prime minister has long been expected. Given that the most important political decisions on the future of Russia are now made within the president's family, and business magnate Boris Berezovsky is practically a member of the family, the outcome of the skirmish between these two figures was a foregone conclusion. Berezovsky returned from Switzerland, and Chubais was sacked the next work day.


No one, however, expected that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would be dismissed, especially now that prospects for sudden presidential elections seem all the more inevitable and that, at the height of President Boris Yeltsin's illness, two leading political image-makers, head of the public relations department, Mikhail Margelov, and his deputy, Alexei Volin, left the presidential administration. They explained that their departure had to do with disagreements with Mikhail Komissar, the deputy of the Kremlin chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, who oversaw their work. The true reason may be much more unpleasant: Rats are always the first to abandon a sinking ship. Political advertising specialists want to receive good money for their work on the presidential elections, and know from the strength of their current position that these elections will take place much earlier than 2000.


Chernomyrdin became Yeltsin's only successor, which is what ruined him. It was evident to anyone who watched Chernomyrdin Saturday on the television news program Vesti that he was openly putting forward the image of a good tsar. Only one person in Russia -- the president -- is allowed to convey this image, like the emperors who wore purple in ancient Rome or yellow in China.


Only one thing could have made Chernomyrdin let down his guard: medical reports. This is precisely what infuriated Yeltsin. For Yeltsin, the sight of Chernomyrdin acting like the boss in Arkhangelsk and severely reprimanding the mayor was like being buried alive.


As a consequence of his illness, the president, willingly or accidentally, repeated the intrigue encountered hundreds of times in Asian and medieval history. The ruler would pretend to be sick in order to find out which of his courtiers was true to him.


It is absolutely true, as Yeltsin said in his statement, that "lately the government did not have enough dynamism and new ideas." But, as everyone knows, Chernomyrdin was never distinguished by his new ideas. New ideas were the domain of Chubais. And it is hard to be dynamic when Berezovsky, an adviser to Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko, has you by the neck.


It is clear that in his current state the president can fire and appoint prime ministers, but he is hardly able to cope with the day-to-day routine as head of state.


The sacking of the government was a matter of increasing the power of the president's family. But the dismissals have not only a political but an economic motive. If early elections were held, Yeltsin's family -- which never acted like Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and has not put away money for a rainy day -- would be without any means for survival. And only a new storm of political appointments can rectify this shortcoming.


Yulia Latynina is a staff writer for Expert magazine.