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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Kremlin's Pseudo Science

Russia's ruling regime doesn't stop for even a day from disseminating propaganda to the Russian people. State television has always been its chief propaganda instrument, but the Kremlin is expanding its network by creating well-funded think tanks. They tirelessly crank out reports on various political, economic and foreign policy topics with the goal of providing a "scientific" foundation for the country's authoritarian model.

One such think tank serving the power vertical and sovereign democracy is the Institute for Social Engineering, headed by Expert magazine editor-in-chief Valery Fadeyev. Several days ago, Fadeyev's think tank published a report on Russia's political system and its current tasks. Like numerous similar pro-Kremlin, pseudo-academic reports, the paper boils down to three straightforward assertions. First, there is no reason to criticize Russia for violating its own Constitution or for the absence of democracy because the definition of democracy is itself unclear these days -- and because the West is also guilty of human rights violations. Second, our leaders are great and do a good, if not outstanding, job on everything they tackle. And third, nothing in the country aside from a few minor details needs to be changed because things are going just fine.

The authors use the simplest of methods to move the discussion away from democracy by putting forward groundless assertions.
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For example, they write that democracies all over the world have ostensibly departed from such basic structures as the parliamentary and party system. This, they assert, is the global trend. But the Italians, whose parties and parliament continue to function as a central part of its political system, would be more than a little surprised to read such an outlandish statement. The same is true of Germany, Britain, the United States and Sweden. Fadeyev's army of television propagandists attribute Russia's problems to the "zombification" of the world's democracies. I suppose U.S. President Barack Obama would be upset to learn that, after traveling to dozens of states and holding thousands of meetings with voters, democracy in the United States amounts to nothing more than orchestrated, superficial images flickering across television screens.

The report's authors then attack the country's liberals, referring to them as politically marginal groups that supposedly represent only 5 percent to 7 percent of all voters and who lack ideas or programs. But these percentages are a deliberate distortion. Over the course of many years, the Levada Center has established that the percentage of firm supporters of democracy and liberal values in Russia never falls below 17 percent to 20 percent of the adult population, which means 17 million to 20 million people. And those people live mostly in the country's larger cities. They are typically college graduates who make up the more informed and mobile part of society. Well aware of this, the Kremlin keeps its sharpest weapons to fight against liberals and democrats, not allowing them to register independent political parties, and it uses its propaganda machine to discredit democratic and liberal ideas. The Kremlin understands that this segment of the population is capable of offering mass support for democracy and reforms, changes that would deprive the ruling officials of their monopoly on authority and the ownership of major assets. The report's authors hypocritically refer to the middle class as the "backbone of the country's political system" while remaining silent about the fact that it is precisely the members of the middle class who in large and medium-sized cities least often vote for United Russia in local, regional and federal elections.

The authors of the report are ecstatic over the Kremlin's successes -- namely, a presidential election last year that supposedly proved its political legitimacy. At the same time, the report sets the "new strategic goal" of shifting from stabilization to development. Imagine that! Ten years of high oil prices brought several hundred billion dollars into state coffers, and all that money was spent on nothing more than stabilizing a system that did not work properly in the first place? Even the assertion that anything was stabilized is doubtful when you consider the sharp rise in crime and corruption, the increase in terrorism and military conflicts in the Caucasus and Russia's crisis-driven economic problems, which have been worse than any other developing country.

The same people who for 10 years allowed the country's economy to become more dependent on raw materials exports, who lowered the effectiveness of its institutions and the overall competitiveness of the economy and who oversaw the deepening degradation of Russia's "human capital" now promise us a "development model" that can supposedly transform Russia into a global leader. I believe this as much as I believe the "world trends" created by so-called experts from Kremlin-friendly think tanks.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy.