The Russian Authorities Not Named Putin in the Panama Papers


As the media world is fixated on Putin’s allegedly stashed $2 billion, the not-named-Putin Russians in the leaked documents comprise of siloviki, chinovniki, parliamentarians, governors and their families. They include:

  • Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s Press Secretary
  • Suleiman Geremeev, Senator from Chechnya and uncle of Ruslan Geremeev, the main suspect in ordering the assassination of Boris Nemtsov
  • Viktor Zvargelskii, Duma Deputy United Russia
  • Mikhail Slipenchuk, Duma Deputy United Russia
  • Aleksandr Babakov, Duma Deputy United Russia
  • Andrei Turchak, Governor of Pskov
  • Boris Dubrovskii, Governor of Chelyabinsk
  • Igor Zubov, Deputy Minster of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Aleksandr Makhonov, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Maksim Liksutov, Vice-Mayor of Moscow
  • Nikolai Patrushev, National Security Council Secretary
  • Aleksei Yliukaev, Minister of Economic Development
  • Ivan Maliushin, Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs

You can find a rundown of all their offshore and shell company connections and more in Novaya gazeta’s Panama Papers investigation “Offshore. Uncovered.”

These people’s response to the Panama Papers’ revelations has been either “no comment,” plain denial, or “we conduct business by the book.”

And no one in Russia is under any illusion that these revelations will gain any political, let alone legal traction. No Russian law enforcement body has said a single word about intending to look into these documents. It’s just business as usual. Those in the Western press having their “Gotcha!” moment might as well be saying it in the mirror. Even the Vedomosti editorial board is blasé about the big revelations:

In Russia, offshore companies are first and foremost as a means of protection and for the concealment of property. In the West they are to avoid paying taxes, while we hide ownership. First, it’s more convenient to do business through offshore companies. Second, many of our businesses are linked in some way to the state—either through money or participants—in ways that aren’t always legal.

Our “state official-owners” can’t imagine the existence of something both beneficial for the state and detrimental to the authorities. It’s impossible for them to say that we ourselves will now take taxes from ourselves and we ourselves will punish ourselves. Therefore, we have to say that there is nothing new in these documents, and that it is a hit against the president. In a way, this is the honest truth.


Russia as a Rhizome State


My review of Alena Ledeneva’s Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks, and Informal Governance for Russia Direct, “Sistema: How power works in modern Russia,”

In June, Stanislav Belkovsky wrote that Putin “never created a power vertical.” Instead, the Putinist system is a “rhizome” state, a horizontal network “composed of innumerable multiplicities of power centers.”

Putin stands at the core but is isolated. He is the last to know or is simply left in the dark. In the network, each node, which is a merger of money and administrative resources, is really where the Russian state “is born, lives, and from time to time dies.” The implication that Russia as a rhizome state is clear: We must abandon the vertical for the horizontal if we really want to know how Russia is ruled.

I was reminded of Belkovsky’s provocative revision as I read Alena Ledeneva’s excellent and informative Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks, and Informal Governance. This book is a sequel to her Russia’s Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange (1998) and her exploration of post-Soviet informal practices in How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business (2006).

Can Russia Modernize? is not so much a sequel as it is the outer crust to these previous subterranean explorations. While the first two texts focused on the societal workings of informal networks, the new book illuminates their presence in the innards of the Russian state.

Like Belkovsky, Ledeneva also sees Russia as a network state, a vast web of money and power linked through informal practices, clans, personal relations governed by unwritten rules and codes. This complex circuitry forms the sistema, or system, of Russia that Putin lords over – and of which he is just as much a prisoner.

Read on . . .

Another Medvedev “Liberal” Purged


Another member of Medvedev’s camp has left the building. Sergei Guriev, the renown economist, Medvedev advisor, and rector of the New Economic School in Moscow has fled to France after being questioned by the Investigative Committee about the “Yukos Affair.” What drove him abroad has become a familiar pattern. According to two Guriev confidants, he fled Russia to avoid criminal prosecution by the Investigative Committee. Putin’s oprichniniki raided the NESh looking for Guriev on suspicion that the economic institute received money from Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Another case of embezzlement, it seems. Guriev also has a long rap sheet of silovik designated “crimes.” He defended Khodorkovsky and called his prosecution a sham. The New Economic School receives money from abroad, hosted a Barack Obama speech in 2009, and has regular contact with US Ambassador Michael McFaul. In the atmosphere of “foreign agents,” it’s surprising that it took Bastrykin this long to break down RESh’s doors. But perhaps Guriev’s real sin is that he’s working with Aleksei Navalny, the currently reigning enemy of the people. The Kremlin, of course, has denied Guriev’s politics has anything to do with anything.

Once again purging in Russia is not just what you do, it’s who you’re connected with. If all of this is true, Guriev becomes another “Medvedev liberal” turned enemy of the people for cozying with the opposition.

Granted, it’s all still a theory, but is running with it. In an article, “The Guriev Case: How Liberals Stopped Being Fellow Travelers,” Boris Grozovskii argues that the Investigative Committee’s targeting of Guriev is another strike by the siloviki to purge out the technocrats. “The siloviki no longer need the services of disloyal specialists.” This evokes a tragic historical reminder:

Liberal economists, who up to this point were former “fellow travelers” and aides, like the bourgeois specialists during NEP, still haven’t been accused of being “wreckers,” but they are already becoming “internal enemies.” The siloviki, who reigned in the background of the Orange-democratic threat, are getting rid of more of them. It’s like when the engineers, technicians and economists of pre-revolutionary Russia became no longer necessary during the transition from a quasi-market to a command economy in the beginning in the 1930s. Therefore the [siloviki] are eating up the liberals.

For Grozovskii, the Investigative Committee’s case against Guriev is analogous to the unmasking of the “Counter-revolutionary SR-Kulak group of ChayanovKondratiev” in 1930.

Is Grozovskii engaging in historical hysterics or just highlighting another casualty in silovik war on corruption liberals? Either way, every week another from Medvedev’s connected technocrat suddenly gets routed.

On Putin’s Bulldogs


This week’s Russia Magazine! column, “Putin’s Bulldogs and Their Bones,”

In reference to the succession struggle after Stalin’s death, Winston Churchill famously compared the opaqueness of Kremlin politics to a “bulldog fight under a rug” where “an outsider only hears the growling and when he sees the bones fly out from beneath it is obvious who has won.” Churchill’s poignant witticism has been Kremlinologists’ seer stone since. And for good reason. Kremlinology resembles alchemy of old—one part science, one part magic, and two parts faith. Given this concoction, it’s no wonder the interpretation of Kremlin politics rests on deciphering growls, barks, and snarls.

There’s a lot of growling coming out of Moscow of late, and the bones are steadily piling on the living room floor. The grandees in Putin’s inner circle are once again entwined in a dance macabre, and as they spin, their movements unleash centrifugal forces that reverberate throughout the power elite. The endgame may be as nebulous as the politics that march to it, but the bulldogs’ muffled snarls are getting louder, generating questions whether Putin can keep a firm grip their leashes.


Medvedev’s Generation

228747If history is any indication, a gerontocracy can kill a political system.  The Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc states suffered from it.  It currently plagues China.  And the recent protests in Iran certainly point to some kind of generational conflict is coming to a boil.  The failure to ensure the mobility of young people into a government’s power structures only brews disillusionment, frustration, and anger among the next generation.

Soviet Russia understood this well, that is until the bureaucracy ousted Khrushchev and entrenched itself to the point the system went into suspension.  Before the 1960s, Soviet Russia was an archetype of social mobility.  Youth–through institutions like the Komsomol–were the “helper” and “reserve” of the Party. Part of Stalin’s “New Soviet Person” was not just about promoting peasants and workers into positions of power.  Youth also greatly benefited by Stalin’s efforts to rip Russia out of its historical backwardness.  And if industrialization didn’t shoot a young person to new career heights, then terror cleared the decks of “old Bolsheviks.”  One recipient of this was Khrushchev himself.  As one of the Stalin’s “new men,” the wobbly, gregarious Nikita went from a lowly miner to running the whole shebang.  It is no wonder that his biographer William Taubman called his rise “meteoric.”

Dmitri Medvedev also seems to understand the importance of youth social mobility, if his recent courting of young people into Russian politics serves as any indication.  Last week, the age for holding public office was reduced to 18 years old. “I propose to establish, in all regions of the Russian Federation, a single age for election to representative bodies of municipal government and municipal entities,” Dmitri Medvedev said in his opening remarks to the State Council on Youth Affairs. “I think that any citizen who has reached the age of 18 should have the right to be elected in his/her municipal organ”.  As Nezavisimaya gazeta put it, Medvedev has decided “to create an additional electoral group for future presidential elections.” And a significant electoral group they are.  Young people between 14-30 make up roughly 27 percent of the Russian population.  To make them even more important, they are currently in a volatile situation.  The often touted “Putin Generation” has been hit hardest by unemployment.  The unemployment rate for young people under 25 is 27 percent.  And if anyone has seen the mockumentary Russia 88, you will know that it is unemployment that can fuel a youth’s turn toward fascism.  Youth, then, are the perfect resource to tap, and the President hopes to give them the sense that their bright future resides in their new patron: himself.

Medvedev’s move comes only a few weeks after the yearly youth summer camp at Seliger.  Usually reserved for Nashi, this year’s camp was opened to an assortment of approved youth groups and organizations involved in anything from politics to art.  Seliger under the Committee of Youth Affairs had less of a militant flavor than the past ones under Nashi. Nashi still loomed large aesthetically, but the tone was one the whole different. As Russia Profile‘s Roland Oliphant explained,

Traditional elements from previous camps did, indeed, remain. There were red-and-white Nashi flags and clothes, visits from government ministers and a live video link with President Dmitry Medvedev. Campers were woken at eight o’clock every morning by the Russian national anthem blasted from speakers mounted in the trees. Many of the delegates were from Nashi, or were former members. Robert Schlegel, a former Nashi leader and now the youngest deputy in the State Duma (for United Russia), hosted the video link with Medvedev.

But there was no paramilitary training to combat colored revolutions, nor any “love oasis” in which couples could get to work raising the birthrate. And despite the conflation of love of nation with love of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (whose portraits were displayed side-by-side at strategic points around the camp) the rhetoric was more patriotic than partisan, with great emphasis placed on national unity and “tolerance,” which was one of the camp’s many buzz words.

With a $2.2 million budget, Seliger signifies the move to court young people into politics, harness their creative spirit, and bring them together under one banner for the future.  Principle among the many camp events was a stress on education and experience.  One such example was the “living art” project Future Ville.  According to Oliphant:

Participants labored from dawn till dusk every day to erect a model city. The buildings – factories, a grocery store, even a registry office – were built of wood by various teams. But they also printed money (with which they had to pay for building materials), built a bureaucracy, agreed laws and held elections. Opposition newspapers appeared accusing the “mayor” of failing to fight inflation, corruption and authoritarianism. Rival candidates posted fliers pleading for votes at tomorrow afternoon’s election.

With the Russian government taking a much more active role in youth, what then will become of groups like Nashi?  If Medvedev seriously pushes his youth agenda, I can foresee Nashi becoming more attractive for politically career minded youth.  Plus, Nashi still holds a special place in facilitating upwardly mobile young people into Russian politics. After all, the Youth Affairs Committee is run by Vasili Yakemenko, the founder and first secretary of Nashi.  The infamous Robert Schlegel serves as a shining example for young people as a former Nashist who is now the youngest Duma member.

Medvedev also seems to be looking at Nashi (or unaligned youth who still represent the national spirit) to fill government positions. According to the Moscow Times, he might tap Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Svetlana Khorkina and Nashi activist Marina Zademidkova to serve in the government, possible as governors. But Nashi isn’t the only source.  Medevev has already appointed Andrei Turchak, 33, to head Pskov province and former oppositionist Nikita Belykh, 34, to run Kirov.  Moreover, all of the President’s “Golden 100” are entirely under the age of 50, with none having any experience in Russia’s security organs.

This is the “Year of Youth,” and it seems Medvedev is using the occasion to create his own base of support, a future young cohort of civiliki.  The only questions is whether Russia’s youth will answer Dima’s call.

Photo: NG

Clan Illogic

Jeffrey Tayler takes up clanology in his article “The Master and Medvedev” in hopes to map the innards of Kremlin Inc (hat tip to James at Robert Amsterdam for pointing to it). Tayler argues that Putin’s anointing of Medvedev as President, who in turn returned the favor by making his patron PM, was a great victory for Putin’s efforts to keep the siloviki at bay. If Putin left power completely, Tayler’s logic goes, he would open season to possible investigations and prosecutions for corruption. Putting Medvedev in power ensured him immunity and more importantly, Tayler adds, “Putin has outsmarted—and possibly imperiled—all those in Sechin’s clan.” But alone Medvedev is too keep to fight the sharks himself, so he needs Putin to have his back ready to pluck one with a harpoon.

All of this sounds plausible and I applaud Tayler for not rehashing the usual Putin as tsar, blah, blah, blah. Some have pointed out that Medvedev was a coup against the siloviki. I’m not entirely convinced.

Tayler writes:

Prevailing over Sechin’s group was Medvedev’s “liberal” clan, which includes Viktor Cherkesov, chief of the Federal Drug Control Service; Viktor Zolotov, in charge of presidential security; the oligarch Roman Abramovich; and members of the “Family,” Yeltsin’s old clique.

Except Medvedev has no clan or at least not one with these people (Abramovich a clan member? That playboy? Please child!) If Medvedev did have his own clan, he wouldn’t need Putin. Medvedev’s clan, again if he had one, would probably come from his Leningrad law school people. As of yet, none of these people have risen up the ladder. They all have the same jobs they did before.

Another problem with Medevev’s faux clan is that Viktor Cherkesov is no longer the chief of the Federal Drug Control Service. Cherkesov was booted from that post. So was FSB head Patrushev (a Sechin clan member.) And if there really was a victory over the siloviki, then why did Patrushev get promoted to head Medevdev’s Security Council and Cherkesov demoted to buying guns? Not to mention, Sechin is still a Deputy Prime Minister? Oh, I know why. Because it wasn’t.

In fact, the government under Medvedev still looks like the one under Putin. A few seats have shuffled but the Board of Directors are basically the same.

And this brings me to another issue. There are Kremlin clans. No doubt. There are factions behind them walls. They snip at each other. They intrigue and plot. There seems to be “liberal” faction, as in economic liberals, not political ones, and a conservative faction. But Putin is not a target or really a member of neither. He is the force that keeps these people from going at each others throats, assuming that this is even probable.

I happen to think that Cherkesov statement in Kommersant when the Siloviki War broke into the press is important to remember. He said, “There can be no winners in this war, there is too much at stake.” Indeed. For everyone. There is a reason why these clan wars are keep behind closed doors. It’s better that the public not know about these things. Just think of it like an updated “democratic centralism.” You can argue, but business stays in the family.

By all indications, the Kremlin Mandarins are a mutually benefiting team. Individual members or even groups have their own interests and bailiwicks of power to protect. But protection must be done according to the rules.

Plus talk about danger of Putin being prosecuted for any corruption is simply poppycock. Or wishful thinking. No one in the Kremlin elite wants to make that kind of precedent. Cause if you kick one card out, the whole house could fall.

Oh, and one other thing. Note to Tayler: Putin didn’t emasculate state structures by appointing people loyal to him. There were no state structures to emasculate. The Russian state has always been weak and more reliant on personalities. Every Russian leader knows this which is why they appoint their minions, and have been doing it since Kievan Rus.

Or as N. I. Ezhov said in 1933, “The Party leads by appointing people. Power is not power if it cannot appoint people. Strength consists in the fact that we first of all keep the appointment of people and the nomenklatura system in our hands–this is the political expression of party leadership in its organizational form.”

He might as well have said this today.

A Conspiracy Behind the Rumor?

The political fallout from Moskovskii Korrespondent‘s rumor about Putin dumping his wife Liudmila for contortionist extraordinaire and Olympic medalist Alina Kabaeva is taking political shape.  Last Friday, the Duma passed an amendment to the mass media law that adds slander to the list of unmentionables such as revealing state secrets, supporting terrorism, advocating pornography, and promoting violence.  The law doesn’t use the word “slander” but redefined it with “intentionally false information,” which, of course, is just about anything.  Perhaps more important than the vague, elastic language is the fact that the amendment gives the Ministry of Justice the power to issue warnings to media outlets for publishing slanderous and libelous material. Two warnings in twelve months allows Justice to shut the media outlet down pending trial.

The amendment’s introduction came from an interesting source.  Former Nashi commissar, youngest Duma rep, and Putin loyalist Robert Schlegel introduced it.  Ironically, Nashi was recently saved from a $1.2 million libel suit filed by Garry Kasparov.  Kasparov claimed that Nashi literature slandered him by claiming that he was an American citizen.  The court threw out the suit because, as Nashi lawyer Sergei Shorin argued, “there is no proof that the pamphlet was produced by Nashi.”  Well, in reality, Nashi did produce the pamphlet and claims that Kasparov is a American citizen have been a mainstay of its propaganda.  Granted, I’m no Kasparov fan, but any claim of Nashi’s innocence is completely preposterous.  As this Nashi flyer states, “The USA has another plan.  They want traitors and thieves to win–the American citizen Kasparov, the fascist Limonov, and the seller of the state Nemtsov.”  Nashi’s logo is at the bottom of the page.

But I digress.  It takes no brainiac to note that the law is in direct response to the Putin-Kabaeva rumor. After all, Moskovskii Korrespondent suspended publication after the story hit the international press and Putin had to field questions about its veracity in a press conference with Silvio Berlusconi. According to Interfax, Alexander Lebedev the owner of MK’s parent company National MediaComany (Kremlin friendly but also owns a majority stake in anti-Kremlin Novaya gazeta) pulled tabloid’s financial plug.

But Russia being Russia, nothing is assumed to happen by accident.  And the Putin-Kabaeva story is no different.  The reigning conspiracy theory is that the story is nothing more than black PR in the ongoing political battle between Kremlin factions.  As Mark Ames explains on Radar Online, “It looks more and more likely that someone from the FSB planted it knowing it would make Lebedev and his paper look foolish. That would be a clear retaliation for Lebedev’s attempts to exonerate Storchak, the FSB’s most valuable captured chess piece in its battle against Putin and the liberals he’s propped up. The FSB’s message is simple: If you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you, your paper, and Putin—in more ways than you know.”  Lebedev’s explanation in Novaya gazeta for closing Moskovskii Korresondent seems to confirm this.  “I now know,” he writes, “that one of the most controversial pieces of gossip was custom-made and was printed in Moskovskii Korrespondent as part of a personal vendetta against me.” That or he’s falling on his sword.

Boris Kagarlitsky also suggests that the story was a “dirty trick” different sort.  Namely, to keep the state bureaucracy and ruling factions guessing.  Will Putin stay or will he go?  The answer to this seems simple.  There is no evidence that Putin is going to step aside in the near future.  He’s already implementing measures to subordinate regional leaders to the prime minister’s office.  His call to purge United Russia of its “useless members” seems to be gathering steam.  Local party organizations have already started their proverka to clean out their “dead souls.” All of this, and more, have some already predicting Medvedev’s future as the next “False Dmitry.”

How false Medvеdev’s role will be ultimately boils down to how he will deal with the siloviki.  They, not Putin, pose the most serious challenge to his legitimacy.  They have the political and police connections and control Russia’s state assets. They are the only real potent force to undermine a president.

If the conspiracy theories are true and the Putin-Kabaeva story is merely another “dirty trick,” then increased restrictions on “slander” is another arrow in their quiver for Putin loyalists to lob against their rivals lurking looking to stir up trouble in the press.  The rules of the game demand that Kremlin infighting remains in house and out of the public eye.  And if keeping this rule enforced means more control over the media, then so be it.  It’s not like these people want a free press anyway.

In his interview with Argumenty i Fakty, Medvedev assured the public that there won’t be any surprises with the transfer of power. Judging from the way Kremlin elites and their clients are continuing their pot shots against each other, I don’t foresee any surprises either.

The Rise of the “Civiliki” and Provincial Elite Warfare

Western leaders have been hoping and praying that Dmitri Medvedev will be more “liberal” in foreign and domestic policy. According to a LexisNexis search the new President elect’s name is often followed with words like “liberal,” “liberal instincts,” “liberal inclinations,” and the like. It’s not that Medvedev hasn’t given Westerners any reason to hope. Take this exchange from Medvedev’s 18 February interview with Itogi for example:

But now we will soon have a new holiday, the Day of the Lawyer. If only it could help create the rule of law.

I agree. To overcome the legal nihilism preventing the country from developing harmoniously is a long and difficult job. As it turned out, to establish a workable model of a market economy is much easier than laying the foundations of a state in which people respect the letter of the law. This is another demonstration of the thesis that democracy cannot occur in any given place after two or three years. It requires painstaking, persistent work to improve the legal and political system. Of course, one can not forget the distinctive characteristics of the Russian situation. You know, justice has always relied on a mechanism for enforcing its implementation, some kind of public stick. But if it is not based on a set of moral imperatives, on internal convictions and moral principles, if it simply aspires to the crude power of a punitive machine, then the structure it creates will be flawed and ineffective. In the nineteenth century, the Russian government was far from perfect but it was a developed system based on a set of moral and religious values. In the twentieth century, the second part of this disappeared: people were deprived of their faith in God and the state came to demonstrate either naked coercion, which at times was extremely cruel indeed, or weakness and complete failure. These are both equally bad. We all remember what the well known doctrines of the thirties and forties led to, when the talk was of class dictatorship and the presumption of guilt in criminal trials. This helped resolve some tactical problems, but in the long-term planted a time-bomb that ended the very existence of the Soviet state. You have to feel what justice is, accept it voluntarily, not obey it in some insanely prostrate way. The explosion was inevitable, it would have happened sooner or later. People rushed to the other extreme and took to systematically breaking laws. This is what happened in the nineties.

Do you think that the current system of justice is better?

Though based on quite good, solid regulatory framework, our judicial system continues to function, getting its bearings from old traditions. Disregard for the law in various sectors of society remains widespread. Until we change people’s attitudes, until we convince them there is only one law and no one is above it, there will be no change for the better. The strength of the rule of law consists in the fact that no one can influence it. Neither pressure from various authorities, including the most powerful, nor pressure from business nor social forces. Justice should be in harmony with all the participants in this process, and refuse to cave in to anyone.

These are fine words, Dmitry Anatolyevich, but how can they be put into practice?

You can start small. For example, recommend that judges at all levels keep to a minimum all contact with businessmen and even representatives of public services. To retain maximum independence and objectivity.

You can’t put people in a cage.

You don’t have to. It’s enough if you can completely eliminate the personal factor. The more faceless the legal machinery becomes, the stronger it is. I am absolutely convinced of this.

I guess we will have to see which Medvedev Russia and the world will get. Instead of getting to carried away with liberal fantasies, perhaps we should take heed of what Putin told reporters in regard to how his protege might approach foreign policy:

“I have the feeling that some of our partners cannot wait for me to stop exercising my powers so that they can deal with another person. I am long accustomed to the label by which it is difficult to work with a former KGB agent. Dmitry Medvedev will be free from having to prove his liberal views. But he is no less of a Russian nationalist than me, in the good sense of the word, and I do not think our partners will have it easier with him.”

Oh yeah that. Nationalism. No matter how liberal Medvedev may seem, if anyone thinks he’s going to go against Russia’s short and long term national interests, or more importantly, against the interests of Russia’s elite class, then keep dreaming.

Plus Medvedev has more pressing issues at hand. First and foremost is to establish his own power base in the Kremlin and in Russia’s regions. That process is already starting. Medvedev doesn’t official become president until early May, yet yesterday Putin ordered that the presidential administration to begin working for Medvedev, along with giving him a presidential level security detail. The Moscow Times is speculating that one of Medvedev’s first moves will be to fire the current cabinet and put his own guys in power. Potential members of Medvedev’s “clan” are his former law school chums from Leningrad State University. They include Anton Ivanov, chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court; Ilya Yeliseyev, deputy chairman of Gazprombank; Konstantin Chuichenko, head of Gazprom’s legal department; and Nikolai Vinnichenko, head of the Court Marshals Service. This group is already being dubbed as the “civiliki.” All of these guys have come up on Medvedev’s tail. For example, between March 2001and March 2005, Chuichenko went from heading Gazprom’s legal department to being elected to the supervisory board of Sibneft. The others on this list shot up to important positions in media, energy, and the legal system. And the ride on Medvedev’s tail brought others riding on the civiliki tails. Such is the nature of Russian “networkism,” as Alena Ledeneva told Graham Stack in December. The question now becomes whether there will be a clash between Medvedev’s clan of civiliki and the siloviki.

If establishing a base in the Kremlin was difficult enough, it appears that he will have to do the same in Russia’s regions. Andrei Serenko’s recent article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, “Revenge from the Underground,” is a good example of what Medvedev might face. Serenko notes that the Presidential elections produced cleavages between provincial political elites. In Volgograd, for example, elites split into a “high turnout party” and a “low turn out party.” The former, mostly comprising of governors and mayors, saw the election as a test of their “professional aptitude and administrative effectiveness.” Translated, regional leaders saw high turnouts as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the center, and specifically Putin’s choice, Medvedev. The latter are those elites’ local rivals. The “low turnout party” were those who recently lost power to the local political bosses and now seek to exact “administrative revenge.” The hope was that lower numbers for Medvedev would give the “low turnout party” a way to discredit their rivals in Moscow’s eyes.

As Dmitri Savelev, the director of the Institute for Effective Government, told Serenko, an “administrative partisan movement” has arisen in Russia’s Central and Souther provinces bent on returning ousted “old elites” to power. One way to do this was by messing with Medvedev’s local returns. The “Yarolsav opposition,” for example, tried to discredit their rivals by “intentionally discrediting the numbers of [Yaroslav] Governor Bakhukov and lowering the electoral returns for Dmitri Medvedev in the region to 30 percent, and at the same time increasing the returns for Liberal Democratic Party to 20 percent and more.” It doesn’t seem like the Yaroslav “low turn out party” was very successful. Returns show that Medvedev got 63 percent compared to Zhirinovsky’s 13 percent. In the Duma elections (also held on March 2), United Russia got 49 percent compared to LDPR’s 13 percent.

This doesn’t mean that Medvedev isn’t going to have to reestablish central control. As Serenko concludes, while regional leaders formed a united front for December’s Duma elections, the presidential election has “intensified competition among various groups of regional elites, thereby shaking the stability of the regional political system which was formed during the rule of Vladimir Putin. It’s obvious that the task of restoring this stability will be one of the priorities for Dmitri Medvedev’s administration.”

Taming the center and the periphery. Sounds like Dima already has a lot on his plate even before he actually gets to sit at the table. And people wonder why Putin is sticking around as Prime Minister.

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