Friday, August 26, 2016

Petrov on How Cadres Decisions are Made in the Kremlin Now

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Appointments and dismissals of key officials provide insights into how the Kremlin makes decisions more generally because in contrast to other sectors, hirings and firings are almost always carried out, Nikolay Petrov says, adding that the recent wave of changes at the top thus provides a large amount of data on these key aspects of the Putin system.

            Two weeks ago, Petrov, the head of the Moscow Center for Political-Geographic Research, published an article in which he outlined what he sees as the emergence of a neo-nomenklatura system that is gradually moving from a Brezhnevite to a Stalainist model. (On this, see

                He has now followed this up with a discussion of how cadres decisions are now taken in the Kremlin and what that says about Vladimir Putin’s intentions and the future development of his system (

            Both the most recent wave of personnel changes and “the large series of cadres decisions of the last two years look consistent and well thought out, a pattern that testifies at a minimum that they have been taken within the framework of a common logic and from a single center.” And while Putin has the last word, he does not make all these choices independently.

            That task is simply too large: “the nomenklatura positions the president appoints have increased sharly” and the number of presidential representatives both formal and informal, including in essence the governors has grown as well.” But Putin sets the direction and the parameters within which all these choices are made.

            “The personal participation of the president in the adoption of cadres decisions doesn’t mean one man rule and his absolute independence in taking them,” Petrov says. Various groups in the bureaucracy are involved, and Putin can’t ignore them. Many decisions are thus “the result of a struggle in the apparatus and competition of various groups within the elite.”

            Putin is a past master at patience, Petetrov argues. He thinks about cadres appointments for a long time and “tests the reaction to possible appointments on various people from his entourage.” He could dispense with this perhaps, but he has to take various factors into consideration – image, balance, message, and so on – and testing names on others is helpful.

            A particular reason he has to do that, the analyst suggests, is that cadres changes at the top involve cadres changes below. When one leader is replace by another, that has consequences for others who have been or will become their subordinates.  It is best if this is considered in advance rather than after the fact.

            The timing of appointments, Petrov says, can be triggered either by objective external circumstances or by “subjective factors,” including personal relationships.  Often people are changed not because of themselves but because of a new direction in overall Kremlin policy in a particular area. “The real goals [involved] typically aren’t announced.”

            The only cadres appointments where the process has been specified in law concerns the naming of governors. There the 2004 rules are generally followed but not always, especially if key groups lobby for or against a particular appointment or reappointment directly with the president. Then almost anything can happen.

            According to Petrov, the most important change in the cadres process in recent times involves a shift from carrots to sticks. In the past, the Kremlin generally used a system of carrots, offering someone on the way out something else. Now, what has emerged is a system involving sticks “or their absence.”

            That increases the likelihood that the system will move in one of two directions in the coming months: either in the direction of “authoritarianism for which a shift to mass repressions regarding cadres will be necessary or toward authoritarian modernization in which cadres will have to bend the knee and adapt.”

            Which one will occur, Petrov says, is uncertain, but he suggests that “we should be able to see it already before the end of the year.”

Russians Still Leaving Kazakhstan But Now for Personal Not Political Reasons, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Although the number of people leaving Kazakhstan for permanent residence elsewhere has declined by an order of magnitude over the last 15 years, more than half of those who are leaving are ethnic Russians going to the Russian Federation. But mainly, they are going for personal rather than political reasons, according to Olga Semakova.

            In a major new study contained in a special issue on various migration flows in Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan sociologist reports on the reasons ethnic Russians continue to leave her country even though the total numbers of those departing are far below what they were (, pp. 7-42; summarized at

In the first decade after the disintegration of the USSR, some 2.5 million people, most of them ethnic Russians, left Kazakhstan. At the end of the 1990s, approximately 300,000 people were leaving each year; now, approximately 30,000 are doing so, a decline equal to an order of magnitude.”

“According to official statistics,” Semakova says, over the last five years, 104,407 ethnic Russians out of a total of 146,052 have left Kazakhstan, while 16,883 ethnic Russians have come to Kazakhstan, out of a total number of arrivals of 123,871. Ethnic Russians thus form 44.5 percent of the total amount of immigration and emigration from the country.

Semakova argues that some 60 percent of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan do not want to leave while 36 percent say they would like to. That latter figure, however, says little about whether or when they will do so. Fewer than one in five (18 percent) of those who say they want to leave say that they will do so within the next two years.

The ethnic Russians most likely to leave are those with higher educations between the ages of 30 and 49, with those 18 to 29, the prime child-bearing cohort being only slightly less interested in leaving Kazakhstan and moving to the Russian Federation so that their children can grow up in a Russian milieu.

According to Semakova, there are three “blocks” of things pushing people and especially ethnic Russians to leave Kazakhstan. The most important of these are social-economic conditions about jobs and social welfare. Many Russians feel they can’t make a career in Kazakhstan, and most see social welfare conditions in Russia as better.

The next most important are family and personal considerations. Ethnic Russians sometimes want to move to be closer to family members, but the key factor here, Semakova says, involves educational and life chances for their children, chances that ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan assume are better in Russia than where they are now.

The third block, “motives of  political character” including interethnic relations” is much less significant and has an impact an order of magnitude less than the other two on decisions about emigration, the sociologist says.

Russian Aggression, Not Maidan, Behind Growing Ukrainian Hostility toward Russia, Studies Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Moscow propagandists have long insisted that Ukrainians became hostile to Russia as a result of what they say was the Western-organized Maidan, but sociological research clearly shows that it was not the Maidan but rather subsequent Russian aggression that caused Ukrainians to change their attitude toward Russia and Russians.

            Ukrainians now view Russians as an enemy rather than as a fraternal people, a dramatic shift that was highlighted this week by President Petro Poroshenko’s remarks on Ukrainian Independence Day and that has been documented by Ukrainian sociologists and other scholars in recent studies and polls.

            Ukrainian political analyst Yevgeny Magda sums up these changes in the following way: “Russian-Ukrainian relations have changed forever,” he says, and “the formula, ‘we will no longer be brothers’ is appropriate: There is thus no reason to speak about the restoration of good-neighborly relations in the foreseeable future” (

            Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has transformed the situation, Magda continues, “and it is important for Ukraine to show to the rest of the world that in fact it was a colony of Russia and not a republic equal to the RSFSR in the former Soviet Union,” as Russian propagandists regularly insist.

            But as insightful as these observations are, it is important to have more objective measures of just how and perhaps especially when Ukrainian attitudes toward Russia and Russians have changed. That is now possible because of the rapidly maturing polling sector in Ukraine.

            The QHA news agency summarizes the reports of Ukrainian sociologists that were presented at a meeting last week organized by the Kucheriv Democratic Initiative Foundation at the Institute of Sociology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (; for the complete report of their findings (in Ukrainian), see

            The sociologists reported that the latest surveys show that 60 percent of those questioned said that they were proud to be Ukrainians. Only 16 percent said they were not. Those figures are far higher than in the 1990s, and the situation began to change at the time first of the Orange Revolution and then at that of the Maidan.

            The highest figure in this regard – 67 percent – was reached in 2015. It has fallen off somewhat as Ukrainians recognize that the situation they find themselves in is likely to last a long time and be filled with uncertainties, the sociologists say. They also stress that it is significant that 22 percent of those surveyed identify more with a city or village than with the country, but only seven percent with a region more than with Ukraine as a whole.

            Yevgeny Golovakha, the deputy director of the Kyiv Institute of Sociology, said at the meeting that Ukrainians today feel hope and only then concern and that now “hope is even more the predominant feeling than was the case in the relati8vely stable and well-off period of the beginning of 2013.”

            In that year, 32 percent of Ukrainians said they were hopeful about their country; now 44 percent do. He also noted that ever fewer Ukrainians are interested in any integration with Russia: “Fewer than 20 percent of the respondents” favor that now, and “up to 57 percent” say they are opposed to some kind of hypothetical “’Slavic union’” of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

            Irina Bekeshkin, head of the Democratic Initiative Foundation pointed out that this is a reversal of the situation in 1998 when 60 percent of Ukrainians favored such an arrangement. In her view, QHA says, “the decisive role in this shift was played not by the Dignity Revolution but by the aggression of Russia.”

            She added that ever more Ukrainians look to integrate with Western institutions like the EU and NATO. A majority now expect their country to be in the EU 20 years from now.  And the number of those favoring NATO membership now equals the number opposed, a radical shift even from as recently as 2006.

            Ukrainian sociology and polling have suffered from the problems of youth, QHA says, but they are not alone in that. Some of the most distinguished Russian polling agencies also do things that sociologists elsewhere would reject as problematic or worse.

            The article gives the example of a recent Levada Center poll which found that 58 percent of Russians are now hostile to Ukraine and only 31 percent are positive as an example of such problems ( because the Moscow pollsters asked about Russian attitudes toward Ukraine while also asking about their attitudes toward the US and the EU.

            Given that Kremlin outlets insist that “in the Donbass, Russia is fighting not so much with Ukraine as with the entire Western world,” asking the question about Russian attitudes toward Ukraine and Ukrainians is a kind of “manipulation,” something Ukrainian pollsters would be criticized for even if Russian ones aren’t.