Staunton, August 24 – Russia has entered a new “smuta” or “time of troubles, one in which there is no basis for confidence or any clear path forward and which unlike previous earlier analogues “threatens completely unpredictable consequences” for the country and its peoples, according to a Kazan academic.
In the current issue of “Zvezda Povolzhya,” Indus Tagirov, a member of Tatarstan’s Academy of Sciences, writes that “we live in a time of troubles when there is no clarity about what is being done or about our prospects. There is no ideology which could strengthen in the consciousness of people calm and certainty.”
Moreover, he continues, “there is no party which could put forward a program of real democratic development of the country. There is no leader who enjoys widespread trust. [And] there is not even a False Dmitry” or personalities like Minin and Pozharsky who could bring people together (“Zvezda Povolzhya,” no. 30 (740), 21-27 August 2014, pp. 1-2).
In this situation, Tagirov says, the people themselves will eventually emerge to speak for themselves. Indeed, and just like in 1905-1907, there are signs of that. But today, “there are no conditions necessary for their growth. On the contrary, everything is being done to kill off any such growth at the roots.”
At least two steps are necessary for the country to move forward out of the “smuta,” he argues. On the one hand, Russia needs to move toward a system of competitive elections and the rotation of elites so that change as it comes will be more gradual and have the support of the population.
And on the other, Moscow must stop trying to homogenize the country by attacking all nations and trying to reduce them to the status of anomic individuals linked only to the state by personal loyalty. What Moscow is doing has been tried before, and it will again end in disaster if the country continues along that course.
Tagirov argues that the Crimean Anschluss has made the “smuta” worse in two ways. Not only has it cost Russia the centuries’ old friendship of the Ukrainian people, but it has intensified the desire of some in the Moscow elites to rebuild the empire by destroying national republics within the Russian Federation and destroying independent states outside its borders.
These two processes are interrelated, of course, with the pursuit of one leading to the pursuit of the other. Consequently, the Tatarstan academic argues, the Crimean question has not disappeared as some imagine given the focus of attention on eastern Ukraine but is become “ever more important” both domestically and internationally.