Staunton, July 24 – Many Russians have drawn the wrong lessons from the events in Turkey because in that country, the military has traditionally been the promoter of Westernization and secularism, intervening via putsches to prevent any backsliding from Ataturk’s vision, Igor Eidman says.
But in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Russian commentator argues, the military and the siloviki more generally are “together with the conservative bureaucracy, the main force blocking these processes.” Instead, they “support Putin in all possible ways and he they,” thus making any putsch impossible (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5793F44331781).
According to Eidman, “the siloviki in Russia at the end of the 20th century were more reactionary but a less influential force” than they are now. They were marginalized and abused, but with the rise of Putin, “their status has permanently gone up as well.” Now, after Crimea, they have become not only the most influential but also the most popular force in society.”
Polls show, he says, that the institutions enjoying the greatest popularity among Russians are “the president, the army, the church, and the security agencies.” Thus, “the most popular institutions” in Russia today “are at one and the same time also the most reactionary” and thus unlikely to challenge Putin or his policy course.
The attempted putsch in Turkey shows that the Turkish elite is ever more divided, but “this is not the case in Russia. Putin and the most influential force structures together with the Russian Orthodox Church are taking the country back to the past.” Indeed, Eidman says, what is being formed in Russia “combines the worst aspects of Romanov autocracy and Stalinism.”
Consequently, “a putsch of the siloviki against Putin is impossible.” That is because over the last 15 years, Putin has been destroying the remnants of civil society, something Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been doing for a far shorter period and in earnest only after the collapse of the attempted putsch.
“The Russian siloviki and above all the representatives of the special services have become under Putin something like a privileged caste, which feels itself to be in practice ‘the new nobility.’” They want to flaunt their wealth, as the FSB graduates recently did; and they want everyone to recognize that they can do what they like because they are in charge.
Such people do not need much more than they now have. It will be enough, Eidman continues, for them to “throw away the fig leaf of imitative democracy, to close the remaining relatively independent media and Internet, and [suppress] the opposition.” Then, they will be free to create a new stratified “autocratic state” with themselves in charge.
Exactly how long it will take them to do all this, to achieve Sorokin’s vision of a new oprichniki movement, is unclear, the commentator concedes. But “in any case, the further archaization of Russian society and the strengthening of the influence of the siloviki in it are inevitable.”
Indeed, he suggests, even if Putin for some reason leaves the scene, the forces now at work are such that the situation will hardly be likely to change, especially since all the candidates to succeed him are drawn precisely from the siloviki, the very people who have benefited the most from his policies.