Putin in 2024 or Why Studies of Russia are not a Science

My generation remembers very well the course of social and political studies called Sovietology. Respectable sovietologists used to keep their ears open about what heads of countries of the USSR and its ‘friendly’ countries w…

My generation remembers very well the course of social and political studies called Sovietology. Respectable sovietologists used to keep their ears open about what heads of countries of the USSR and its ‘friendly’ countries wrote and spoke, what they were wearing and how they were seated in pictures, analyzed overviews of five-year plans and their implementation, had hot discussions about what mysterious reasons were that 99.90 percent voted for the Communist Party in one republic of the USSR while in another republic – only 99.85 percent of voters. They were doing a lot of other things that we used to listen through various “voices’ that were disturbed in various ways. Sovietology raised a number of political analysts (probably even a number of doctors of social studies), however it got compromises as a science irretrievably, because it did not foresee the most important fact – collapse of the USSR that happened not because of execution of the five-year plans, not because of the percentage of votes or other potentially very logical reasons. More about why it happened is described at the end of the article.   
Present political analysts of Russia are far more cautious and more informed. However, they need to answer the same question – what is going on in Russia and what we can expect from it? And they also wish not just speculate but put everything into logics of the political process.  
So what is actually going on in Russia?
The prime minister and all the government were removed from the office. Classical political sciences propose that governments are replaced either because of tsunamis of crises or results of elections. If the government is replaced as a result of the annual report of the president, this is not a classical case. This is more like a rap, same as the report of the president-rapper. Very far from classics is the fact that actually nobody blamed the government and doubted the competence of ministers and that the removed prime minister still frisky is smiling to the president-wrongdoer, same as he used to smile to the president-buddy.
The Constitution will be changed. Nobody knows how, but everybody thinks that it will be changed not according to people’s wishes but according to the interests of the state (its leaders, to be exact). A good topic for doctoral thesis to young political analysts and double royalties to the commentators, first trying to explain what will be and later – why everything happened the other way round. In a number of western comments I came across the comments saying that everything what had happened caused the effect of the exploded bomb. If it is so, then you should know that bombs are exploded at unlikely time and in unlikely places not by politicians elected in a democratic way, but… (you know, by whom).        
 
Why are investigators of the Kremlin’s wings wrong so often and why would we consider the Russian studies more like a political programme and not a political science? The grandees of Russian studies try to clarify (and admit they do not understand) why suddenly Putin instead of living a quite life, needs amendments to the Constitution and a grey bureaucrat from the Tax Inspectorate.     
Theories are logical, however to tell the truth, diametrically controversial. One says that it is an ordinary usual political joke – the president of Russia is strong as never and plays the game he likes best: he will create the ruling method he wants. The other theory says that the president of Russia becomes weaker and starts a strategically confusing game in order to find some way to pull through.
They say that according to the Constitution Putin has to finish his presidency term in year 2024. By the way, he had to finish his term in 2008 already, however he did not finish but had some more times… Why should I think that 2024 will be different? Once that year will not be different, so a logical way would be not to focus on the year – Putin can change the Constitution in essence and do wherever he wants – to be a president, prime-minister or just a retired person. Not necessarily the leader of the state, but whoever he wants to be. Actually, the experience of non-democratic states suggests that former presidents often go to prison or gallows, so it’s better to be a president. (They say that the ‘good’ Yeltsin chose Putin as his successor just because he wanted to have a good rest, however specialists of Russian studies say that we can also doubt this).  
There are new schemes, too. Kazakh Nursultan found a way how to stay in power over all other remaining authorities. Maybe Putin is also thinking about the same.
Thus, most people logically hope that Putin would think of something simple, let’s say, counting of presidential cadencies from the beginning (because the Constitution is changed) or maybe he will use the assistance of his pageboy Medvedev again. Not much shall be done. Leader of China Xi simply cancelled limitation of cadences (‘the parliament” voted 2959 votes against 2964).  
If you are simply curious and want to know what will happen, history already prompts the answer. It is not easy to find many facts when the government or system in Russia changed as a result of cadences, electoral competition or reforms in the economic system. It changed as a result of conspiracies, riots, wars, natural cataclysms and foreign interventions. Why should it be different from now on? Putin’s political mask has been torn out several times hoping to see what is under it… However, nothing special was under it – just Putin himself.  
So, why do they have all these elections and cadences and this democratic masquerade? Russia actually does not need it. To tell the truth, it is necessary for those who are called an international community, in the communication principles of which it is written that democracy (or actually, pseudo-democracy) should be somehow institutionalized. Since people created the number of cadences, powers and other formalities, their observation or non-observation is not a sacred cow. A certain European Commission will write a report and that’s it.           
We say that Russia cannot be predicted because we cannot decide what we want from it and if we don’t know, we cannot make any forecasts. Does Russia know?
I still remember continuous disputes with my father – a political exile in Siberia – about whether all crimes of Lenin-Stalin-Brezhnev were a part of well-planned and implemented strategy or just bloody adventures of talentless, arrogant gang of rednecks? He thought it was a strategy and I thought it was a circus of know-nothings.    
So, who Putin actually is – a strategist, who will finally restore the obvious obedience of people to the dictatorship and the status of a mega state or just a pragmatic, who is hopelessly stuck in the society that is not getting modernized, geopolitical kleptomania and fights with the rest of the world?     
I hear people sighing that Russia is just incomprehensible and it will always remain unpredictable. There is no such power to replace it.   
This is not true. It can be changed and it is not so hard to do so.
We had Ronald Reagan, a former president of the USA, who instead of studying political artifices of the USSR in sovietology way and trying to understand them, acted completely controversially – he made the Soviet Union live according to his political logics, i.e. of the West. By surprise, Mikhail Gorbachev became quite predictable and no soviet theories were necessary. He asked to remove the wall and… he would have not disappeared. When the USSR became comprehensible it turned out that we should not be afraid of it any longer. We can even change it. Thus, collapse of the USSR became logical.    
So, if we want to know what Russia will be in 2024 we have to create the situation, so Russia could behave according to our created scheme. In the geopolitical chessboard we have to play in white and not just react to artifices of some putins or kims. When Trump is doing this, let’s not disturb him. Then we will have less space for political fantasies and it will be just better…   

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Autorius: Voras Online