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The Morning Vertical, September 14, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore


Vladimir Putin is not only bringing in a new generation of officials. As Leonid Bershidsky notes in a piece featured below, he's bringing in a new generation of ideologues.

There's new Kremlin chief of staff Anton Vaino, with his odd futurological theories; there's the openly Stalinist new education minister Olga Vasilyeva; and there's the the new Children's Rights Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova, the staunchly traditionalist wife of an Orthodox priest.

In another piece featured below, Anton Barbashin shows how this social conservatism is being put into practice in Novosibirsk.

Putin appears to be laying the ideological groundwork for his fourth term in the Kremlin -- and possibly beyond. He's moving away from the functionaries he relied on until now, and bringing in the true believers.

If this trend continues, and the indications are that it probably will, the social conservatism and anti-Westernism the Kremlin has pushed for the past four years is probably here to stay -- and will become even more strident.


The head of the Russian state air carrier serving President Vladimir Putin and other top-ranking officials have been placed under house arrest on charges of abuse of office.

The world's main anti-doping regulator says one of its principal databases has been attacked by a Russian hacking group linked to other notorious computer hacks, including that of the U.S. Democratic Party.

Russia has been stripped of two medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics in doping retests.

Rights groups say the Russian-imposed authorities in Crimea are using threats and intimidation to get out the vote in parliamentary elections that Ukraine has denounced as illegitimate because they are being held on territory seized by Moscow.

Russia has accused U.S.-backed rebel groups of having repeatedly violated the latest cease-fire in Syria and urged the United States to pressure violators into compliance.

The fire safety engineer of a Moscow printing house where 17 people were killed in a fire last month has turned himself in.

The leaders of the separatists in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight on September 14.

Ukraine says three government troops have been killed and 15 wounded in fighting with pro-Russia separatists in the country's east.

The Russian Finance Ministry has proposed cutting funding for state media.

An aide to a Chechen prosecutor has been detained over a shooting at a Moscow wedding.

Belarusian lawmaker Hanna Kanapatskaya, among the first opposition parliamentarians to be elected in 20 years, says she might even take part in a presidential election in the future "if my parliamentary tenure works well."


Propaganda And Subversion

Christopher Paul and William Courtney of the RAND Corporation have a new piece out titled: Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, And America Is Behind The Power Curve In Countering It.

"Russia's approach to propaganda emphasizes creating first impressions, which tend to be resilient, and then reinforcing them through repetition," the authors write.

Likewise, defense analyst J. MIchael Waller, a member of the editorial board and the NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal, has a piece out based on a lecture he gave to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on "understanding subversion."

Putin's New Ideologues

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at the ideological traits uniting Putin's recent appointments.

"Putin is doing his best to fill the ideological vacuum in Russia since the fall of Communism. His officials are now messengers of a new platform that roughly matches the views of the religious right in Europe and the U.S., but with a Russian flavor," Bershidsky writes.

"If Putin were a U.S. president, these appointments would have been the equivalent of drafting top officials from the most extreme church congregations and conspiracy theory websites. This is something new for Putin: For most of his reign, his regime was distinctly non-ideological."

The Lessons Of Novosibirsk

Writing on the Kennan Institute's Russia Files blog, Anton Barbashin, managing editor of Intersection Magazine, takes a look at the rise of social conservatism in Novosibirsk.

"The message coming out of Novosibirsk resembles the general message of the defeat of the 2011–2013 mass protests: the harder the antigovernment forces strike, the harder the government will strike back," Barbashin writes.

"The goal of Novosibirsk was to show that any hope for change is illusory, any mass activity and civic cooperation punishable by law. On streets where only a few years ago artists and progressive youth marched the ultranationalists and Orthodox activists now hold sway."

Beyond Kremlinology

Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies has a piece in OpenDemocracy explaining why Kremlinology isn't sufficient to understand today's Russia.

"I am not arguing for a total rejection of Kremlinology," Guillory writes.

"I simply urge us to recognise its limits. The real opportunity the Kremlin’s opacity offers is not doubling down on soothsaying and seating chart analysis, but shifting gears altogether. The locus of power may emanate from central Moscow, but the application of that power on Russians and their resistance to it is localised."

Previewing The Elections

Chatham House's Andrew Monaghan on what you need to know about Russia's September 18 legislative elections.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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