Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Power Vertical

Russia's 'Revolutionary' Situation

Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks during an anti-government protest in Moscow on June 12, 2012.
Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks during an anti-government protest in Moscow on June 12, 2012.
We can now add Olga Kryshtanovskaya to the list of leading experts who are convinced that Russia is headed toward a very serious and potentially destabilizing crisis.
One of Russia's most renowned sociologists, Kryshtanovskaya has spent the past two decades studying the country's elite -- and the signs now, she says, are deeply troubling.
"In my view, the country is in a revolutionary situation. Dangerous processes are accelerating that could lead to a destabilizing situation," Kryshtanovskaya said in an interview this week on Dozhd TV.


Kryshtanovskaya recently left her position at the Russian Academy of Sciences Center for Elite Studies and suspended her membership in the ruling United Russia party to, as she put it, "study the revolution" and "if possible to help stop the worst-case scenario from developing."
In her Dozhd TV interview, conducted on the eve of the June 12 protests as opposition leaders apartments were being searched,  Kryshtanovskaya said the elite is dangerously split between factions vying for power -- neither of which is content with the current situation.
"This is a dangerous process that began during the Medvedev thaw," she said.
Those who wanted the "Medvedev thaw" to continue, she said, are unhappy with Putin's return to power. But the victors in that Kremlin power struggle are also dissatisfied with Medvedev's legacy and the tremors that swept through Russia's ruling class during his presidency.

For example, Kryshtanovskaya says that when Putin turned the Kremlin over to Medvedev in 2008, 45 percent of Russia's senior officials were security service veterans. Medvedev cut that figure in half:
Putin was very careful. He didn't want there to be a large number of dissatisfied people in the elite. He was careful about who was dismissed and who didn't get what they wanted. Medvedev may have the reputation of being softer and more liberal but from the perspective of the elite he was more strict and many more people had the ground fall out from under their feet. They are not satisfied. The number of dissatisfied people in the elite sometimes reaches critical mass.
Kryshtanovskaya also sees the fledgling opposition as a source of instability. Some in the movement, she says, are sincerely trying to improve the situation. But some are also seeking to use the current discontent to destabilize the country and seize power.
"It is important to understand who the leaders are. Some are above ground and some are underground. The ones underground are the most dangerous," she said.
Kryshtanovskaya's bleak assessment came on the heels of a report by the highly respected Center for Strategic Research that warned Russia could descend into violence and chaos if the authorities continued to crack down on opposition protesters or if the economy slides. (You can read the report in Russian here and read my blog post on it here.)

Writing on his blog "In Moscow's Shadows," New York University's Mark Galeotti compared the study to the 1983 Novosibirsk Report, which warned of fundamental weaknesses in the Soviet economy and became one of the foundations for Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika program.

What Kryshtanovskaya's dire warnings and the Center for Strategic Research report have in common -- other than their conclusions -- is that both assessments come from inside the system. Kryshtanovskaya has always been close to the elite and joined United Russia in 2009. And the Center for Strategic Research report was commissioned by former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's newly formed Committee of Civic Initiatives.
When the insiders are nervous, and they clearly are, it is time to pay attention. It looks like Russia could be in for a very hot summer.
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Russian opposition,Russian elite,Olga Kryshtanovskaya

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ben
June 12, 2012 22:18
King Lir`s fate or "khotel kak luchshe..."

by: Judah Disraeli from: Across River Sambatyon
June 12, 2012 22:55
Based on Kryshtanovskaya's alarmist sociological conclusions, unlike his 1st term as president, Putin will not blow-up Russia during this term to justify a further loss of liberty. Instead, he will publish alarmist reports that say that someone will blow up Russia unless we give more power to the security apparatus of the state.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 13, 2012 07:07
Most probably, this third presidency term will be marked by the collapse of the European and (possibly) global financial system - provoked by the Greek exit from the Euro-zone and Greece's default on its sovereign debt. So, the "intellectual" games of Kryshtanovskaya and the cheap propaganda by the RFE/RL will be forgotten very soon, giving way to concerns over how to limit the damage caused by the implosion of the European (and global) capitalism on the Russian economy.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
June 13, 2012 14:33
Russia is totally reliant on the EU buying its oil and gas. If western capitalism implodes, then Russia will implode along with it and to a far greater degree. BTW Eugenio, you live in an EU member state, seems odd that you would consistently gloat about the continuing troubles they are having when you stand to suffer severely from them.
In Response

by: Alex from: Baltimore, MD
June 13, 2012 15:51
Longtime readers of this blog will recognize Eugenio from Vienna as a persistent pro-Putin troll whose commentary consists solely of anti-American and anti-RFE/RL insults. He is either paid by the Russians to spread his odious views on this site or he is a clinical idiot incapable of understanding the true nature of Putin's regime and the threat it poses to Russia and its unfortunate neighbors. I suggest that regular readers of this blog - which I think is one of the best Russia-watcher sites online today - ignore this guy.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 13, 2012 16:06
Hey, Andrew from Auckland, welcome back! I even thought that your long absence from this forum was conditioned by the fact that you were giving a helping hand to "unarmed civilians" in Syria, but it looks like you are more reasonable (than some of your comments might suggest you are) and prefer to stay away from Damascus :-))).
I would also like to underline that you are in a pretty good shape today: your comment on Russia (for a change) makes a lot of sense. The only two corrections that I would make are the following: substitue the word "totally" in the first line through "to a significant extent" and take the words "to a far greater degree" out of the second line compeletely - and I will 100 % agree with your statement.
And the very fact that PUTIN has done a lot (even if a lot more needs to be done) in the last 12 years in order to diversify the Russian economy and make it more independent from the European market absolutely speaks in his favour (and constitutes the major reason why such cheap propaganda web-sites as this one are so hostile towards him).
And as long as you are making a point about how my own situation will be affected by the implosion of global capitalism, I can assure you that I have taken the measures I could (i.e. changing the little money that I have from Euros into Swiss francs - the effectiveness of which can of course be questioned, but - let's admit - you have to at least try to do something when a tsunamy is heading your way).
And as far as "gloating" is concerned: you know, Andrew, if you read Lenin, you would have known that sharp and rapid deteriorations of the economic situation of the vast majority of the population (like the one we are witnessing in such NATO/EU member states as Greece or Spain today) constitutes one of the three essential elements of a revolutionary situation. Thus, the coming revolution will give those who today can only gloat on internet fora an occasion to personally take part in a radical societal change.
Greetings from Vienna, Andrew, and we'll see each other on the barricades :-))!

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In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

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About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers 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