Russia's rulers continue to hammer away with their anointed party line on the financial crisis: We are blameless victims and it's all the West's fault.
Last week it was Vladislav Surkov, the first deputy Kremlin chief of staff, calling for the middle class to be protected from the "waves of poverty and confusion that are coming from the West." This week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin narrowed the aperture and took aim at Wall Street, complaining that the prices of securities sold on Russian stock markets are -- gasp! -- influenced by foreigners:
"Decisions concerning which securities to buy or sell on Russian markets are, for the most part, made abroad. Moreover, the criteria by which these decisions are made have very little connection to the actual state of our economy or Russian companies.... This is some kind of ugly thing, absolutely unfair."
Most of the elite has been parroting the Kremlin's blame-it-all-on-the-West narrative. But there are some dissenting voices. One of the most articulate has been Yevgeny Gontmakher, director of the Social Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Economics.
Here's Gontmakher, as quoted by the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
"Russia's crisis has nothing to do with the U.S. or global recession. Assertions that the U.S. has crippled us are pure propaganda. Whatever is happening over here, we have done with our own hands. Russia's systemic crisis resulted from the state's polices adopted as of 1999. These policies unhinged Russia's economy long before global recession started."
According to Gontmakher, the only thing that could pull Russia out of the crisis -- reforms creating a more diversified and decentralized economy -- will likely never be attempted. Such a move, of course, would threaten the current ruling elite's monopoly on power.
But Gontmakher has discovered that dissenting from the established propaganda line has its costs. As my colleague Robert Coalson notes here, after Gontmakher published his views in "Vedomosti" on November 6, the newspaper received a warning from prosecutors and from the government's media watchdog, Rosomsvyaznadzor, that they could be sanctioned for promoting extremism.
-- Brian Whitmore