Europe

A new generation is rising in Russia 3-24-18

Source: Economist: 24 Mar 18 "Gorbachev's grandchildren"         

Russia pop pyramidThe term "Gorbachev's Grandchildren" refers to the generation born in 1985, the year Gorbachev came to power in the old USSR with his focus on human values, individual well-being, perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). This generation is the largest age group in Russia today and as they enter their thirties, they are becoming more politically active. They also have a generational identity based on a shared trauma (see German sociologist Karl Mannheim for more on this idea of generational identity). For Gorbachev's Grandchildren, the shared trauma is the reversal of Gorbachev's values when Putin came to power, and their replacement by propaganda, aggression and lies.

Putin runs what Douglass North calls a "natural state". Rents are created by controlling access to economic and political resources and the limits and restrictions are enforced by the security/police - what North calls "specialists in violence". Putin has ruled like a warlord. Boris Nemtsov, an early liberal challenger to Putin was killed in 2015. Current opposition leader Aleksei Navalny (also a member of the Gorbachev Grandchildren generation) was convicted on trumped-up fraud charges and barred from running in the 2018 election, where Putin achieved a 75% victory amidst charges of election fraud. 

Putin runs a system in which entitlements, privileges and rents are allocated not according to law or merit but by access to resources and by position in the social hierarchy. From the article: "this system of conditional property rights has allowed Mr Putin’s friends and cronies to put their children into positions of wealth and power. Examples: the son of Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the National Security Council and former chief of the FSB, heads a state-owned bank. The son of Sergei Ivanov, another former KGB officer and old friend of Mr Putin, is the head of Alrosa, a state-owned firm which mines more diamonds than any other in the world. The son of Mikhail Fradkov, a former prime minister and intelligence service chief, heads a private bank which is the staple of the military-industrial complex. Many children of Mr Putin’s friends and cronies hold senior positions in Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, or own firms that depend on its contracts. All of them enjoy positions and wealth thanks largely to their family names."

Gorbachev's Grandchildren started to get involved in the political process after the 2011 parliamentary election, seen as being rigged in favor of Putin and his cronies. This was also the year that Putin took back the Presidency in a trade with Medvedev. From the article: "Many care instead about what they can accomplish professionally rather than what they can get and about what they share, not what they own. They do not envy Mr Putin’s cronies who live behind high fences, fly on private jets and have built special rooms for their fur coats. They ridicule them. They hate the propaganda of state television, which for a long time was one of the main instruments of social control. It now irritates people more than the stagnating economy, according to Lev Gudkov of the Levada Centre, a think-tank. They live online in a world of individual voices. They speak a direct language. Hence the success of Yuri Dud, whose YouTube interviews of people with something to say, be they politicians, actors or rappers, are watched by millions. These are neither pro- nor anti-Kremlin but are simply outside the system."

From the article: "There are two parallel countries,” Mr Ovchinnikov says. “There is a country of smart and energetic people who want to make it open and competitive. And there is another country of security servicemen who drive in black SUVs extorting rents.” 

Looking into the near future - Putin is barred from serving past 2022. How will he and his cronies maintain their access to rents and who will succeed him?