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What Is to Be Done?

- Abstract

Today’s Russia, the Russia of Putin and Medvedev, is a country of extraordinary contradictions. Its leaders claim that it is part of European culture; yet, at the same time, they warn the West not to instruct them in how to run their affairs, because Russia has its own unique national traditions. They insist on being a global power, even while they concede that economically Russia lags far behind its rivals and desperately needs to learn from them. They contend they are a democracy, and yet they do everything they can to emasculate democratic procedures and institutions. When one takes a close look at what they say in public, one has difficulty determining what is genuine confusion and what outright cynicism. Chances are that the answer is both: cynicism masking confusion.

Take, as an example, the March 2008 presidential elections. All opinion polls indicated that Dmitry Medvedev, the man nominated by outgoing President Vladimir Putin, enjoyed a comfortable lead over every potential rival. And yet the Putin government did everything in its power to sabotage the electoral process. Every likely competitor was eliminated under one pretext or another, until the only ones left, in addition to Medvedev, were the head of the Communist party, the leader of the ultra-nationalists, and a political non-entity, none of the three likely to challenge the regime’s authoritarian policies.

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