20 years under Putin: a timeline

According to Andrey Piontkovsky, Senior Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Systems Analysis, Vladimir Putin's one man dictatorship has been effectively put into place as of September 2011. Piontkovsky spoke with IMR’s Olga Khvostunova about the catastrophic consequences of this regime and about the essential role that the political elite plays in this process.


Putin's political model is obsolete, says Andrei Piontkovsky


Olga Khvostunova: How would you describe the Russian political events that took place in September?

Andrey Piontkovsky: On September 24, a new political regime was de facto established. Until that moment, we lived in an authoritarian system that allowed for various scenarios of development, but from now on, the country is living under the regime of a lifetime one-man dictatorship.

O.Kh.: What are the characteristics of this regime?

A.P.: A lifetime one-man dictatorship translates into three things. First, Putin will never leave his post voluntarily until his death. But since he is a relatively young man who takes care of his health, he has at least 20 years left in him. Second, a lifetime dictatorship means that if Putin loses power, some very unpleasant things will be waiting for him. He’ll end up in jail, at the very least. This has been proven by the experiences of all dictators, including the latest developments in North Africa. Third, if he holds out for long, it will lead the country to collapse, meaning, in turn, that the regime will be lifelong not just for Putin, but for Russia as well.

O.Kh.: Why do you think that despite knowing the history of how dictatorships always end badly has Putin gone ahead and installed such a regime?

A.P.: The thing is that while on top, at some point your psychology distorts, and any critical attitude towards yourself vanishes. Putin is already on the verge of clinical inadequacy. Just remember him showing off and diving in the Azov Sea when he supposedly discovered two ancient Greek vases. Only two hypotheses explain his behavior. First, the most frightening in my view, is that he actually believes he found these vases. Second, no less shocking, is that he believes we are going to believe him. It's the same with his assessments of political prospects.

O.Kh.: How unexpected was Putin's return?

A.P.: The fact itself that Putin, who never leaves, was going to be the next Russian president did not seem new or unexpected to observers. But the majority of the Russian political class was shocked by the utterly cynical way in which the reshuffle was implemented. Just as shocking was the humiliation that [President Dmitry] Medvedev was exposed to, a person considered by mainstream liberals to be the next president and the possible architect of a new “perestroika” or “thaw period.”

O.Kh.: You are saying that this political decision was shocking for the elite. But why? It's hard to believe that the elite didn't understand which direction the country was moving in.

A.P.: The decision itself was not shocking. Putin's return was expected. But the majority was shocked by the style, the cynical form of this extravagaza. It was an exquisite derision. See, Medvedev really wanted to stay in his position, but he couldn’t do it without Putin’s permission.
All this fuss, maintaining an image of intrigue, Medvedev’s coquettish announcements that he was considering various options, all these acts were only attempts to persuade Putin to let him stay. But Putin decided otherwise: he chose to return. The reason for instituting Medvedev was to cause illusions among the political class during his four year tenure. The elites understood that Putin’s political model exhausted itself, but didn’t step out in opposition to it because they deluded themselves with vague hopes.

O.Kh.: In your opinion, why has Putin decided to come back?

A.P.: Though Medvedev is absolutely loyal, a group of decisive people could have used him as an instrument for change. According to the Russian Constitution, the prime minister can be fired by a presidential decree. Therefore, Putin made a sober judgement that he shouldn’t take this risk for another six-year term.

О.Kh.: What is going to happen to the country when Putin returns?

A.P.: His rule will lead to the marginalization and decline of the country.