20 years under Putin: a timeline

In this week’s roundup, Republic writes about the recent searches at Kirill Serebrennikov’s apartment and the Moscow theater he heads; Maxim Samorukov delves into the Macedonian crisis; Dmitry Nekrasov explains on which issues Russian people don’t trust their government; and Vladislav Inozemstev speculates how Russian foreign policy can be changed for the better. If you are interested in receiving this weekly roundup in your mailbox every Friday, let us know at info@imrussia.org.


Journalists gathered at the Gogol Center Theatre where the search was conducted on May 23, 2017. Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov / TASS. 


Republic: Money or Politics? How to Interpret the Kirill Serebrennikov Affair.

  • On May 24, searches were conducted at prominent theater director Kirill Serebrennikov’s apartment and at the theater he leads—the Gogol Center, arguably one of Moscow’s finest creative spaces.
  • In this editorial, Republic’s editorial board accuses the Russian authorities of hypocrisy as the Kremlin feigns innocence.
  • According to the Investigative Committee, Serebrennikov’s company (Seventh Studio) is accused of embezzling federal budget money allocated to it for art development in 2011-2014.
  • However, Republic argues that there is a political underpinning to this case. Apparently, in the words of one commentator, “the liberal intelligentsia is being fed by the authorities and shows no gratitude,” as theaters like the Gogol Center produce too strong, too free-thinking shows with a political subtext.
  • This case once again shows the deep divide in the Russian society: the conservative part gloats that the self-righteous “liberals” are allegedly caught up stealing; the other part focuses purely on the political causes.
  • The problem, however, is larger: as the authorities attack Serebrennikov’s theater, they indirectly destroy all attempts at innovation inside Russia.
  • In a March interview with the Financial Times, Serebrennikov explained why he was not leaving Moscow, because it is “too interesting” and because “theater is booming there right now.”
  • He also quoted German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who said once: “Fear eats the soul,” adding that it’s important to remind the Kremlin that the Gogol Center story and many others are in fact about politics.

Republic, Деньги или политика? Как нужно оценивать дело Кирилла Серебренникова, редакционная статья, 24 мая 2017 г.


Carnegie.ru: EU-USA-Russia. Who Kindled the Fire and Who Prevented a Civil War in Macedonia?  

  • Author: Maxim Samorukov, deputy editor-in-chief at Carnegie.ru
  • The form in which the crisis has taken recently in the international media falls into the typical Western understanding of “good vs evil”: the authoritarian government of the ethnic majority is, with the Kremlin’s support, oppressing the democratic opposition of the ethnic minority.  
  • In Macedonia the role of oppressor is played by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his right-wing party, whose support has relied on ethnic Macedonians (around 2/3 of the population). Gruevski and his party ruled Macedonia since 2006 and managed to entrench themselves in a series of corruption scandals, election fraud and intimidation of journalists.  
  • On the other hand there is the Social-Democratic Party, led by Zoran Zaev, which consists of ethnic Albanians who make up around a quarter of the country’s population.
  • Gruevski’s party won the country’s most recent election, but failed to secure a parliamentary majority, ending up in a coalition with the Social-Democrats and other Albanian parties.  
  • The Albanians then proceeded to demand more rights for their own communities as well as the federalization of Macedonia. The demands were rejected.  
  • Thus, the Macedonian crisis escalated almost to the point of armed ethnic conflict: the Albanians have been demanding more rights, while the president, Gjorge Ivanov, has been telling ethnic Macedonians that the opposition are national traitors.   
  • Russia, in its support for Gruevski, has attempted to scare the ethnic Macedonian population by saying that the West is supporting Albanian separatists.
  • Russian media outlets in the region have actively been pushing the theory of “Greater Albania” as a Western project—a typical tactic by the Kremlin that is not exclusive to the Balkans.  
  • Gruevski himself has for months been spreading the message that the protests were funded by George Soros through local media.  
  • Samorukov argues that the main reason for today’s crisis in Macedonia is not Russian interference, nor is it the age-old conflict between Albanians and Macedonians; it is because the EU has consistently lied to Macedonia about its European future. Macedonians have long taken steps towards meeting the conditions for further integration, yet have consistently been denied access.
  • The EU is no longer capable of managing the situation, and so for the foreseeable future the job has fallen to the US.

Carnegie.ru, ЕС – США – Россия. Кто разжигал и кто не допустил гражданскую войну в Македонии, Максим Саморуков, 19 мая 2017 г.


Vedomosti: The State of Distrust

  • Author: economist Dmitry Nekrasov.
  • Nekrasov discusses numerous innovative mobile solutions introduced among Russians to help improve public services (e.g. control over public order, when citizens monitor and report to the police certain violations, like wrong parking, loud music after hours, etc.).
  • Despite the positive outlook, Russian citizens are prejudiced against such innovations as they have learned not to trust the government. They don’t believe that the state protects their interests or takes care of their prosperity. There is a historic latent solidarity of the people against the state.
  • Some of the actions undertaken and even showcased by the authorities are borderline absurd, like accusing a distinguished doctor of “stealing 4 rubles” (about 6 cents), boosting public distrust even more.
  • One needs to keep in mind that the Russian judiciary has a less than 1 percent non-guilty verdict rate, while for developed countries it is about 20-25 percent.
  • The author argues that Russians may support the authorities in foreign and domestic policy, but they always solidarize against them in private issues.
  • Nekrasov concludes that public distrust is a bigger problem than commonly believed—it impedes the self-governing process, institution improvement and, ultimately, economic development

Ведомости, Государство недоверия, Дмитрий Некрасов, 25 мая 2017 г.


RBC: A Change of Course: What Should the Next Russian President’s Foreign Policy Be? 

  • Author: Vladimir Inozemtsev, director of the Center for Research into Post-Industrial Society.  
  • Inozemtsev suggests that one of the most important things a new president must do is to present a realistic approach to understanding Russia’s position in the world, guide the country on a path towards a “balance of power”—a second-world country with which the most important centers of the world economy should ally themselves.  
  • Regardless of propaganda efforts, it is clear that a country that makes up 1.7% of the world economy cannot be considered equal to the U.S., the EU or China.  
  • The main goal of Russia’s next foreign policy should be the country’s economic development and the establishment of a more effective political system. It is important to correct Russia’s imperfections: the country should remember its centuries-old heritage and once again become a member of the European family of nations.  
  • The new president should decline to support the “separatists” in the Donbas as well as settle the Crimea question. Russia needs to return to the G8 with full-member status, and help Europe take serious measures for integration.
  • Relations to the “Russian world” and the Russian diaspora must be completely rethought. Russian capital and intellect should be attracted to the country, which, in turn, must overcome its suspicion of its own people.  
  • Russia’s relations to countries of the former USSR must be redefined. Russia should introduce a visa-free travel scheme with former Soviet countries, rather than favoring the Eurasian Union states of Central Asia.  
  • In its current form the “war on terror” has no chance of succeeding. The battle should be waged on one’s own territory, within the remits of the law and with the public’s support.  
  • Even the discussion of such matters would be a gigantic step forward in comparison with the current situation where foreign policy is dictated by one individual.  
  • The next presidential candidate should also formulate arguments to convince society that this new course is preferable.   

РБК, Смена курса: какой должна быть внешняя политика нового президента России, Владислав Иноземцев, 22 мая 2017 г.


Nathan Andrews helped compile this week's roundup.