Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Back to a more recent past

Putin seems to be leading Russia "back" to a Soviet or Tsarist future. A discredited former president suggests that Russia's future lies in a less distant past.

If Gorbachev's ideas make sense outside of Russia, why are they dismissed in the country?

An Ailing Gorbachev Makes a Fierce Attack on Putin and His Restrictions
Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the first and last president of the Soviet Union… [was nimble enough to deliver] a sharp poke in the gut to President Vladimir V. Putin and the Kremlin [in a speech at the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency].

“Politics is more and more turning into an imitation,” Mr. Gorbachev said. “All power is in the hands of the executive. The Parliament only seals its decisions. Judicial power is not independent. The economy is monopolized, hooked to the oil and gas needle. Entrepreneurs’ initiative is curbed. Small and medium businesses face huge barriers.”

Mr. Gorbachev, invoking “perestroika” — the Russian word for “restructuring” and the brand name of his reforms that brought about the fall of communism and helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize — called for yet another renewal of the Russian political system.

His prepared speech, posted later on the Internet, was even tougher than the remarks he delivered. In it, he wrote that by curtailing freedoms and tightening restrictions on civil society groups and the press, Mr. Putin had adopted “a ruinous and hopeless path.”

While he is still revered in the West for his role in ending the cold war, Mr. Gorbachev has largely faded into insignificance in Russia. He is remembered far more for the chaos and deprivation of the 1990s that followed him than for delivering the citizens of the Soviet Union from tyranny.

Nonetheless, his speech… quickly drew angry and dismissive responses from the Kremlin…

Sergei Neverov, the deputy speaker of the lower house of Parliament and a leader of United Russia, the party that nominated Mr. Putin for president, said, “Mikhail Sergeyevich has already been the initiator of one perestroika, and as a result we lost the country.”…

Aleksei Pushkov, a member of United Russia and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the lower house… said, “it was the worst possible result: the collapse of the country and gangster capitalism.”…

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