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WorldAsiaWho governs Russia today?

Who governs Russia today?


(Russian elites after 1991)
The Brezhnev generation of “Komsomol members of the 20s” was immediately replaced by the generation of “Komsomol Khrushchev members” (they are also late Brezhnevites). Gorbachev (1931), Ryzhkov (1929), Yeltsin (1931), Shevardnadze (1928), Primakov (1929), Kravchuk (1934), Shushkevich (1934), Pavlov (1937), Yanaev (1937), Shaimiev (1937), Chernomyrdin (1938), Nazarbayev (1940). Although some somewhat older people can also be attributed to him, such as Aliev and Yakovlev (both from 1923). This generation was in power somewhere before 2000, that is, fifteen years after leaving the USSR for the Russian Federation.
As Brezhnev’s generation stayed too long, his mental gap with his successors was too great. “Stalin’s Komsomol” – Shelepin. Semichastny and others were either removed from their positions or transferred to secondary positions, and there was no timely replacement. Decrepit old men like Tikhonov and Chernenko were immediately replaced by relatively young and lively old men. Two potential replacements for Brezhnev/Chernenko, Yakov Ryabov and Grigory Romanov, have been removed from their posts following bureaucratic intrigues. The first was “eaten” by Ustinov, the second by the already all-powerful Gorbachev.

Marshal of the Soviet Union DF Ustinov and General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee LI Brezhnev. Photo: wikipedia The people who took power in 1985 were eager to prove that their predecessors had it all wrong and were underestimated – because Ligachev, who spent almost twenty years in Siberia, could be considered older than Gorbachev and Ryzhkov, but just like reckless and willful drastic changes. Their tragedy turned out to be that, being clever schemers and careerists, they were blatantly ignorant and didn’t understand how the world around them works, but at the same time, they were distinguished by their self-confidence.
Outwardly, Gorbachev or Yeltsin in 1985 seemed to be orthodox oaks, but in fact they had a mess in their heads. Having gone through no wars, having known no terror, having trained as leaders in the relatively mild days of Khrushchev and succeeding in the completely rosy days of Brezhnev, they were ready to accept no any ideological chewing gum. Their rejection of Brezhnev’s legacy was objectively justified – the country was really behind the West, and everyone understood that. But the point was – how do we eliminate this backlog?

Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. Photo: pixabay Brezhnev’s generation still remembered the new economic policy and even the tsarist era, but they did not dare to move away from the Stalinist model, but only retouched it. Theoretically, the Siberian Cooperator of the 1920s, Kosygin, or the Volga Komsomol member of the same years, Suslov, could justify and implement something similar to Deng Xiaoping’s reform program, because they somehow knew on another how the market works, what is “normal life”. But they didn’t, for various reasons. The “reforms” were largely discredited by Khrushchev’s tyranny. By contrast, Suslov and Kosygin, like Brezhnev, Podgorny and others, supported Khrushchev in 1957, and not his opponents Molotov-Malenkov-Kaganovich-Voroshilov, people of the pre-revolutionary era who could, like the generation of Deng Xiaoping, implement gradual market reforms.
Reforms in China at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s succeeded because they were led by people who had been trained under “capitalism”, although they rejected it in the name of revolution, but returned to it in their declining years. In the USSR, such people lost to those who, like Khrushchev, pursued state regulation (virgin lands, “Catching up and overtaking America”, “Communism by 1980”), or those who remembered life under the tsar only from childhood or did not find it at all.

Deng Xiaoping and the Sino-American Relations Committee, 1977 Therefore, Gorbachev and Yeltsin finally agreed to reform socialism or build capitalism, but in the craziest way, resulting in the collapse of a single state with endless wars and conflicts, and the impoverishment of the population with a declining economy instead of Chinese growth.
After 2000, power passed to the fifth generation after 1917, let’s call them “90s nominees”. And again, we see that a generation – namely executives born around 1945 – has been cut off. Until 1991, the Kremlin was dominated by “old men” like Gorbachev and Yakovlev, then the young men immediately fell under the old Yeltsin, and the middle age was bypassed. As a result, at the turn of 1999-2000. Yeltsin (1931) was replaced by Putin (1952), twenty years his junior.

Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. Photo: wikipedia Power was in the hands of a very heterogeneous group. In addition to non-old “Putin chekists”, such as Patrushev (1951), Bortnikov (1951) or Ivanov (1953), it also included young “liberals” Medvedev (1965), Gref (1964), Kiriyenko (1962) . Despite all the heterogeneity in age, experience, culture, they were united by a rapid leap in their careers in the 90s or even at the turn of the century. Basically, they were people jumping several steps. Just take Putin himself – in 1990 he was a lowly KGB lieutenant colonel, and nine years later he was already president.
Their young age in 1999 meant that their health and strength were sufficient to stay together in power in almost unchanged form for a quarter of a century. If Brezhnev, Kosygin and K led the country in 1964 at the age of more or less sixty years and left in 1985 for natural reasons, then today’s 70-60 year olds are strong, cheerful and do not have the intention to leave.

Dmitry Medvedev. 2008 Photo: They are just as deideologized as Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but they already have much more common sense and the necessary experience. The idea that there are “chekists” and “systemic liberals” who oppose it is very naive. Simply put, everyone is coated in the same world and they’re sitting in the same boat.
An important difference between the current elite and the previous ones over a hundred years ago is that power and status (and property in significant quantities) began to be inherited. The most striking example is Patrusheva’s father and son. We can recall the same Fradkov pair, etc. This is a sign of health, something that the main contemporary historian of the ruling layer, Sergei Volkov, had been waiting for so long. He always noted that the first sign of a normal state – the hereditary transmission of position in society, the retreat of ruling generations – Senator Bush had a son and a grandson of presidents.
From then on, the passage to the sixth generation will be complicated/simplified by these blood relations. The self-proclaimed will not come from outside, the elite is co-opted. Today, those to whom sooner or later power will pass are visible. There are several groups. Here are “Putin’s guards” like Dyumin, and federal technocrats like Mishustin, and regional “effective managers” like Khotsenko, and, of course, “kids” like Patrushev Jr.

Vitaly Khotsenko, Chairman of the DPR Government, and Mikhail Murashko, Head of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation These are people who developed after the USSR, for whom “normal life” is the norm. Private property, multipartyism, pluralism of opinions, that’s what they’ve been living for thirty years, however conventional they may be in Russia.
It is also important that they are statesmen. For them, the unity of Russia and the memory of historical Russia are not a myth. They understand how important this is for the well-being of the country. Yeltsin (1931) and Gaidar (1956), despite the difference of twenty-five years, could just as well cut the state into fifteen parts, without thinking of the consequences. And Patrushev (1978), Alikhanov (1986) or Khotsenko (1986) are unlikely to do so. The generation of grandchildren learned from the mistakes of grandfathers and fathers.
And here is the dividing line between them and the defendants in the telephone scandal mentioned in the previous article. For Akhmedov and Prigozhin, people of perestroika and the 90s, state unity, continuity with historical Russia is a hollow phrase. In this they fully corresponded to Chubais or Shakhrai. Personal well-being matters most.
“Thaw”, of course, will come. But this will not be the “thaw” that the “relocators” in Tbilisi expect, given the aforementioned circumstances. Who is running Russia today?

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

Russia Desk
Russia Desk
The Eastern Herald’s Russia Desk validates the stories published under this byline. That includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on


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