Internal Policy of Russia: On the Eve of Dramatic Changes.

Speech at the International Conference “Russia in the study of the Center for Russian Studies: main results and prospects” 2018

Mikhail Savva, Chairman of Board

Expert Group “Owl”,

Expert, Centre for Russian Studies,

Doctor (Political Sciences), Professor

Table of contents:

1. Introduction: Factors for future changes in Russian domestic politics.

2. Characteristics of the Russian political regime and their dynamics.

3. Problem 2024: possible scenarios for saving the regime.

4. Conclusions and recommendations.

Introduction: Factors for future changes in Russian domestic policy.

`Future changes in Russian domestic policy are a predictable fact. We can confidently speak about them for several reasons:

1. The growing demand of Russians for changes. Representative public polls, over the past year, have clearly indicated an increase in the percentage of respondents who make a choice in favour of changes, not stability. This request is stated by the official media as well: “The request for changes has matured in the Russian society. This conclusion follows from the report of the Federal Sociological Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The report is called: “Russian Society after the Presidential Election-2018: Request for Changes.” The number of people standing up for changes has doubled in the past six years and reached 56 %, the report says.”¹ This dynamic can be interpreted differently, and that is what happens. Russian officials see this as a simple statement of improvement: “At the same time, 45 % of respondents have already noticed changes for the better. People have become more optimistic as for the prospects for Russia.“² However, in terms of the growth of the number of supporters of changes, one can see the desire of people to solve problems associated with the current regime. Vladimir Petukhov, head, Centre for Complex Social Research, Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that at present stability is associated with the persistence of crisis phenomena, and therefore the request for changes is essentially a request for a way out of the crisis.³

2. The growth of relative deprivation, also recorded in public opinion polls. Valery Fedorov, Director General of the Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion stated at the Territory of Meanings at the Klyazma youth forum in August, 2017, that the Russian society’s request for stability goes to the periphery and is replaced by a request for changes. Many experts explain this phenomenon from the viewpoint of the theory of relative deprivation. According to the head of the Centre, since the economic crisis in the country has ended, but a large-scale recovery has not yet started, the Russians are not sure about tomorrow. V. Fyodorov noted that it was dangerous because “revolutionary moods do not appear in a crisis situation, but when the crisis is over, and it becomes better … Then people stop tolerating and start demanding”.⁴ It should be noted that this statement reproduces one of the most important ideas of the theory of relative deprivation, which explains all socio-political upheavals⁵ and which it is advisable to use for an applied politological analysis of transition processes.

3. Lowering the trust rating of V. Putin. According to the results of a representative survey conducted by the Levada Centre in September, 2018, the indicator of trust in the president is 58 % (against 69 % and 75 % in 2017, respectively). The value of the “trust index” for the president reduced almost two times over the last year, in general, the level of trust in him returns to the indicators recorded in 2013, i.e., before the annexation of the Crimea. A similar “return” is noted for the Council of the Federation and the State Duma, an even more noticeable decline is in trust in the government, the value of the “trust index” in which is lower in 2018 than even during the “protest” period of 2012-2013.⁶

4. The unprecedented international isolation of the Russian Federation, including complex sanctions of the countries of developed democracy. Sanctions can adversely affect the economy of the Russian Federation. According to the head of the Economic Expert Group, Yevsey Gurvich: “If we talk about retaining sanctions not for one year, but for many years to come, then, of course, this will be a serious obstacle to the development of the Russian economy. Short-term effect is not so strong. But if this is just a step, and then a few more steps would follow, then, certainly, this will be a serious deterrent,” and the effect of sanctions will become noticeable and measurable in the mid-2020s, i.e., 10 years after the introduction of sanctions.⁷ Economic difficulties objectively reduce the potential of the regime of V. Putin and may, under certain additional conditions, lead to an increase in protest moods among the population.

5. Reducing the level of controllability and general degradation of the Russian power system. According to Lilia Shevtsova, researcher at the British think tank Chatham House: “We do not know how much the Kremlin controls the situation … Today, the main problem is the loss of logic and controllability.”⁸

6. The need for changes in the political system in connection with “2024 problem”. In 2024, the second consecutive term of V. Putin’s presidency and the fourth term of his official presidency is ending (the author does not take into account the period in which V. Putin was acting President after B. Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999-2000). The 2024 issue is caused by a direct and obvious constitutional ban on his election for the third time in a row. This factor is undoubtedly the main one among the “change” signs. The Russian regime will have to do something to save it. The most comfortable option to elect V. Putin does not exist any longer; it will be necessary to change the political system. And that means – reduce certainty and stability of domestic policy.

However, it is not enough just to point out the obvious factors of future changes, e.g., V. Putin’s rating in 2000 was only 36 %, after the loss of submarine Kursk.⁹ That did not prevent V. Putin from remaining in power for more than 18 years. The stability of the political regime is determined by a complex system of factors, many of which do not lie on the surface. It has already been said above that adequate representatives of the Russian official expertise analyze the results of their research within the framework of the explanatory theory of relative deprivation. But publicly this is expressed in a few general numbers, which give only the most general picture of the problem. It requires deep research based on this theory using mass surveys. Such surveys are either not conducted in the Russian Federation, or their results are closed due to too obvious practical significance.

Some sustainability/change factors do not appear at all in the results of public polls; they can only be assessed by comparing large amounts of information.

Characteristics of the Russian political regime and their dynamics.

 Classification of the political regime is not an intellectual entertainment without applied value. Such a classification is important, since a precise definition of the type of regime according to its main features makes it possible to specify also other signs and predict changes in the regime. In addition, a structure, a kind of “a Road Map” is needed to analyze changes in the internal policy of the state, and the optimal structure in this case is a complete system of signs of a political regime. Such a structure covers all significant aspects of Russian domestic policy. Highlighting the features of the political regime, fixing the current state and assessing the dynamics, we are able to understand what is happening with each such attribute in dynamics, as different aspects of changes are interrelated. We can also make reasonable predictions and ultimately understand in which direction Russian domestic policy will change. Analysis of certain aspects of the functioning of the regime (the most frequently studied among them – the mood of public opinion, including ratings of power, structural conflicts of the political regime, economic dynamics) does not provide such opportunities. For that reason, a system of signs of a political regime was selected to structure our analytical material.

The classical scheme of political regimes defines democracy, authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Most of the researchers refer V. Putin’s regime to authoritarianism. However, such a characteristic in itself does not clarify much. Authoritarian regimes are very different from each other, which is understandable, since authoritarianism is a complex system of signs. The absence of one or even several does not mean that the regime is no longer authoritarian. In the same way, the presence of one or several signs does not indicate belonging to authoritarian regimes. In this case, we deal with the principle of transfer of quantity to quality – we can confidently attribute any regime to authoritarian when its actions confirm the presence of most of the signs. In fact, authoritarianism is an intermediate option between democracy and totalitarianism. Rather high certainty is typical for the characteristics of democracy and authoritarianism as extreme poles. At the same time, authoritarianism is significantly “blurred” as a transitional form.

Various authors offer various sets of signs of an authoritarian regime. For applied political analysis, it is necessary to single out a system of signs in which each sign would be understandable, and on which there would be a consensus of experts. The author has compared several of the most popular sets of signs of an authoritarian regime and singled out those that could be regarded as recognized.

Consider the state and dynamics of the Russian regime for each model sign characterizing the authoritarian regime:

1. Power is concentrated in the hands of one person or group and relies on the personality of a charismatic ruler.

The present state: The Russian political regime is characterized by the concentration of power in a relatively small group of people. V. Putin is not a dictator and not even the sole ruler. The Russian political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky gave the following description in 2017: “Our authority is a certain board of directors of the Russian Federation Joint Stock Company. By the way, Putin’s position has changed in this council. Previously, he was the executive director, and now he is more likely an honorary chairman of the board.”¹⁰ The group of decision makers in the Russian Federation has a rather complicated two-tier configuration. The lower level consists of several groupings of various spheres of activities and even political views, formed on the basis of personal relations of their members. Members of these groups are representatives of the highest bureaucracy (including the so-called liberals from the economic bloc of the government), some oligarchs. Most of the MPs of the State Duma and the Federation Council are not included in these groups, acting as designers and executors of decisions not made by them. The interests of these groups may differ or even contradict each other. Conflicts between them received the name of “Wars of the Kremlin towers” in open sources. Fundamentally important decisions are not taken at the lowest level of the Russian power pyramid. The highest level of power is a group consisting mainly of active or former high-ranking officers of the special services (KGB-FSB, GRU, foreign intelligence service), which includes V. Putin. He acts as a “charismatic public face” of this group, but its other figures are much less public. It is this group that makes the most important decisions, which are then executed by the authorities and business structures on behalf of V. Putin. There are no formal decision-making procedures for members of this group. Each of the members of this group is the leader of his own “clan”. The centre of communication uniting this group is V. Putin. It is necessary to emphasize three important characteristics of this group:

1. Its members do not interact with each other directly. Moreover, there are quite sharp contradictions between some of them (Sechin – Chemezov, etc.). In this regard, V. Putin is extremely important for the grouping as a centre of communication and coordination of interests.

2. Most of the members of this group are V. Putin’s peers in the interval of several years: I. Sechin – born in 1960, S. Chemezov – 1952, S. Ivanov – 1953, N. Patrushev – 1951, etc. The nomination of a younger public leader from this group is impossible, there are no younger ones in it. However, the candidacy of V. Putin’s successor will be found among the “nominees” of the members of this group.

3. The composition of the governing group is not final. Thus, the former head of the Russian Railways, G. Yakunin, had a long history of relations with V. Putin, but he was excluded from the number of decision-makers.¹¹

Dynamics and prospects: there are currently no significant prerequisites for changing the nature of real power in the Russian Federation. We can only state the intensification of competition between lower-level ruling groups: “The competition of interest groups, primarily law-enforcing ones, previously making up almost the entire content of the Russian political process, simultaneously intensifies and becomes as public as possible.”¹² One of the important motives for keeping V. Putin in office is his successful fulfillment of the functions of a communication centre and a spokesman for the interests of the governing group. An adequate replacement for him in this capacity is not yet available. It can be assumed that the members of this group are actively preparing an attempt to keep V. Putin in power after the expiration of his second term in 2024.

2. The governing system, regardless of the state structure (federalism, unitarism), is characterized by a high level of centralism.

The present state: Centralism is one of the main principles and practices of the regime of V. Putin. The reforms of V. Putin’s first presidential term were aimed precisely at strengthening centralism: the abolition of the election of governors by the population (direct elections of the heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation were not held in 2005-2011), the exclusion of heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation from the Federation Council. Centralism is seen as the prevention of the breakdown of the heterogeneous Russian Federation. It manifests itself in decision-making not by the authorities that must make such decisions by virtue of the requirements of the legislation, but by higher authorities, often at the federal level. During the presidency of D. Medvedev, some adjustments were made aimed at softening centralism. Thus, the possibility of electing the heads of subjects of the Russian Federation by citizens at the discretion of the legislative bodies of these regions was returned. Currently, direct elections are held in 75 regions of the Russian Federation, in the remaining 10 the heads are elected by regional parliaments. However, the right of the president of the Russian Federation to dismiss the governors due to loss of confidence was preserved in the legislation. Not only the executive authorities, but also all significant areas of activity are strictly centralized. For instance, due to massive falsifications of the results of the second round of election of the Governor of Primorsky Territory on 16 September, 2018, the first official statement on the need for the results to be canceled was made by the head of the Central Election Commission, E. Pamfilova, and not by the regional election commission, as it is required by law.¹³ Such recommendations of the federal authorities in all areas of governing make in fact the final decision, e.g., efficient industrial production within the Rostec public corporation, established by a special federal law in 2007 was highly centralized. Rostec controls more than 700 organizations, including 70 organizations that are under direct management.¹⁴ In 2017, the consolidated revenue of Rostec amounted to 1.6 trillion rubles¹⁵, which was approximately equal to the revenue part of the national budget of Ukraine for 2017 (771,266,617.6 thousand hryvnias).¹⁶

Dynamics and Prospects: The level of centralism in the Russian Federation is constantly increasing, although formally the country is a federation. The contradiction between the high level of centralism and the formally federal character of the Russian Federation is one of the basic contradictions of the regime of V. Putin. Regional elites are becoming increasingly worried about reduction of their opportunities. A rare exception is the regime of personal power of R. Kadyrov in the Chechen Republic. Centralization of governing does not affect the Chechen Republic, whose relations with the Russian Federation are best defined by the concept of personal union, i.e., personal agreements between V. Putin and R. Kadyrov. The decline in the possibilities of regional elites in recent years is associated with the intensification of persecution for corruption, which is carried out mainly by the Federal Security Service, as well as by other structures of federal subordination. Objectively, the strengthening of centralism, including in the format of the fight against corruption, reinforces discontent of regional elites with the policy of the federal centre and dissatisfaction with their presence in the Russian Federation.

  3.Society is alienated from power, which implies imitative nature of elections.

Current status: The election process is strictly controlled by the executive branch and its representatives in election commissions. The imitative nature of elections at all levels is provided by three technologies:

1. Propaganda of electronic mass media controlled by the authorities. Such media is the majority, which provides the mass effect of its influence. When using this technology, the authorities sometimes allow direct violations of the law, e.g., the use of administrative resource.

2. Non-admission of opposition candidates to participate in the elections. When registering candidates, election commissions do not register candidates, inconvenient for the power, under false pretexts. When using this technology, consciously preserved deficiencies of the electoral legislation are used, e.g., which make it possible to declare invalid the signature in support of the nomination of a candidate on the basis of one grammatical error or a missing punctuation mark. Quite often, the power directly violates the law to prevent a candidate to run in the election.

3. Falsification of voting results. In the course of using this technology, the authorities violate the laws of the Russian Federation in all cases. Various combinations of these technologies are used at elections of various levels (federal, subjects of the Russian Federation, and municipal). As a result, the victories of candidates not from the officially ruling Yedinaya Rossiya party are rare exceptions and do not affect the balance of power in the governing bodies. Besides, quite often the winning candidates not from Yedinaya Rossiya represent its actual allies – the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the party “Spravedlivaya Rossiya” (SR). After victory, they are integrated into the system of power of the Russian Federation. The victories of the ideological opponents of V. utin’s regime at elections are rare exceptions and are currently characteristic only for large cities.

Dynamics and prospects: In the autumn of 2018, the governors’ elections in the Russian Federation showed a certain increase in protest voting under the slogan: “For anyone, but not for power”. Gradually, the growing mass discontent of the population limited the ability of the ruling party to win elections, based on mass propaganda as the main method. This was convincingly shown by the second round of governors’ elections in September, 2018 in 4 subjects of the Russian Federation. In the Primorsky Territory, where the second round took place on 16 September, 2018, the acting governor attempted massive fraud, which received publicity, and the election results were canceled. In the Republic of Khakassia, the second round, scheduled for 23 September, 2018, was postponed due to the fact that the incumbent governor withdrew his candidacy “for health reasons”, in fact, because it was impossible for him to win without massive fraud. In the Khabarovsk Territory and the Vladimir Province, the acting governors were defeated by “technical” candidates from the Liberal Democratic Party. Due to this manifestation of protest sentiments, one can confidently predict a decrease in the information openness of the election process and the intensification of falsifications on the part of candidates from the authorities. The decrease of information openness of the elections will make it more difficult for independent observers to control them. In the autumn of 2018, after a scandal at the second round of election for the governor of Primorsky Territory, the next array of information was closed. Earlier, it was possible to see previous versions of the protocols of the constituency election commissions on the website of the Central Election Commission (CEC), in exchange for which new versions were made, but the CEC administrator closed that possibility. Earlier, reference was made to the primary protocol, if it was a repeat protocol, on the constituency election commission protocol page. And it was easier to compare what had changed. Then the link was removed, and in September, 2018 access to the primary protocols was blocked. The decline in the role of propaganda as an instrument of voter management suggests that the practice of not allowing not only opposition, but all independent candidates to participate in the elections will be expanded. At the same time, protests of citizens against election fraud reduce the popularity of the regime, increase the number of its opponents, including those actively involved in the confrontation with the authorities. In this regard, the support of organizations and groups conducting independent control over elections in the Russian Federation is extremely important. The tactics of voting at all elections for the most powerful candidate not from the ruling party is becoming relevant again for the Russian opposition. Such tactics had already been applied earlier in the elections of 2011, and it brought local success to the opponents of the current governors during the elections in autumn of 2018. At the same time, the autumn elections of 2018 demonstrated only the beginning of the process of growing protest voting. Possibilities of the authorities to manage electoral sentiments remain high. Thus, in the course of direct elections of governors in September, 2018, the second round took place only in 4 subjects out of 22 of the Russian Federation. In 18 regions, henchmen of the authorities won in the first round.

4.The elite is formed by cooptation, i.e., inclusion of persons into the ruling group by the will of other members of this group, but not by the will of the people.

Current state: This feature is fully characteristic for V. Putin’s regime due to the imitative nature of the elections, which in a democracy is the main way of updating the elite, as well as the dominance of former officers of secret services in the Russian elite. The modern configuration of the Russian elite with the obvious dominance of the law-enforcing officers was formed during the so-called Putin’s crushing of oligarchs in the first five years of this century. In 2003, the “Yukos case” was initiated, which led to the liquidation of the main Russian oligarchic groups as subjects of real power. Oligarchs loyal to the regime were built into the existing groups, but not as their leaders. The ruling group in the Russian Federation quite efficiently used the cooptation of representatives of various political forces into the official power, but not in its membership. This allows neutralizing potential political rivals, making them subordinate elements of the regime. Thus, a member of the opposition Yabloko party, I. Artemyev has been the head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service since 2004. The governors of a number of subjects of the Russian Federation, nominated for these posts by the President of the Russian Federation, are representatives of the system opposition: Omsk Province – a member of the Spravedlivaya Rossiya party A. Burkov, Smolensk Province – a member of the Liberal Democratic Party A. Ostrovsky, etc. However, at present, the cooptation resource of strong leaders from the ranks of the systemic opposition is practically exhausted, since the systemic opposition is closely connected with the authorities and is degrading along with them.

Dynamics and Prospects: During the third presidential term of V. Putin, there were clear signs of degradation of the replenishment system of the political and administrative elite. An important sign of such degradation is the appointment of his bodyguards to senior positions in the governmental civil service. Hence, in 2016, the current or former bodyguards of V. Putin were appointed governors of the Kaliningrad, Tver, and Yaroslavl Provinces. E. Zinichev, appointed as governor of the Kaliningrad Province in July 2016, resigned from that post just 3 months after being appointed “for family reasons”. One of the reasons for the resignation was obvious non-publicity of E. Zinichev, i.e., vocational maladjustment in fulfilling the duties of the head of the subject of the Russian Federation. In September 2018, S. Morozov was appointed acting governor of the Astrakhan Province, from 1994 to 2016 he worked in the Federal Security Guard (FSG). Currently, the governors from the officers of the FSB and FSG, as shown by the analysis of the biographies of the heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation conducted by the author, do not constitute any significant part of the governors’ corps (Table 1).

Table 1

Distribution of heads of constituent entities of the Russian Federation by membership in professional groups

 Governmental civil service, municipal serviceMinistry of Internal Affairs, prosecutor’s office, courtArmyKGB, FSB, FSGScience, educationBusiness
% of total69.  

Candidates for the posts of Governors are recruited mainly from the governmental civil service. At the same time, it is possible to predict the continuation of the tendency of nomination to the posts of the heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation of people from law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the ruling group views this as a strategy to improve manageability and prevent the collapse of the Russian Federation in the event of a crisis.

In 2018, a new trend of degradation of the Russian governing elite emerged – inheritance of posts in the Government. D. Patrushev, son of Secretary of the Security Council and former head of the FSB N. Patrushev, became Minister of Agriculture. Earlier, children of high-ranking officials held high positions only in state corporations and business structures.¹⁷

The level of degradation of the Russian elite is gradually increasing. Representatives of the ruling clans are coopting into power not because of the ability to perform official functions, but because of the hope of the ruling group that they can efficiently protect the interests of their group. This gap between the official functionality and real possibilities determines the unreadiness of the new Russian elite to act in the public interests and, accordingly, intensifies protest moods.

Some representatives of the Russian authorities are aware of the problem of degradation of the governing system and even articulate it. Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation V. Zorkin stated during the St. Petersburg Legal Forum in May, 2018: “… growing internal protests and dissatisfaction of people can be much more dangerous in their socio-political consequences than external threats. In a short period, they can bring down the illusion of stability. It has been proven by some recent events. It makes no sense to list the mistakes made at different levels of government in responding the tragedy associated with a fire in a mall in Kemerovo, and spontaneous protest actions of residents of cities in the Moscow Province, located near landfills. They have been described in details in media. We observed incompetence, confusion of representatives of the authorities, disrespect for citizens.”¹⁸ The protest rally on 4 October, 2018 in the administrative centre of Ingushetia Magas on the exchange of territories with the Chechen Republic demonstrated an important feature of the political regime at the regional level – there are no people in power, who would remain authorities for the people and would be able to stop their protest action.¹⁹

It should be emphasized that protest voting in regional and municipal elections only intensifies the problem of the incompetence of the authorities and their unwillingness to act in the public interests. Andrey Pertsev, an analyst at the Kommersant publishing house, correctly noted the results of the elections in the Khabarovsk Territory and the Vladimir Province in September, 2018: “People who did not want to win found themselves at the head of the regions. If they continue to win, there will be problems with governing in the country.”²⁰ The degradation of the elite is clearly characterized by the appointment of children of members of the “governing group” to senior governmental positions.

Inability to negotiate and low professional competence of a significant part of the representatives of the Russian elite threaten with a sudden and uncontrolled disintegration of the regime, which is dangerous both for Russian society and for the countries neighbouring Russia. In a critical situation, these people will not be able to provide a soft, non-catastrophic version of the transition of power.

5. The principle of division of power is ignored, the executive branch dominates in relation to representative and judicial ones.

The present state: A specific feature of the Russian political regime in a large array of authoritarian regimes is not just dominance, but complete actual subordination of representative power. At the same time, the centre of executive power in the Russian Federation is not the Government, but an authority that is absent in the Constitution – the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation. Decisions taken by the ruling group are formulated and communicated to the executives by the Presidential Administration. The Presidential Administration controls the highest legislative body, the Federal Assembly, by controlling the election of State Duma MPs and members of the Federation Council. The Presidential Administration is the federal electoral headquarters of the ruling party during all elections. If necessary, senior officials of the administration are delegated to the State Duma, as its current chairman V. Volodin. The legislative bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation are controlled by the respective administrations and regional departments of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The judicial system is also tightly controlled, but in a different way. The courts of first instance and the courts of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation are for the most part sufficiently independent with respect to the executive authorities of the local governments and the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The main centre of influence on judges is the FSB, including its regional offices. Judges are dependent on the FSB due to an illegal, but universally practiced procedure. Access to the post of judge and extension of authority is only based on a positive FSB opinion.²¹ In addition, the FSB is the main initiator of criminal cases against judges. Due to the requirements of the Federal Law “On the Status of Judges,” such cases are formally initiated by officials of the Investigation Committee. However, in most cases, the Committee initiates such cases on operational materials provided by the FSB.

The dependence of the representative and judicial authorities on the executive causes discontent of some MPs and judges. The main motive of dissatisfaction is personal, namely, the restriction of the ability of MPs and judges to use the “rent of power”. This contradiction is objectively one of the weak points of the regime of V. Putin.

Dynamics and prospects: the dependence of the legislative and judicial authorities in the Russian Federation will be strengthened by creating new mechanisms for controlling them directly, e.g., a draft law is under consideration on amending Art. 37 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, which establishes the possibility of transferring to the investigating authorities of the FSB “any criminal case or materials verifying a crime report for the preliminary investigation, if such were revealed by the federal security agencies.” In this regard, it is proposed to vest the prosecutor general and his deputies with additional powers – to withdraw any cases and transfer them to the FSB authorities at the request of the FSB. Moreover, the latter may not motivate the reason for which it wants to get materials to investigate.²²

The tendency to strengthen the direct governing of representative bodies by the executive branch is superimposed on the tendency of increasing the presence of systemic opposition representatives in regional and municipal representative bodies. Thus, as a result of the election of MPs of 17 regional parliaments of 9.09.2018, Yedinaya Rossiya gained less than 50 % of the votes and less than the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in 3 constituent entities of the Russian Federation – the Republic of Khakassia, the Irkutsk Province, the Ulyanovsk Province. In another 7 regions of the Russian Federation, Yedinaya Rossiya gained less than 50 % of the vote.²³ Such an overlap objectively intensifies protest sentiments among the deputies of regional legislative bodies.

In the event of an acute political crisis in the Russian Federation, some MPs and judges, including those in the subjects of the Russian Federation, can become not only the communicators between the authorities and the opposition, but also the mechanism of transition and legitimization of the new authorities. The October crisis of 2018 in Ingushetia demonstrated the reality of “sleeping institutions” in the Russian Federation at the regional level – decorative authoritarian regime structures that, in conditions of acute crisis, can become participants in a real political struggle. The People’s Assembly – the parliament of the republic – became such a “sleeping institution” in Ingushetia. A number of its deputies refused to vote for the approval of an agreement on changing the borders of Ingushetia and joined the protesters.

6. The rights and freedoms of citizens are proclaimed, but in fact are limited. These restrictions are mainly characteristic of the political sphere.

The current state: Legislation, including the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees the rights and freedoms of citizens. The public rhetoric of representatives of the federal authorities, as a whole, is quite democratic. However, in fact, law enforcement agencies and courts have unlimited possibilities for the violation of rights and freedoms. Such violations are currently concentrated in two areas: politics, understood as all relations with power, and property. Violations of property rights we shall consider when describing the next sign of the regime.

While suppressing political protest, illegal methods are actively used: falsification of administrative and criminal cases; attacks on political opponents organized by the authorities, including their murder; unjustifiably violent dispersal of mass political events. Suppression of political protest is considered by the regime as an extremely important task, for the solution of which violations of rights and freedoms are permissible and even necessary. The number of prisoners recognized by human rights organizations as political remains high. The current list of political prisoners of the Memorial Human Rights Centre is 56 persons. In addition, 145 persons are persecuted for their religious convictions, 52 are persecuted without imprisonment, and 99 are categorized as possible victims who are not on the list.²⁴ It should be noted that a large number of political prisoners persists against the background of a decrease of the total number of prisoners in the Russian Federation. The number of prisoners in Russia in 2018 reached its historic inferior limit. On 1 September, 2018, the institutions of the penitentiary system contained 582,889 persons, which is the lowest figure for the Russian Federation during the entire existence of the state.²⁵ Early in 2017 there were 630 thousand prisoners in Russia, in 2012 – 701 thousand, in 2008 – 886 thousand.²⁶ At the same time, when analyzing these record-breaking positive data, two important aspects should be taken into consideration:

1. The Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) uses statistical manipulations to demonstrate liberalization. The FPS publishes statistics at the end of the year, not the average number of prisoners. At the same time, data on colonies-settlements and colonies for convicts for life are not included in the summary statistics on colonies.

2. The number of convicted persons whose sentences do not envisage deprivation of liberty is growing rapidly. These people are registered in the Criminal Executive Inspectorates (CEI) domiciliarily. According to official records, at the beginning of 2016, 307 thousand people were registered with the CEI, in 2017 – 423 thousand, in 2018 – already 504 thousand. This practice makes it possible not to send a person to a colony after the first sentence, but to make him completely dependent by threatening the second sentence, which usually puts a person into the category of repeat offenders with guaranteed imprisonment.

Politically motivated administrative punishments have a much larger quantitative scale than criminal ones and are also part of a strategy to control people potentially dangerous for the regime – administrative punishment in the event of repetition of “violations”, e.g., organizing mass events, should be criminalized.

Dynamics and Prospects: V. Putin’s regime uses political repressions in the format of “point”, not mass repressions. At the same time, the scale of these selective repressions is expanding.²⁷ There is a growing discontent of the politically active part of the population with violations of their rights and ignoring opinions. These two processes – the expansion of the scale of repressions and the growth of discontent activate each other, whereby the number of repressed will increase. However, the authorities will avoid the use of mass violence, which is potentially capable of causing retaliatory violence and an escalation of the conflict. Repressions will be applied to persons and groups that do not have the potential to quickly escalate the conflict and put it into the phase of violence. A mass rally in the capital of Ingushetia, Magas, in October, 2018 had such potential, therefore repressions against its participants were not used. Due to the peculiarities of the psychology of the “regime coordinator”, exceptions will be made to this rule in one case – the violence will be used to suppress any actions with slogans directed personally against V. Putin.

7. State control does not extend to non-political areas – economy, culture, religion, private life.

The present state: This characteristic of the authoritarian regime in the case of the Russian Federation is not entirely fair. State control is currently not focused exclusively in the political sphere. V. Putin’s regime actively and consistently invades such non-political spheres as culture, religion, private life, and strengthens control over a significant part of the economy, which is a legacy of the Soviet period. Changes in this characteristic point to the drift of the Russian regime to the model of modern totalitarianism.

Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin said at the parliamentary hearings on the draft budget for 2019-2021 in the Federation Council, that the state’s share in the economy is not decreasing despite the task set by President V. Putin, but, on the contrary, is growing. There is no increase in private business in the country. Moreover, state-owned corporations are buying up private assets.²⁸ The requirement of V. Putin refers to his declarative statement in the presidential message of 01/03/2018.

The Russian regime actively uses the potential of religions to influence society, controls many religious institutions in Russia and abroad, and intrudes into the sphere of religious life, contrary to the constitutional provision on the secular nature of the Russian state. On 12.10.2018 V. Putin held a meeting with members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on the issue of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.²⁹ This is not the only case of the intrusion of the authorities of the Russian Federation in matters of church life. Such a strategy is not opposed by the Moscow Patriarchy. Moreover, an interaction strategy is being developed and implemented in the Russian Federation by joint efforts of the authorities and the church. Patriarch Kirill, at the very first official reception after his election, stated that the ideal model of church-state relations since the Byzantine times has been characterized by a symphony in relations between church and secular authorities.³⁰ The Russian state uses its coercive abilities to protect the interests of religious organizations. From 1997 to 2013, “insulting the feelings of believers” was an administrative offence in the Russian Federation, but at the beginning of V. Putin’s third presidential term, criminal liability was introduced for that.

Control over personal life in a number of areas is carried out by legislative prohibitions. For instance, Federal legislation has provided for a system of prohibitions of propaganda of nontraditional juvenile sexual relations. In fact, any public information about homosexuality gets under these prohibitions. The Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights decided in 2017 that the Russian law banning gay propaganda violates the right for freedom of expression and is discriminative.

Dynamics and prospects: State control is viewed by the Russian regime as the basis of stability. It will continue to extend to non-political areas of life, regardless of the official rhetoric of the Russian authorities. This expansion corresponds to the paternalistic sentiments of a significant part of Russians. The intervention of the state in all significant spheres of life is positioned by the Russian regime as its difference from the liberal Western democracies and thus exploits the xenophobia of a certain part of citizens of the Russian Federation. Thus, such intervention not only enhances the capabilities of the state, but also supports its social base. At the same time, the expansion of state intervention no longer expands this base. New supporters of the regime simply can to be taken nowhere, its social base has been exhausted. There was a situation when strengthening state control only helps retain existing supporters. At the same time, such an expansion violates the interests of some “neutrals”, i.e., people who are not engaged in political activities and are distanced both from the authorities and protest movements. The share of apolitical persons in Russian society is very large. According to a poll by the Levada Centre, in April, 2017, 52 % of Russians considered themselves apolitical, and more than 60 % avoided contact with the state.³¹ Changing the attitudes of this part of society can radically affect the balance of power between the authorities and the opposition in Russia.

8. The person is deprived of security guarantees in relations with the authorities. Laws are mostly on the side of the state, not of the individual.

The current state: The current legislation of the Russian Federation is clearly and even defiantly not focused on protecting the interests of the individual. As signs of this state of affairs, it is necessary to mention extremely harsh punishments for the use of violence against law enforcement officers, for disobeying their demands and massive abuse of the right to protection by the police, especially following the results of the dispersion of mass protest actions. A large number of high-profile politically motivated criminal cases were falsified under article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “The Use of Violence Against a Representative of the Authorities.” In the Russian Federation, there is an extremely simple procedure for the government to withdraw land for state and municipal needs established by the Land Code and the Federal Law No. 135-FZ of July 29, 1998 “On Appraisal Activities in the Russian Federation”, which allows to virtually deprive people of property with inadequately low compensation, as it happened massively while preparing for 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The priority for power in relations with a person is realized by the public consciousness, while the majority of Russians consider this to be unfair. According to the results of a representative public poll conducted by the Levada Centre in March, 2017, 34 % of respondents believed that the interests of the state were higher than human rights or that, for the sake of the interests of the state, one could agree with the infringement of rights of individual citizens. At the same time, a total of 60 % are convinced that human rights are higher and that a citizen is entitled to fight for his rights, even if this goes against the interests of the state.³²

Dynamics and prospects: V. Putin’s regime consistently increases the vulnerability of a person. A decisive example of legislative disregard for the interests of the individual is the decriminalization of domestic violence in February, 2017, with the result that the scale of such violence has increased significantly.³³ This leads to the distancing of citizens from the government and, thus, the reduction of the social base of support for the regime. The level of verbal support remains relatively high. However, people who declare their support of the regime (authorities) by virtue of conformism will not, if necessary, defend it or simply support it. A situation typical for the late Soviet Union is formed in the Russian Federation – the regime increasingly relies only on the vertical of power, and a systemic failure in this vertical, even short-term, can cause a fall of the regime.

  9. Politics is monopolized by power. The regime suppresses political opposition. The authorities allow themselves to use illegal methods against disloyal citizens and organizations. There is no real political competition.

Current state: This group of signs is quite obvious for the modern Russian Federation. The most relevant in this system is the use of illegal methods against disloyal. Its relevance is due to the fact that the use of such methods is growing, and these methods cause the most active and negative public response. Unlawful methods are murders and the use of illegitimate violence (attacks, assaults and battery, threats). Of course, falsifications of criminal and administrative cases are also illegal. However, this feature of the regime has already been considered earlier, and within its framework the power uses other technologies. Illegal methods began to be applied in the first presidential term of V. Putin. At the first stage, violence against the disloyal was localized by some territories of the North Caucasus, first of all – by the Chechen Republic. In this case, we are not talking about the victims of the war. In the Czech Republic, people suspected of disloyalty to the federal and regional authorities were actively eliminated. Somewhat later, this technology began to be applied in other regions of the Russian Federation. The most well-known examples of illegal reprisals are the murders of A. Politkovskaya (2006, Moscow), T. Kuashev (2014, Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria Republic), B. Nemtsov (2015, Moscow). Performers from among people close to the head of the Chechen Republic R. Kadyrov are mainly used for such murders. A number of cases of poisoning Russian political activists can be attributed to both assassination attempts and intimidation methods.³⁴ Politically motivated murders are not a mass practice in the Russian Federation, unlike other illegal methods of influence, including assault and battery, intimidation, arson of houses, damaging cars. Such crimes are organized by officers of regional divisions of the Federal Security Service and police, members of criminal groups associated with law enforcement agencies are involved in direct executions. As a rule, such crimes remain unsolved.³⁵ Militants from the groups used by the authorities are also used for provocations during protest rallies: “This case and many similar ones give reason to believe that the directorate (FSB) has at its disposal such a “non-departmental” power resource in the form of a detachment of desperate, trained, criminal elements. They operate under the cover of security forces and perform tasks outside the law, – Rudomakha says. – These people were recorded on video in 2014, when they tried to break into our office in Krasnodar, and smashed the car of a member of the EcoVakhta Council, Igor Kharchenko. Last year, they smashed the Greenpeace and EcoVakhta fire camps and attacked people during the March rally of supporters of Navalny in Krasnodar, they were also present at other opposition events.”³⁶

Dynamics and prospects: Authors of the repressive policies of the regime are convinced that mass protests are initiated and controlled by specific people, and the elimination of leaders, including potential ones, will prevent protests. In many cases, it is much easier for those responsible for repressions to exclude a person from protest activities to organize unlawful pressure, rather than criminal prosecution, which requires compliance with many formalities. Because of this, we can expect further increase in the scale of unlawful prosecution of disloyal citizens and organizations. Analysis of the content of controversies in open sources after a number of cases of poisoning Russian political activists shows that it is necessary to expect for the Russian special services to expand their use of this method: poisoning makes it possible to sow doubts about the fact of the crime, to attribute it to natural causes.

10. In the event that party diversity persists, one party dominates the party system.

Current status: Currently 64 political parties are officially registered in the Russian Federation.³⁷ This relatively large number of parties appeared due to liberal changes in federal legislation on political parties after mass protests of 2011-2012 and the decision of the ECHR in the case of the Republican Party of Russia. Back in 2011, only 7 parties were registered in the Russian Federation. Despite the formal party diversity, there has been an obvious dominance of the Yedinaya Rossiya party in the Russian Federation since 2003, the official leader of which is Prime Minister D. Medvedev. 6 parties are represented in the State Duma of the 7th convocation. At the same time, two parties have 1 MP each (“Rodina” and “Grazhdanskaya Platforma”). Four parties formed the following factions in the State Duma: “Yedinaya Rossiya” – 343 MPs (76 % of the total number of MPs), the Communist Party of the Russian Federation – 43 MPs, the Liberal Democratic Party – 39, “Spravedlivaya Rossiya” – 23. The number of members of Yedinaya Rossiya faction gives it the opportunity to make any decision without the support of other factions. Similar balance of powers is also characteristic for most regional parliaments. As of August, 2018, Yedinaya Rossiya controls more than 50% of the seats in 81 out of 85 parliaments of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Exceptions to this rule are the Republic of Khakassia, Zabaykalsky Territory, Irkutsk and Ulyanovsk Provinces, in whose parliaments the positions of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation are strong. “Yedinaya Rossiya” is not a political party in the true sense of the word, it serves as a political shell for state bureaucracy and some, the most politicized part of the supporters of the regime.

Yedinaya Rossiya is not considered by the ruling group as the only official centre of political power of the regime. The public movement “Russian Popular Front”, established on the initiative of V. Putin in 2011 due to the obvious inability of Yedinaya Rossiya to resist mass protests, is a broader and more diverse “political shell” of the Russian regime.

Dynamics and Prospects: Electoral dynamics of 2017–2018 demonstrate the growing electoral difficulties of Yedinaya Rossiya. At elections of the municipal and regional levels, the party of power is gradually losing ground. This is extremely important, since it creates the possibility of a legitimate transit of power “after Putin” to other political forces. Legislative/representative authorities, if they have a significant representation of other parties, except for Yedinaya Rossiya, can provide a transition of power and relative control in a situation of transitional crisis. At the same time, at present, the position of Yedinaya Rossiya as the dominant party is very strong. We can expect a noticeable change in the situation only at the next electoral cycle at the federal level.

11. The authorities show tolerance towards ideological trends loyal to the ruling regime.

Current state: The first two presidential terms of V. Putin and that of D. Medvedev were periods of relative tolerance of the regime to loyal ideologies. The situation changed during the third presidential term of V. Putin. Loyalty to the authorities no longer guaranteed a tolerant attitude on their part. Any “other” became not only suspicious for the regime, but dangerous. Falsified criminal cases against Russian protestants since 2013 have been a good example. Representatives of this confession are certainly loyal to the authorities. At the same time, their close ties with representatives of their confessions in the West and the presence of well-organized networks became a sufficient reason to start persecution. Ecological organizations also do not aim at regime or political changes. At the same time, such organizations are harassed in various formats, from criminal cases to assaults. It should be emphasized that the so-called systemic opposition, i.e., parliamentary parties, is not just loyal, it is controlled by the regime. Demonstrative opposition is allowed, since itmakes it possible, on the one hand, to characterize the regime for propaganda purposes as democratic, and on the other, it does not interfere with the direct governing of such opposition structures.

Dynamics and Prospects: Tolerance towards loyal, but not controllable ideological trends is not characteristic of V. Putin’s regime at the present stage and singles it out in the general range of authoritarian regimes. Simple loyalty is no longer enough. The regime is ready to tolerate only controlled ideological trends. Organizations that have a branched structure, the so-called live social networks are in the zone of the highest risk. Such social networks are considered as a potential threat, since such structures can be used against the regime. It is necessary to expect increased persecution of members of Protestant, Muslim, environmental, and also ethnically-oriented organizations. Such prosecution will, on the one hand, reduce the number of potential coordinators of protest actions, but on the other, it will strengthen the protest moods of broad social groups and create conditions for spontaneous outbursts of protest.

12. The governmental sector of the economy is strictly regulated by the authorities. It operates within the framework of the rules of the market economy.

Current state: According to one of the leading Russian analytical centres, the Centre for Strategic Research (CSR), the governmental sector accounts for almost half of the national economy of the Russian Federation. It has been growing since the 2000s, and has now reached an “exceptionally high value.” The total share of the public sector in the GDP increased from 39.6 % in 2006 to 46 % in 2016, the authors of the report on the management of the governmental property, published in January, 2018, estimate. For 2016, the public sector included about 65.2 thousand business entities, while in 2014 the figure was 1.6 thousand less.³⁸ The public sector in the Russian Federation is not only strictly regulated by the authorities in various legislatively defined forms, depending on the legal status of the subject of economic activity. More important that key public sector entities are controlled by members of the governing group: President of Rosneft governmental company — I. Sechin; CEO of Rostec public corporation — S. Chemezov; Chairman of the Board of Gazprom public joint-stock company — A. Miller.

The public sector in the Russian Federation currently operates principally within the framework of a market economy. However, Western sanctions against a number of Russian companies and individuals have accelerated the process of creating a system of governmental support for this sector. Such support is a payment for the risks of participation of objects of the state economy in the conduct of the domestic and foreign policy of the regime. This support extends not only to state-owned companies, but also to the business of Russian entrepreneurs close to the governing group. Thus, the State Duma of the Russian Federation recommends that the government envisages the allocation of funds from the budget in 2019-2021 to support companies affected by the sanctions of the USA and other countries.³⁹

Dynamics and prospects: The public sector of the Russian Federation objectively becomes an increasingly burdensome problem for the Russian economy. Recognizing the existence of this problem in words, the ruling group actually only strengthens the state presence in the economic sector. It is doubtful that this strategy will change, since the directly controlled public sector is one of the foundations of the regime and financial well-being of members of the ruling group. These people, occupying key positions in the public sector of the economy, are not efficient managers. Receiving a huge rent from their positions and having the possibility of state support in case of problems, they actually undermine the economy of the Russian Federation by their actions. It is extremely important that the economy of the Russian Federation still, as in the times of the USSR, has a raw material character and depends on the world conjuncture. The planned establishment of a system of state support for Russian business increases budget spendings and reduces the adaptive capacity of the regime in the face of a possible crisis. Because of this, a significant reduction in the cost of energy resources in the absence of state reserves can lead to a political crisis.

13. The regime exercises control over the media, which are allowed to criticize individual shortcomings of public policy while maintaining loyalty to the system.

The current state: The Constitution of the Russian Federation directly prohibits censorship. At the same time, V. Putin’s regime created a system of control over the media, which uses the mechanisms of legal (legislatively established penalties for the media), structural (a large number of media with state participation), and economic (paying for the so-called “information order” for loyal media) control. According to the rating of the Reporters without Borders, the Russian Federation is ranking 148th in the list of 180 countries in 2018 (Norway takes the first place, North Korea – the 180th).⁴⁰ According to the criteria of the Reporters, this means “a difficult situation with media freedom”. Criticism of individual flaws is allowed to all media. At the same time, there are media carrying out systemic criticism of the regime in the Russian Federation. Their audiences are quantitatively limited. There are no on-air broadcast channels among these media, i.e., media with the largest audience. The greatest freedom is typical in the Russian Federation for the Internet. The number of users of the worldwide network in Russia is very large. According to official data, the share of Internet users is 81%: “We rank the first in Europe today as for the number of users of the global network. They already amount for more than 90 million in Russia.”⁴¹ Accordingly, the discussion of opposition agendas takes place mainly on various Internet sites.

Dynamics and prospects: Given the relative freedom of online media, the Russian authorities are making significant efforts to establish control over this segment. Since 2015, the number of administrative and criminal cases for publishing on social networks has increased. The largest number of verdicts and sentences of the courts were issued for offenses or crimes allegedly committed for manifestations of extremism. According to Agora International Human Rights Group, 48 users received real terms for publishing in social networks in 2017, and 411 persons became defendants in criminal cases. These figures are not final and characterize only those cases that have been revealed. Unified statistics as for the trials for Internet publications in Russia is not maintained.⁴² In November, 2017, amendments to the legislation of the Russian Federation provided for the possibility to recognize foreign media in the Russian Federation as foreign agents. Nine media have already been included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of foreign agents. This means that they must fulfil extremely burdensome requirements for non-profit organizations recognized by foreign agents in the Russian Federation. A bill has been drafted to introduce fines for violations for such media. The amount of the proposed fine is very high – up to 5 million rubles,⁴³ for many media it will have a liquidating character.

The scale of repressions that violate freedom of speech, by 2018, became excessive, even according to members of the governing group, e.g., investigators initiated a lot of criminal cases that did not have the slightest threat for the regime, just for reporting indicators. We emphasize that this example demonstrates poor controllability of the law enforcement system of the Russian Federation. Despite public appeals of senior officials of the Russian Federation to take a restrained approach to initiating criminal cases “for likes and reposts,” the practice has continued. In 2018, V. Putin introduced a draft Federal Law N 495566-7 to the State Duma “On Amendments to Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation”, which provides for the abolition of criminal punishment for the first and minor violation of the legislation on inciting hatred or enmity, and humiliating dignity. In October 2018, the State Duma began consideration of this bill, which, obviously, will be adopted. However, this will not change the scale of repressions. Changes will occur only in the fact that the first case for such violation will not be criminal, but administrative.

The State Duma is currently considering bills tightening control over the media. Thus, in case of their approval, individuals can be recognized as foreign agents. Further strengthening of control over the media and the Internet space should be expected from the Russian regime.

14. Power is supported by force sufficient to make the people obey if necessary. Mass repressions, as under totalitarianism, are not carried out.

The current state: The number of state bodies directly involved in coercion is extremely high in the Russian Federation. The staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation is 894 871⁴⁴, the staff of the Investigative Committee is 21 126⁴⁵, that of the prosecutor’s office is 51 014⁴⁶, the strength of troops of the National Guard (Rosgvardia) is more than 340 thousand⁴⁷. The strength of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Federal Security Guard (FSG) is classified. It is estimated that the strength of FSB is slightly more than 100 thousand without Border Guard Service under the FSB, and the strength of FSG is about 20 thousand. Thus, the strength of official organizations directly intended to force obedience and suppress protests is more than 1 million 420 thousand. On the average, one security officer accounts for 100 citizens of Russia. This indicator can attribute the present Russian Federation to the group of “super-police” states.

In addition to the bodies specifically designed to coerce the population, if necessary, the regime can use for these purposes the staff of other militarized bodies: the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief with the strength exceeding 26 thousand, the Federal Judicial Bailiffs Service, the staff of which could be more than 75 thousand.⁴⁸ In the event of a crisis situation, official repressive structures will attract combatants from informal associations to counteract protesters, which are currently used for “targeted” assaults.

The author has already characterized the repressive strategy of the regime, which does not currently envisage mass repressions.

Dynamics and Prospects: The potential of the coercive forces of the regime of V. Putin is sufficient to suppress mass protests and continues to grow. Currently, such an increase occurs mainly in the direction of developing the National Guard, which is directly focused on the forceful elimination of mass riots. Such actions are characteristic mainly for Russian megalopolises. As it can be supposed, the strategy of suppression is focused on the option of mass protests with the use of violence by protesters. At the same time, efficient suppression of protest actions is possible provided that the capacity and controllability of all law enforcement structures and non-participation in protests of army units are maintained. In addition, the forces of coercion are not able to prevent such a form of protest as the mass refusal of citizens to cooperate with the authorities.

15. The security forces are not controlled by the society and are used to maintain the political regime.

Current state: The subordination and controllability of law-enforcing structures is provided by a system of factors:

1. Personal loyalty to V. Putin of the leaders of these structures.

2. The high level of official salaries and benefits of security forces (early retirement, high pensions, etc.).

3. The strong influence of propaganda on the staff.

Public control over the activities of such structures is absent. Public councils formed under the control bodies of law-enforcing structures have no real control powers.

Dynamics and Prospects: The internal problem of the system of law-enforcing structures is the dissatisfaction of their employees with their informal powers and opportunities that has arisen over the past few years. This dissatisfaction is caused by the following reasons:

1. Full dominance of the FSB in the system of law-enforcing structures. Other “law-enforcers” are actually subordinate to the Federal Security Service, which significantly reduces their ability to receive unofficial rent from their posts.

2. Activation of prosecution of law enforcement officers for corruption crimes. According to the Federal Penitentiary Service, 3 new reformatories were opened for former law enforcement officers to serve their sentences in 2018, and the total number of such institutions amounted to 20.⁴⁹ It is possible to predict a further increase in at least one source of dissatisfaction among various law enforcement agencies – an increase of the role of the FSB in the law enforcement system.

16. Civil society may exist, but it depends on the state.

Current state: The structure of civil society organizations, formed in the 1990s with the participation of western partners of the Russian Federation, has significantly changed during the rule of V. Putin, mainly in the period since 2012. The persecution of non-profit organizations recognized as foreign agents led to the minimization of foreign funding for civil society organizations. The human rights sector of civil society has suffered from this first and foremost. A number of human rights organizations have ceased operations or marginalized. Many organizations that were not engaged in political activities but not controlled by the regime were persecuted and reduced their activeness. This approach is not a coincidence or a temporary phenomenon for the regime. The military doctrine of the Russian Federation, approved by V. Putin on 25/12/2014, names among the characteristic features of modern military conflicts the complex use of military force, political, economic, informational, and other non-military measures implemented with the wide use of the protest potential of the population.⁵⁰ Thus, the protest potential of the population is officially recognized as an instrument of warfare with an external enemy. Within the framework of such an approach, the civil society of Russia, which accumulates protest potential, is a threat to the Russian authorities.

The dependence of civil society organizations is formed not only by intensifying repressive practices, but also by the system of state support for projects of non-profit organizations. At present, a centralized (since spring 2017) structure for the distribution of grants of the President of the Russian Federation – the Presidential Grants Foundation – has been operating in the Russian Federation. Twice a year, grant funds are distributed according to requests from non-profit organizations on a competitive basis. In 2018, more than 8 billion rubles were allocated for these purposes in accordance with the presidential decree.⁵¹

Trends and prospects: Civil society organizations that are not controlled by the regime will continue to be persecuted, liquidated, or marginalized by cutting away from funding sources and the label of a foreign agent. They will be replaced by simulators, especially in the areas of monitoring the fairness of elections, protecting the rights of person and citizen, and international cooperation. Networking organizations of civil society are considered as particularly dangerous for the regime, potential forms of filling with protest content.

17. The rights of national minorities are limited.

The current state: the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees the equality of the rights of citizens, regardless of ethnicity. In addition, Russia is a federation, i.e., formally, a union of state entities, including those with title ethnic groups (republics within the Russian Federation). At the same time, high ethnic heterogeneity is one of the most vulnerable points of Russian statehood. This is due to a high level of relative deprivation of a significant part of the population of the Russian Federation. For members of ethnic minorities, one of the main ways of explaining their disadvantaged state is discrimination based on ethnic criteria. This psychological phenomenon is massive. In addition, the Russian Federation is objectively characterized by human rights violations related to its ethnicity and religion, e.g., the persecution of Muslims for alleged Islamic radicalism in the mass consciousness is associated with ethnicity, since the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not belong to the Russian ethnic majority.

Dynamics and prospects: The events of 2018 show a tendency to reduce the opportunities of the citizens of the Russian Federation to implement their ethnic identity. So, in the summer of 2018, amendments were made to the Federal Law “On Education”, which stated: “A free choice of the language of education, the mother tongue being studied from among the languages ​​of the peoples of the Russian Federation, including Russian as the mother tongue, the state languages ​​of the republics of the Russian Federation according to the applications of the parents (legal representatives) of the minors during the admission (transfer) to study according to educational programmes of pre-school education with state accreditation, primary general and secondary general programmes of education”. In fact, it reads about the abolition of compulsory study of the state languages ​​of the subjects of the Russian Federation at schools. This decision provoked heated debate. According to the information portal, more or less intense protests against the current amendments to the law “On Education” took place in almost all autonomies. The initiative caused a particularly sharp rejection in the Volga region and in the North Caucasus.⁵² The initiator of the abolition of compulsory language learning of the peoples of the Russian Federation was V. Putin, who declared on 20.07.2017 at a meeting of the Council for Inter-Ethnic Relations under the President of the Russian Federation about the inadmissibility of forcing people to learn languages ​​that are not native for them.⁵³ Such a strategy is organic for the regime of V. Putin, who perceives any “being alien” as a threat.

18. Some changes, including in the political system, are possible.

Current state: V. Putin’s regime is capable of changing individual practices in the light of experience. An example is the activity of the acting governor of Primorsky Territory, O. Kozhemyako, who was appointed after the cancellation of the results of the September election of the governor of the Territory and the resignation of A. Tarasenko who failed in the campaign. According to A. Pertsev, “the new acting head of the Primorsky Territory, Oleg Kozhemyako, focuses in his campaigning on local patriotism and criticism of Moscow. The Kremlin is trying to take into account the mistakes of the September election, turning Kozhemyako into the main revolutionary of Primorye, which demands justice from the federals.”⁵⁴ However, objectively, such an extension of the scope of what is permitted in relations with the governors carries risks. The effect of the PR strategy of O. Kozhemyako can be unpredictable, and it could affect not only the Far East. These risks will be assessed by the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, and based on the results of such an assessment, new practices may be minimized or, on the contrary, recommended for implementation.

The regional and municipal elections in September, 2018 in the Russian Federation showed an increase in protest sentiments according to the “legitimate” model, when voters are ready to vote for any alternative to the authorities, but are not ready to take part in street protests or the violent overthrow of the regime.

The Russian authorities have an objective need to strengthen the diversification of the party system, to intensify the struggle between opposition groups, which will allow the president to remain “above the fray”, acting as a national arbiter. However, such a scenario is hardly probable.

With the admissibility of changes in individual political practices, changes that jeopardize its preservation are categorically unacceptable for the regime of V. Putin. Such a strategy was quite productive, as long as the idea of ​​stability dominated in Russian society. However, public sentiments have changed. According to the results of public opinion monitoring, which, with an interval of 6 months, is held by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, at the end of 2017, the majority, though insignificant, of the residents of the Russian Federation were in favour of changes. According to previous polls, since the late 1990s, the proportion of Russians who advocated significant changes steadily decreased (from 69 % in 1999 to 28 % in 2012), and the proportion of supporters of stability grew (from 31 to 72 %). However, then there was a reverse trend. And today, 51 % are in favour of changes, while the share of supporters of stability has greatly decreased – to 49 %. According to Vladimir Petukhov, head of the Centre for Complex Social Studies at the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, “In five years, the request for changes has grown by 21 % – for sociology, this is a giant leap.”⁵⁵

Dynamics and Prospects: The Russians’ demand for changes continues to grow. The report of the Federal Research Sociological Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences “Russian Society after the Presidential Election 2018: A Request for Changes”, based on a representative survey of the Russian population, held in April, 2018, states that the share of those who believe that the country needs change, increased to 56 %.⁵⁶ This request is in conflict with the regime’s reluctance to risk its resilience. The medium-term perspective of the Russian regime depends on whether the Russian authorities will be able to satisfy this request or to suppress it. According to Lilia Shevtsova, researcher at Chatham House: “I do not see any serious chances for change in Russia while maintaining the current regime. But it is necessary to take into account the fact that 70 % of Russians want changes. Though, they understand them differently. And most importantly, the majority wants changes from above. So the need for changes exists. The problem is that they can occur only at the request of the “street”.⁵⁷

“Problem 2024”: possible scenarios for saving the regime.

The generally accepted weak point of authoritarian regimes is their instability. They often collapse as a result of the death of a charismatic leader who did not leave an equally strong successor. One of the most important signs of an authoritarian regime is that such a regime is based on the personality of a charismatic ruler. These authoritarian regimes are different from more stable totalitarian regimes which collapse only in the event of a military defeat or the decline of the entire system, including ideology. Thus, the figure of a charismatic leader is crucial for an authoritarian regime.

The presidential election of 2024 will be extremely important for determining the strategy of the Russian Federation. Several basic scenarios are possible depending on changes in the situation, including the preservation or non-preservation of V. Putin in power until the end of his mandate:

1. Keeping V. Putin as President of the Russian Federation. For this, the regime will need to make changes to the Constitution, which contains an unequivocal ban on the election of a person as president for the third time in a row in Art. 81. In accordance with Art. 136 of the Constitution, such an amendment may be adopted in the manner provided for the adoption of a federal constitutional law. A federal constitutional law is considered adopted if it is approved by a majority of at least three quarters of the votes of the total number of members of the Federation Council and at least two thirds of the votes of the total number of deputies of the State Duma. Both the State Duma and the Federation Council are now completely controlled by the ruling group. Problems with such changes to the Constitution may arise if an opposition group of deputies is formed in the State Duma as a result of the election of 2021 amounting to at least one-third (150 persons or more), or a group of representatives of regional elites is formed in the Federation Council who object extending V. Putin’s mandate amounting to not less than ¼ of the total number of the Federation Council (43 or more). The probability of such changes in the composition of the State Duma and Federation Council is insignificant, but it cannot be considered as completely impossible, especially with regard the results of the regional and municipal elections of September, 2018. The constitutional amendment on the possibility of electing for the third time in a row comes into force after approval by the legislative bodies of at least two thirds of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Given the high manageability of the legislative bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation from the Kremlin, such a procedure can be carried out within a few months. This procedure should be completed before the announcement of the presidential election, i.e., until mid-December, 2023. Therefore, this procedure should be initiated in the first half of 2023. Such a strategy takes into account the main weakness of the authoritarian regime of the Russian Federation, namely, its reliance on the personality of a charismatic leader. V. Putin remains within the framework of this strategy both an informal and a formal leader of the Russian Federation. The probability of large-scale socio-political upheavals and the elimination of the regime is low.

2. Election of the “successor” the President of the Russian Federation with the subsequent appointment of V. Putin as prime minister. This option was already tested in 2008 – 2012, when V. Putin was prime minister during the presidency of D. Medvedev. However, in 2024, the repetition of this option without adjustments is unlikely. Quite acute contradictions existed between the teams of V. Putin and D. Medvedev, including the main sphere for them – personnel policy. V. Putin was forced in some cases to put up with decisions that were not made by him. At present, such a situation of incomplete control by V. Putin is regarded as unacceptable. Obviously, this experience will be taken into account, and in the event that V. Putin is appointed Prime Minister, the powers of the Prime Minister will be significantly increased. The expansion of the powers of the Prime Minister was tested by one of the allies of the Russian Federation – Armenia in the course of the constitutional reform. The constitutional reform in Armenia, launched in 2015, was in line not only with the interests of the former President of Armenia, S. Sargsyan, who planned to retain power by moving to the position of Prime Minister, but also V. Putin. The Armenian model of keeping the president in power, who can no longer be elected president, contains elements that are relevant to Putin: a high concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister, his relative independence from parliament. It is important that as a result of the reform implemented by S. Sargsyan, the armed forces of Armenia are subordinated to the government, and the prime minister becomes the commander-in-chief during the war. The influence on the army is an important element of the whole structure of the regime for V. Putin. The constitutional reform in Armenia formed a kind of a political regime with a very high concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister. In Armenia, the opposition managed to take advantage of the results of the constitutional reform following the peaceful revolution in the spring of 2018, and those who carried it out failed. However, this does not reduce the value of the experience of Armenia for V. Putin. There are options for this strategy. Thus, the Russian elites specialist, the head of the Centre for the Study of the Russian Elites at the National University of Management, Olga Kryshtanovskaya believes that V. Putin will assume the post of Chairman of the State Council, whose powers will be expanded by amending the Constitution.⁵⁸ These are two options of one strategy that differ only in what post Putin will take and, accordingly, which position will be strengthened. Such a strategy, like the previous one, takes into account the main weakness of the authoritarian regime – reliance on a charismatic leader. V. Putin remains the actual leader, and the president with him gets a chance of a soft transition to real power after his first term expires. This strategy does not require significant time for legal preparation, it is only necessary to adopt amendments to the Constitution, strengthening the powers of the Prime Minister, according to the procedure for adopting a federal constitutional law. Such a procedure can be started and completed in the second half of 2023 or even at the beginning of 2024. The probability of large-scale socio-political upheavals and the elimination of the regime is relatively low.

3. Election of a person from the close circle of V. Putin with the subsequent resignation of the incumbent president from active politics. To a certain extent, such an option would be a repetition of V. Putin’s coming to power. Such a strategy has obvious drawbacks for the current regime: a non-charismatic successor can quickly lose popularity, causing the collapse of the regime, or force the current authoritarian regime to be transformed into a totalitarian one. The transition to totalitarianism is dangerous in many ways, it creates excessive risks for the Russian elite, just like the collapse of the regime. If this option is chosen, radical actions to form the charisma of V. Putin’s successor can be expected. With high probability, such actions will be war. As a tool to ensure the legitimacy of the president in the public consciousness, wars were already used in 1999 in the interests of V. Putin and in 2008 in the interests of D. Medvedev. The use of internal problems, e.g., the situation in the Chechen Republic to unleash a war this time is unlikely, since such an internal war could provoke the disintegration of the Russian Federation or create other significant problems for the regime. Due to that threat, an “external” war with Georgia was used already in 2008. When choosing such a strategy, the most likely enemy for the war will be Ukraine. This opportunity is objectively provided by the frozen conflict in the Donbas. The above strategy is one of the most probable and at the same time dangerous for the modern world. The implementation of this strategy will not take much time, since it will be possible to begin forming the legitimacy of the new president after his election. The candidacy of a successor can be announced literally on the eve of the election campaign.

4. Election of a “successor” from the members of a circle close to V. Putin with V. Putin’s appointment to a status position, which, nevertheless, does not imply much power. This could be the position of Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, the Director General of the largest Russian public corporation Rostec, or some other similar one. The choice of this strategy allows Putin to ensure security from prosecution, including international, and at the same time begin to restore relations with Western countries. Such a choice would be enforced for V. Putin, it is possible only in case of large losses of the Russian elite as a result of the confrontation with the West and the pressure of representatives of the elite on V. Putin in order to make him leave. This strategy is much weaker than the previous ones, since V. Putin would no longer be the formal leader of the Russian Federation. The probability of the collapse of the regime and the displacement of the successor in this case is significantly enhanced compared with the previously mentioned strategies. The preparation for the implementation of this strategy should be the improvement in relations with some Western countries during the current presidency of V. Putin, the expansion of the circle of supporters of lifting sanctions in Europe.

5. Election of a “successor” loyal to the West, followed by Putin’s resignation from active politics. The choice of such a strategy means for V. Putin a significant weakening of security guarantees. Such guarantees are in the Federal Law “On Guarantees to the President of the Russian Federation, who has ceased to exercise his powers, and to members of his family.” However, the former president may still be deprived of immunity for committing a serious crime during the period when he fulfilled the duties of the president in cases not related to the duties of the president. The probability of initiating such a case is relatively low, but it can be realized as a result of pressure on the authorities of the Russian Federation by Western countries. This strategy implies the preparation of a successor that is extremely reliable from V. Putin’s point of view, who would be able to normalize Russia’s relations with the rest of the world and at the same time guarantee the safety of V. Putin. Preservation of a group of politicians with liberal views in the team of the current president of the Russian Federation is not explained by the fact that these people are needed by the president now. The point is mainly that someone from the “liberal part of the elite” can be required to implement the described strategy. V. Putin’s resignation-from political-activities strategy with the appointment of a loyal to the West successor is extremely weak in terms of maintaining an authoritarian regime. This strategy requires considerable time to prepare for the election of a successor, endowed with such contradictory characteristics as loyalty at the same time to V. Putin and his western opponents. It can be expected that if such a strategy is chosen, the promotion of the successor to the public consciousness will begin no less than a year before the start of the presidential election campaign of the Russian Federation, i.e., late in 2022 – early in 2023.

6. The election of the President of the Russian Federation in 2024 in the conditions of a significant weakening of the regime as a result of the death, illness or resignation of V. Putin. The loss of control by the incumbent president will inevitably lead to the aggravation of contradictions within the system of power, and the intensification of the struggle of various groups of the Russian elite. In such a situation, it is possible to nominate several candidates representing the interests of various groups: “law-enforcers” and representatives of the military-industrial complex closely linked with them; oligarchs; Communists and representatives of other parliamentary parties; the increasingly popular in public opinion Ramzan Kadyrov, and even the liberally oriented part of the elite. A sudden resignation from the politics of a charismatic leader is the most dangerous scenario for an authoritarian regime. This scenario with a very high probability envisages the collapse of the regime, which it can avoid only if a nominee of the “law-enforcers” group, i.e., the current inner circle of V. Putin, is elected at competitive election. The election of a representative of this group is quite likely, unless the entire group is discredited beforehand in public opinion.

7. Full integration with Belarus with the subsequent election of the president of the new state, which formally gives V. Putin the grounds to be elected. This option gives Putin the opportunity to remain in power on the next wave of patriotism, caused by an important step towards the restoration of the Soviet Union. At the same time, it is rather complicated for the Russian elite, since it implies access to the resources of representatives of the Belarusian administrative elite. But the main obstacle is the position of A. Lukashenko and his entourage. For them, merging means dissolving in many times surpassing Russian economy and administrative machinery and the loss of current opportunities. This scenario does not belong to the most probable, but it ensures the confident preservation of the regime of V. Putin and, therefore, must be considered in the forecasts. According to one of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress, Nikolai Statkevich, the unification scenario is already being implemented.⁵⁹

It is of great importance which of these scenarios will be chosen by the ruling group for the future of the Russian regime and for the world community. The aftereffects of this choice, as well as the opportunities opening up for regime change, will vary significantly.

Conclusions and recommendations

V. Putin’s regime is authoritarian with regard to most of its backbone signs. Due to this, we can confidently state a special role for the regime of a charismatic leader. This role in the public space is performed by V. Putin. He is the coordinator and centre of communication in the ruling group of people who make key decisions. The special role of a public leader means that the regime is highly vulnerable in situations of leadership change. The 2024 issue is key to the future of the regime. The regime may remain or disappear, and it would depend on four main factors:

1. Contradictions in the governing group.

2. Contradictions between the federal and regional elites.

3. The level of relative deprivation of the population of the Russian Federation.

4. The actions of other countries and the world community as a whole.

An urgent task is to determine as soon as possible, which scenario of saving the regime is chosen by the governing group. Not later than in 2019, it is necessary to develop, test, and launch a system of targeted monitoring of indicators from open sources, which will indicate the choice of a specific “strategy-2024” by the Russian governing group. It should be emphasized that such monitoring should be conducted on a continuous basis using a uniform methodology, and not as one-time reviews made by different authors using different methods. Only understanding of what strategy of power transition has been chosen will allow us to build and put into operation an adequate system of counteraction to the preservation of the regime of V. Putin.

When analyzing some of the signs of V. Putin’s regime as an authoritarian one, it is possible to state a significant drift towards totalitarianism. Drift to totalitarianism occurs in areas such as limited human rights; non-proliferation of state control in non-political areas – economy, culture, religion, private life; tolerance towards ideological trends loyal to the regime; the possibility of changes in the framework of this regime. There are no insurmountable obstacles to the transformation of the regime into a totalitarian one. Since this will entail significant costs for the Russian elite, this scenario is unlikely. But it is not excluded, in particular intermittently, in a very short period of time. Its implementation will contribute for some time to increasing the sustainability of the regime, as well as its aggressiveness both in relation to the population of the Russian Federation and in relation to the world community. Increasing sustainability in this case will be determined by the fact that the leader’s figure will no longer be of fundamental importance, and it will be possible to transfer the power without great risks to stability.

The results of public polls, which are openly available, do not make it possible to evaluate the most relevant aspects of public consciousness in the context of preparation for the transfer of power in 2024 – the level of relative deprivation and the real level of protest sentiment among Russians. Surveys within the framework of the theory of relative deprivation may be conducted in the Russian Federation. However, detailed information about their results is not made public. At the same time, such information is crucial for forecasting the dynamics of the internal political situation in the country. It is advisable to conduct such studies in the framework of at least a five-year (until 2024) programme of research on political transit in the Russian Federation. Such a programme is necessary because at present such research is conducted sporadically and in conditions of an acute shortage of resources.

It is unrealistic to expect a rapid collapse of the Russian economy and V. Putin’s regime as a result of economic sanctions and possible fall in oil prices. The strategy of the US authorities to significantly reduce the price of oil in case of success of the strategy can reduce the cost of a barrel of Brent oil during the year to $ 45. However, the budget of the Russian Federation for 2017–2019 is based on the price of oil at $ 40 per barrel (the basic version). The fall of the regime is unlikely to be due to economic reasons. At the same time, such a fall can occur in the course of an attempt to transfer power or reforms in order to retain V. Putin as President against the background of a significant increase in the relative deprivation of the population and the degradation of the power vertical.

In the presence of a powerful system of political violence and the suppression of mass protests in the Russian Federation, citizens may refuse to cooperate with the authorities and vote in protest at any election. There is an insignificant and hardly predictable probability of an accidental tragic event (a natural disaster in which the authorities will manifest helplessness; a crime by a law-enforcing officer, which has gone public; a brutal suppression of mass protest), which will lead to mass protests in many cities of Russia and the fall of the regime. However, this is possible only in conditions of high relative deprivation.

Relative deprivation is a controlled phenomenon and can be both decreased and increased by informational effects. Strategies of information opposition to the Russian Federation, which are currently used by international organizations and individual countries, are deeply flawed. They are initially defensive in nature (created as a way of countering Russian propaganda), are reactive, i.e., they give the initiative to information strategists of the Russian Federation and are not oriented on Russians. As a result, these strategies practically do not affect public opinion of the Russian Federation. Ukraine can become an organic executor of a new efficient strategy to influence public opinion in the Russian Federation due to the presence in the country of a large number of motivated people for whom Russian is the native language.

The countries bordering with the Russian Federation are potential targets of aggression caused by domestic political reasons, namely, the need for the ruling group in the Russian Federation to retain the regime of V. Putin. The probability of such aggression in the “peace enforcement” format, tested in Georgia in 2008, will have been especially high in the period till 2024. Such an aggression will be a hybrid one, with a very high probability, therefore it is necessary to develop and begin to implement comprehensive strategies to counter such aggression, including the information war against the regime of V. Putin.

At present, the issue of Russia’s political regime “after Putin” is already topical. The most probable scenario in the event of the collapse of the current regime is the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, with the exception of certain territories, the withdrawal of which from the Russian Federation will not affect radically the potential of the state. Separatist sentiments exist, including in the form of “intellectual separatism” of a part of the Russian elite, but they are weak. The author has characterized above the factors impeding deep defragmentation of the Russian Federation.⁶⁰ There is such a strong factor against the collapse of the Russian Federation as the deep distrust and even hostility of a large part of Russians towards their neighbours. Disintegration in such a situation is perceived by a dominant majority of citizens of the Russian Federation as a prospect of absorption by hostile, aggressive, and not democratic neighbours – China, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia. There are also other factors countering deep defragmentation of the Russian Federation. Among them are mistrust, contradictions and even open conflicts between regional elites of the neighbouring constituent entities of the Russian Federation, potentially prone to secession. This factor is evident by example of the contradictions between the elites of the Chechen Republic on the one hand, and the Republic of Ingushetia and Dagestan – on the other. Recently, these contradictions have intensified. Hence, the change of borders between the Chechen Republic and the Republic of Ingushetia caused a mass Ingush protest rally in October, 2018 and violent disputes between Ingush and Chechen activists in social networks. These contradictions were aggravated by the actions of the head of the Chechen Republic R. Kadyrov and chairman of the parliament of the Chechen Republic M. Daudov (a former militant nicknamed “Lord”), who came to Ingushetia accompanied by numerous guards to demand apologies from authoritative Ingushs – participants of protest actions. The basis for the forecast of a low probability of disintegration of the Russian Federation is given by the experience of the early 1990s, when only the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria actually left the Russian Federation, while even Ingushetia that was part of the same autonomy with the Chechen Republic remained in the Russian Federation. Given the most likely scenario of preserving the territorial core of the Russian Federation, it is important to develop in advance a “Road Map” of priority measures to prevent the restoration of an authoritarian aggressive regime. The new Russian government will have to implement this plan extremely quickly, in a short transitional period for establishing new governmental bodies. The delay in its implementation can lead to the chance that this plan will not be implemented at all: at the very first really free election, a large number of populists will penetrate to the authorities of all levels. Consequently, the detailed “After Putin Road Map” should be ready in advance, like those who would implement it. Such work requires concerted efforts of several parties concerned: representatives of the Russian opposition in the Russian Federation; Russian opposition abroad; interested international and foreign organizations. An important issue of “After Putin” strategy is the issue of nuclear weapons of the Russian Federation. We can confidently predict that if the territorial core of the Russian Federation is preserved, it will retain the status of a nuclear power. V. Putin’s regime during the aggression against Ukraine clearly demonstrated the fundamental importance of the possession of nuclear weapons and the extreme weakness of international guarantees for non-nuclear countries. This lesson is accepted not only by the neighbours of the Russian Federation, but also by the elites of Russia: the renunciation of nuclear weapons makes the country defenceless in relations with its neighbours. Efficient protection is either membership in a strong military bloc, which includes nuclear states, or the absence of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the region. The Russian elite is well aware that it has neither the first nor the second guarantees. It is advisable to initiate in Ukraine, as the most interested state, a working meeting of representatives of the main analytical centres conducting research on modern Russia and developing practical recommendations to discuss the possibility of coordinated actions.

A less likely scenario for the development of events “after Putin” is defragmentation of the Russian Federation. However, this scenario is not excluded and was previously described in the works of the author of this article. The main reason for the manifestation of centrifugal processes in the Russian Federation is a high level of relative deprivation arising on the basis of the idea of ​​the injustice of the actions of the authorities in relation to “friends” (by ethnic, religious, regional affiliation). The main prerequisite for the active manifestation of separatism is paralysis, i.e., the cessation of the functioning of the vertical of power, first and foremost law enforcement structures. In other words, centrifugal tendencies will actively manifest themselves as a result of the destruction/suspension of the vertical control system. Not vice versa, i.e., separatism is unlikely to be the cause of the destruction of the power system in the Russian Federation. This convincingly confirms the history of separatism in the Russian Federation in the 20th century. From the point of view of the probability of manifestations of centrifugal tendencies, the author distributes the subjects of the Russian Federation into the following groups:

  1. High probability group: Chechen Republic, Republic of Dagestan, Republic of Ingushetia.

2. The average probability group: Kabardino-Balkar Republic, Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Republic of Tatarstan, Republic of Bashkortostan, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Republic Tyva, Republic of Buryatia, Republic of Karelia, Kaliningrad Province.

3. Low probability group: all other subjects of the Russian Federation.

It is advisable for Ukraine and other interested neighbouring countries of the Russian Federation to specify the forecast of the possible scale of defragmentation, the boundaries and conflict potential of new state entities, i.e., determine, based on the evidence-based research results, which territories can declare the formation of sovereign states, what are the boundaries of these states and the relations between them. Most of the publicly available forecasts and maps of new states, which would supposedly replace the Russian Federation after the collapse of V. Putin’s regime, suffer from the highest level of naivety and dilettantism. For the case of deep defragmentation of the Russian Federation, it is important to have a forecast of the migration consequences of the collapse for neighbouring states, i.e., to understand how the migration flows of Russians will be directed from areas of armed conflict or socio-political instability. It is also extremely important to have a strategy developed in advance for eliminating new nuclear threats that would arise in the event of a deep defragmentation of the Russian Federation. To coordinate the solution of these tasks, it is necessary to hold a working meeting of analytical centres of different countries specializing in the Russian Federation, to develop an action strategy and a format for interactions.


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⁴⁹В РФ в этом году открыли три новые колонии для экс-сотрудников правоохранительных органов. 3.09.2018//ТАSS.

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⁵²Урезание языков. Госдума приняла закон об отмене обязательного изучения национальных языков. 25.07.2018//Грани.ру.

⁵³Заседание Совета по межнациональным отношениям. 20.07.2018//Президент России.

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⁵⁸Whitehouse Mark. What Comes After Putin Could Be Trouble. The transfer of power will be perilous, says a prominent Russian sociologist. 25 August 2018//Bloomberg Opinion.

⁵⁹Статкевич: Кремль подготовлен к поглощению Беларуси. 01.10.2018//

⁶⁰Mikhail Savva. Centrifugal Tendencies in the Development of Russian Regions: Implications for Ukraine and the West. Centre for Russian Studies, Conference “Russian Statehood, Stable Instability”, Kyiv, 18 November, 2016.