< Go Back


"Parallels Between Russia And Middle East Are Incorrect" States Aubert


PARIS, February 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Oscar Aubert, political scientist and expert on West Europe, Russia and CIS, has stated that the majority of Russians want "moderate reforms", and that the majority of supporters of Vladimir Putin are "moderate conservatives."

"Being in the captivity of clichés and stereotypes established by the "western world", the absolute majority of European and American analysts perceived (and broadcast this perception through mass media!) the protesters against the corrupt authoritarian regimes in the Arab states as fighters for democratization and liberalization of the political system.

"But, in fact, the share of "angry people" that demanded the development of democratic institutions in the sense in which we understand it, was negligible. The vast majority of protesters against low living standard, unemployment and corruption in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries sincerely believed that this negative situation is the result of excessive westernization of their countries. And the result of elections in Tunisia, and especially in Egypt, is a solid proof of that. Historically, the "Arab spring" represented a rollback of civilization, like the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978.

"It is quite excusable to forget the lesson of more than 30-year old history, but not to make conclusions after the events in the Middle East while assessing the situation in Russia is more a political lack of foresight.

"The author of these lines for many years studied political processes in Russia and is sure that parallels between the situation in Russia and the situation in Arab countries are incorrect. But if the West, and, in particular, the French analysts, already formed the trend of making such parallels, we can only obey. But the parallels should be built concerning the society, not the power. And, to begin with, let's ask ourselves - how do the Russians assess the processes occurring in their country? (All the sociological material, used by the author, is taken from the site of the Russian independent sociological research organization Levada Center.)

"The question - "What political system is better: the Soviet system, the current one or the democracy of Western countries?" At the end of January 2012, only 28% of Russians chose the Western democratic values. Almost as many supported the "Soviet system" - 27%, 20% expressed satisfaction with the existing system, and 8% chose the option "other".

"There is no doubt that the demand for the Western-style democracy exist Russia, but to consider it a "mainstream" would be an exaggeration. However, these figures appear in a different light if we remember that when Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 45% of Russians were for the return to the "Soviet system".

"The answers to the question: "What type of a state would you like Russia to be in the future?" even more clearly characterize the public mood in the Russian society. One Russian out of five (21%) answered "a socialist state like the USSR", almost a third (31%) - "a state similar to Western countries with market economy and democratic system", but a relative majority - 41% - chose the answer "a state with a special government system and its own way of development".

Besides, the supporters of government planning and distribution (49%) have a significant advantage over the supporters of private property and market relations (36%).

"If we match this picture of political and economic preferences of the Russians with the electoral map, we will see that the Putin majority consists of the supporters of moderate reforms and of moderate conservatives. The opposition is made up of radical reformers (liberals), on the one hand, and of radical left conservatives, on the other. The former are dissatisfied with the pace of reforms, the latter - with their direction.

"When it comes to Russia, in regard to reforms an indisputable "transport" rule is used: "the speed of the column must be equal to the speed of the slowest machine". Promoting reforms, certainly in the direction of western values, Vladimir Putin has to bear in mind the speed with which moderate conservatives can adapt to these values.

"An attempt to go only by radical reformers (proclaimed by some people in the West as spokesmen who express the demands of the entire Russian society) would lead to conservatives going into the opposition and to a split in the ranks of moderate reformers. Russia already witnessed it under Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. And if one is already making parallels, "Arab Spring" ended precisely with anti-Western "conservatives' revolutions" in Tunisia and Egypt.

"However, the revolution is not a threat for Russia - Vladimir Putin confidently relies on the majority of Russians, which, according to Levada Center inquiry, two weeks before the election amounts to exactly two thirds of those who decided to take part in voting. After the election he will continue his unhurried movement on the European vector, persuading and urging his conservative fellow countrymen."

Oscar Aubert is a sociologist, political scientist, an expert for West Europe, Russia and CIS

SOURCE Russia Insights

Back to top