Ekaterina Vinokurova: ''Now all depends on how loud the reaction of national republics will be''

Special correspondent of Znak.com about Vladimir Putin's statement on ‘’learning non-native languages’’, the presidential election and the future of Russia

Will the statement of Vladimir Putin about ''learning of non-native languages'' will be disavowed? Why is there still no official statement on nomination of the incumbent president for a new term? What Russia will be like after the last presidential term of Vladimir Putin? Special correspondent at Znak.com Ekaterina Vinokurova answered to the questions of Realnoe Vremya.

''He needs to increase support audience, not least because half of his young supporters have no right to vote yet''

It seems that after the recent rallies, the popularity and activity of the main opposition leader has started to decline. Besides, there is the scandal with Turovsky and a lack of understanding with Open Russia. Is it a natural process or it is the work of Kremlin political strategists?

In answer to your question, for the sake of honesty, personally I have a low opinion of Navalny, so perhaps some of my assessments are affected by my personal attitude. As for his activity decline: first, he was in jail for 25 days, and, unfortunately, here is such thing that has been repeatedly noted, especially in the period when he was under house arrest — his team is not equal to Navalny. Once he disappears, their general activity is reduced because the main vector disappears.

Second, it's summer after all, a general summer slowdown. Third, the meetings were held, but it is not clear what will happen next. He announced a September protest demonstration, however, the regular format of these meetings raises the question: ''What else besides meetings?'' The format of repeated rallies already was in the history of the Russian opposition of the past 17 years — it is Dissenters' marches, and Strategy-31. Now there is a difference in that the rallies are being actively taken up in the regions, but the general format remains the same.

Navalny is a leader of emotional type, but no emotion is possible to keep on the same level over a long period. When the movie He Is Not Dimon To You came out, it infuriated many people, they came out to the streets to express protest, but to gather people, for example, on the anniversary of the release of the film is a more difficult task because the emotion is already burnt.

As for scandals with volunteers: in my opinion, Navalny a little underestimates how in love with him are his young supporters. He says that people do it not for him, but for changes, but many people, especially young people, come out just because they are in love with him as a leader. By the way, if I'm not mistaken, Andrey Movchan compared them with the Jehovah's Witnesses (laughs).

If to speak about sad aspects, very strange impression gives that in response to any criticism Navalny begins to taunt his opponents. Maybe for young audience it is ok, but for older audience it looks unattractive. In a recent interview he started to say that there are good political experts (those who praise him) and all the other — experts who comment on any topic at any time of the day, and speaking of the latter, he deliberately distorted the names of two experts. How childish.

Now he needs to think what to do with communications and his supporters because the presence of problems is apparent. Besides, it is necessary to think about a more aged audience, on whom all the recent events do not produce a clear impression — for them it is not serious, radical. He needs to increase audience support, not least because now half of his young supporters have no right to vote yet.

There is another point that everyone missed: municipal elections are to take place in Moscow, and they are very important for the capital at least because we have almost for the first time during the long history had a rally dedicated to urban problem, not federal, as it usually happens in Moscow. Many people go to the municipal council, and only low turnout can kill them. Now the big question — will Navalny encourage people to support independent municipal candidates? If he says that it is not his business if he or his circle are not involved in the municipal election, it will look very autocratic. This will be a proof that he doesn't care about a possibility of some smooth changes of wide range if he is not a leader.

''Now he needs to think what to do with communications and his supporters because the presence of problems is apparent.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

''The gap in the standard of living between the ruling class and people is too large, it is beyond all decency, and they have to do something with it''

It seems that everyone has already accepted the fact that Vladimir Putin will run for president and he will win the election. But why is there still no official statement?

Putin, as I understand it, does not like false starts. He will wait. Last time he announced his nomination on September 22, two months before the campaign. I think that can we expect some events in the autumn.

Personally, I think that this time it would be better to make a statement earlier because at the moment we are being in a little strange situation: in the information space there is a ''referendum on confidence or mistrust'' to Aleksey Navalny. The frozen in anticipation information field is occupied by Navalny, and it seems to me that it's not a winning situation for Putin. Honestly, the feeling I have is that we are being persuaded: ''Please, wait for another six years.''

''Putin, as I understand it, does not like false starts. He will wait. <...> I think that can we expect some events in the autumn.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

Does the new administration succeed in finding a new concept and strategy he will go with to the election? Perhaps, in the margins there are being discussions about what, in what scenario should the election go?

Now in our politics there is being a period similar to what occurs in business in December, when all the decisions are taken ''well, after the New Year''. After approximately 15 December all the space freezes, because the whole country is preparing to celebrate New Year, and people come back only on 15 January. All problematic points, reforms and changes now are being postponed in the same way: ''We will discuss it after the elections 2018.''

Yes, they say that a programme of several large reforms is being written for Putin, with which he will go to the election, and among them there is a political reform, in which, in particular, the procedure of gubernatorial elections will be changed — the municipal filter in the form it exists today will cease to exist. What they will offer instead — I don't know, maybe it will be worse.

At the same time, we have accumulated questions to which there are no adequate answers. The so-called ''image of the future'' is actually a set of questions and complaints. It is certainly claims to the ruling class because the gap in the standard of living between the ruling class and people is too large, it is beyond all decency, and they have to do something with it. There are economic questions: according to Rosstat, more than a third of Russians, if I am not mistaken, are living below the poverty threshold. Of course, the question arises: ''What to do with it?'' By the way, Putin should take into account the fact that he becomes president of the poor country, not rich.

I know that questions arise in the regions: more and more they pay attention to the fact that the centre depletes all the resources of the regions, especially in regions-donors that are not many. Besides, we have virtually destroyed field for a normal dialogue between the government and the society because almost all the institutions are decorative in nature and, roughly speaking, it is unclear how to solve a problem without going to the barricade. Often it comes down to the fact that in order to stop a cutting of a square they have to organize a mass rally.

All these and many other questions should be answered. It also should be taken into account that this term for Putin will be the last one, and within this term he will need to summarize because the topic of this endless appeal to the 1990s is just outdated. Sorry but the 1990s ended 17 years ago. The same is with the appeal to the Soviet Union, which is even more technologically incorrect.

Photo: Mikhail Kozlovsky

''The Kremlin always carefully studies public reaction''

Today, almost everything that is done by Putin is perceived as part of his election campaign. Is it possible here to include the loud statement that forcing someone to learn a language that is not native to him is unacceptable?

Honestly, today I do not really understand the policy of the Kremlin in relation, in particular, to Tatarstan. Tatarstan is a region-donor, with historically very strong elites, with a very large demand for some autonomy within the Russian Federation. By the way, it seems to me that the story with the federal contract there will have certain political consequences…

As for the language issue, there are many aspects here. Perhaps, when Putin says such things, he means Russian-speaking population in the CIS countries – the so-called Ukrainization of Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine or people who live in the Baltic states who are not given citizenship because they speak Russian.

Another aspect is that this statement arouses concern in our national republics. I think that the Kremlin should explain this statement. Perhaps, he meant that learning the second language should be voluntary, but, at the same time, all opportunities should be created for its learning, and a lack of knowledge of a national language in a national republic should not be a reason not to give a job in state service, for example. In this context, everything may be ok.

The third aspect is that the statement about compulsory learning of language can be applied to the studying of the English language in schools because the English language is a compulsory subject. In this case, I am completely disagree with Putin. The more languages a person speaks, the better it is. By the way, it is most efficient to learn them in early age. If I lived in a national republic, I would love to learn national language just because I like when on the streets I understand everything people say (laughs). The English language gives us an opportunity to find out how people live abroad, to communicate with them, and, by the way, to get rid of myths that are actively spread.

Can this statement be disavowed?

As far as I know, the Kremlin always carefully studies the public reaction to such topics, and if they see that reaction is sharply negative, they carry out explanatory work, they begin to disavow. Now it all depends on how loud the reaction of national republics will be. If it is seen that this statement caused a huge public outcry, protest, people are offended and so on, then of course, there will be some mitigating statements.

Photo: prav.tatar.ru

''A revolutionary way — it is a bad way''

Is there an alternative to Vladimir Putin and whether we will see it by the end of his next term? Who may come to power after him and how it can change the political system?

We are coming to the discussion about Russia after Putin, and, by the way, this quite new trend has already appeared in the public field. People begin to discuss what Russia will be after Putin, and how changes and reforms will be technically implemented. There is a scenario, according to which Putin transfers power to a successor that becomes a transitional figure. After that, as one very clever man said, by 2030 we will choose a Kennedy — a ''president of hope''.

There is also another scenario: social discontent grows, nobody solves the problems, and a social explosion happens. I think that a revolutionary way is a bad way because I have never seen that after a revolution something good happened. I don't think that the revolution in Ukraine has led to dismantling the system – many people remained in the same positions, and I wouldn't say that people have benefited something.

One more scenario: some alternative politician or politicians appear, by 2024 at free elections they win over a Kremlin candidate and start building the future. Although this scenario is the best, it seems to me not quite realistic, unfortunately.

I think that by 2024 there will be several alternative politicians because the choice we are forced to – if you don't want Putin, then you are automatically for Navalny – is not the best one. Navalny in this case can do everything he wants, tell everything he wants just because he is not Putin. This situation is highly dangerous because a politian is initially freed of public control.

In this context, it would be great if as much leaders of regional level as possible appeared. It would be great, but today the system is sharpened so that such people did not appear here. Amid this background, only radical politicians ( and I consider Navalny to be a politician of radical type) have a chance to gain something, and it is a very dangerous situation.

By Lina Sarimova

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