Valery Solovey: ''Kiriyenko made a number of missteps''

The Russian political analyst about Ulyukaev’s hopes and Kadyrov’s pacification

Valery Solovey: ''Kiriyenko made a number of missteps'' Photo: facebook.com

Over some six months, ''the demand for change'' and ''the image of the future'' have become the most popular memes of the Russian political agenda that were previously well known only to the readers of the newspaper Zavtra. A famous historian, political scientist and publicist Valery Solovey told in the interview with Realnoe Vremya what gives sense to these memes, particularly about a growing political activity of citizens, bewilderment of the elites and yet hidden function of Ramzan Kadyrov.

The requests from the regions were allowed to take their own course: react as you want

Mr Solovey, not so long ago you have twitted that the situation in the country is being rocked not by conspiracy but ''stupidity and methodology''. Apparently, you meant ''Shedrovitsky followers'' and their main public representative Sergey Kiriyenko? What mistakes were made by the presidential administration under him?

Yes, I meant close to Kiriyenko advisers from the group of ''methodologists''. According to general opinion (under general I understand the opinion of Moscow political experts and people close to the presidential administration of the Russian Federation), they could not find a correct political line of behaviour and made a number of missteps. Regarding, for example, a response to the events on 26 March and 12 June, and the reaction on Navalny phenomenon in general. You remember, the video where Navalny is compared to Hitler, or the song by Alisa Voks, which appeals to the students not to go to meetings but to ''start from yourself''. It is clear that it was coming from the administration. All this worked to the benefit of Aleksey Navalny. I'm not even talking about more serious things, when the requests from the regions to tell them how they should respond to the action of Navalny were actually allowed to take their course: react as you want. It is despite the fact that the vast majority of the Russian regions (Tatarstan, in this case, is an exception) needs to know the position of the Kremlin and clear guidelines.

This is one part of the problem. The second part is that people who are tightly integrated into the administration of the president rate low its ability to solve the problems facing the country and the Kremlin particularly. But there is some contradiction because personally Sergey Kiriyenko they rated pretty high. But at the same time, they say that he, at least until the summer of this year, was not able to establish an effective work of the administration. Perhaps, it was connected with domestic opposition. It was not everything okay here, he had conflicts with other prominent apparatchiks. Whether he was thinking for too long or it was connected with the fact that when he gave consent to work in the administration the country was in one situation, but now, since early spring of this year, there has been a political revival. That is, the situation has changed, and it had to be comprehended, understood what was happening and suggest how to deal with it.

''Kiriyenko was probably promised a reward if he would effectively do his job, that is, successfully hold the presidential campaign.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

The elite is accumulating stress, frustration and fear

The trial of former Minister of Economic Development of Russia Alexey Ulyukaev has started, at which the defendant accused the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin of provoking a bribe. What do you think, what else we can hear during the process?

Actually, we still haven't heard. For political Moscow what Ulyukaev has said is no secret — this scenario had been discussed long before the court. More precisely, not the scenario but the background of the events.

I think that nothing we will hear. Ulyukayev is certainly not going to disclose any Kremlin secrets because it is fraught with deterioration of the situation. I think he still hopes that his charge will be requalified as less serious and he will get a suspended sentence. Or he will be released by the upcoming amnesty on the occasion of the centenary of the October Revolution. But there won't be an acquittal – it's for sure.

''I think that nothing we will hear. Ulyukayev is certainly not going to disclose any Kremlin secrets because it is fraught with deterioration of the situation.'' Photo: iz.ru

How would you comment on the assumption by Aleksey Venediktov that behind the statement of Ulyukaev there stands Sergey Chemezov?

It can be anyone. Aleksey Venediktov has expressed a sensible idea in general. Chemezov and Sechin are opponents. And if they are opponents, Chemezov as an influential person could support Ulyukaev somehow not to simplify the life to Igor Ivanovich. But even if behind the statement of Ulyukaev there stands Chemezov, this does not mean that the sentence will be acquittal. The prosecution will have their own way, no doubt about it. Ulyukayev will certainly not be able to get out of the courtroom with a clean spotless reputation. For the Russian court, it is suitable to write like above Dante's hell, '' Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate'' or ''Abandon all hope who enter here''. Such a hopeless place it is.

All the fuss will be around what specifically Ulyukaev will get — imprisonment, suspended sentence or amnesty.

So, the court is not telling us about some tectonic shifts, ''split of elites'', as suggested by Dmitry Gudkov?

There is no split. A split in the elites is when different groups of elites have different views on how one should build a strategy of development of the country and society, not when they are fighting for resources. The split in the Russian elite will arise in one case — when the central government will be pressed with people's uprisings. Then the elite will have doubts about its political future and there will be different versions of this future.

''He performs two functions. First, to maintain stability in Chechnya and to maintain stability in the North Caucasus. He is the personal guarantor of stability in the region. And second, to act as the backbone of the regime in the event of mass unrest.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

''We will face a lot of local protests, which gradually merge into a nation-wide''

What is the role of Ramzan Kadyrov in the Russian elite?

He performs two functions. First, to maintain stability in Chechnya and to maintain stability in the North Caucasus. He is the personal guarantor of stability in the region. And second, to act as the backbone of the regime in the event of mass unrest.

What is the reason for the statement by the head of VCIOM Valery Fyodorov that the demand for stability in the Russian society has been replaced by the demand for changes? Especially in light of the fact that Fyodorov considers this phase dangerous, I quote, ''The revolutionary sentiments appear not in a situation of crisis but when a crisis is over.''

The demand for change after the twenty years long, if not more, demand for stability — this is a very serious, almost a tectonic shift. But to what consequences it will lead, we will find out not immediately but within two or three years. Because a change in the minds of people is not enough — it is much more important to change their political behaviour. We have signs of such political newness – it is people's participation in unsanctioned actions and the phenomenon of Navalny. That's what Gleb Pavlovsky called as politicization.

''A change in the minds of people is not enough — it is much more important to change their political behaviour. We have signs of such political newness – it is people's participation in unsanctioned actions and the phenomenon of Navalny.'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

We just need to understand that the mass dynamics is absolutely and fundamentally unpredictable. We don't know how political activity will develop. I am inclined to believe that it will go incrementally, that is, we will face a lot of local protests that will gradually merge into national-wide. I do not rule out that the beginning to this will be this autumn.

But political crisis by itself, if we enter it, and it seems that we are slowly entering it, will last not less than two years, even three years. But all this is under a big question mark. Because the change of the sentiments of citizens does not mean a change of behaviour automatically.

To be continued

By Rustem Shakirov