In the Soviet Union that preceded Russia, power transitions styled after the palace coup. The current situation bears slight resemblance to the description of Crane Brinton’s classic text, The Anatomy of Revolution. One element makes his list, another has partial resemblance, and one does not:
- A period of increasing prosperity, followed by sudden reversal. See (BBC) Life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia explained in 10 charts.
- Incompetent use of power. Brinton’s meaning is power against internal opponents, though it is doubtful that domestic exercise would be sufficient to rescue an unstable power structure.
- There is no sign of involvement of the masses with Brinton’s stereotypical grievances, which might happen if Putin asks more of them by declaration of war, mass mobilization, or sanctions bite very hard.
Some nascent signs imply the future emergence of an as-yet invisible organized opposition. It follows Sri Lanka Bombings; Argentine author Jorge Borges, The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim, except that instead of the search for a mastermind, we look for a structure.
(The Hill, 2/11/22) A retired Russian general’s criticism may signal a larger problem for Putin. Quoting,
Retired Russian Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the All-Russian Officers Assembly, has gone public with a statement that calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign over the confrontation involving Ukraine.
On 2/11/22, the background of rebellious attitude was black. Since then 12+ generals have been killed. Ivashov represents reservist and retired officers, but there is no social barrier to empathy as might occur with non-commissioned soldiers.
Preceding recruitment, the structure builds by diffusion. One path for diffusion of rebellious sentiment is retired generals–>active generals–>down as far down as colonel. In the history of military coups and rebellions, the rank of colonel is prominent. A figure analogous to a “young Turk”, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, or Muammar Gaddafi, both colonels, might emerge. Not so distant from the foxhole themselves, colonels can relate to and recruit lower ranks. The doughnut fills in.
Given the Soviet tradition of gerontocracy, legitimacy might be beyond the reach of Turks, requiring involvement of more senior figures. Perhaps, as happened thrice in Soviet history, a diarchy, or triarchy:
- After Stalin’s death: Malenkov, Beria and Molotov.
- After Beria’s death: Khrushchev and Malenkov.
- After Khrushchev was deposed, Brezhnev and Kosygin.
After Kosygin was pushed out, top leadership collapsed to a single person. The current role of prime minister is strictly subsidiary. Nevertheless, collective leadership, originated by Lenin, has legitimacy in the Russian mind.
Clandestine cell systems are typically part of the activity, but not historically in the Soviet Union, where there was a dynamic based on personal loyalty. If Stalin was poisoned by Beria, which is my view, no cell was documented, no conspirators identified.
- In the arrest of Beria, Khrushchev relied on Marshal Zhukov, who relied on personal loyalty to assemble the force.
- In 1957, Zhukov successfully defended Khrushchev from the Stalinist “Anti-Party Group“, saying “The Army is against this resolution and not even a tank will leave its position without my order!”
Zhukov was uniquely able to defy the otherwise impeccable subordination of the military to the Party. Now it might be less difficult; the grip of the Kremlin on the armed forces is not what it used to be. The Soviet armed forces were politically uniform in ideology; in the absence of such it is a marketplace for ideas.
Zhukov’s existence was dependent on a degree of personal loyalty that may still exist in segments of Russian society, facilitating actions that in other societies requires a clandestine cell system.
To be continued shortly.