INSOR Russia: Institute of Contemporary Development
Updated June 28, 2019

Warning, Turbulence Ahead

May 28, 2012

Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development Igor Yurgens sat for an interview with the Latvian newspaper Chas.


What did Medvedev accomplish?


- The Institute of Contemporary Development is often called Dmitry Medvedev’s think tank. How would you assess the four years of his presidency?


- Positively. Substantial progress was made in foreign relations, the reset with the United States, improvement of relations with Poland, restoration of relations with NATO and participation in the important Lisbon NATO summit in 2010.


In terms of our domestic political life, I would point out the beginning of a real anti-corruption campaign within law-enforcement agencies: approximately 200 generals are under investigation, and that’s not mentioning the thousands of lower ranking individuals. Of course, the process of decriminalizing law-enforcement agencies is far from over, but it was begun under Medvedev and not by anyone else.


Mevedev’s name is closely associated with the beginning of technological breakthroughs in certain areas – such as Skolkovo and a number of other technoparks.


It was Medvedev who launched the largest military reform in Russian history: conscripts serve in the army for only one year and everything is in place to reduce the army to 700,000-800,000 true professionals and get rid of the conscription process.


All this is no small success for four years. And I haven’t mentioned the ordinary affairs – that the country exited the 2008-2011 crisis with minimal losses, with a fully functioning financial and banking system, with minimal losses in the social arena. Furthermore, pensions have even been increased.


- Can the election of Vladimir Putin as president be interpreted as a turn away from liberalization of Russia?


- The return of Putin has been seen by many as a turn to so-called stability, which the young and creative segments of society perceive to be stagnation and a harbinger of a return to authoritarianism. No, Russia will not return to totalitarianism, but authoritarianism has always been intrinsic to Putin. But it would be premature to say that this is all for sure; the middle class has woken up and the country has begun to move a bit. And much cannot be returned, probably we will have to move forward, and that is why, they say, it’s not over yet.


- You advised Medvedev not to take the prime minister’s post. Why?


- I think that much more advantageous both for the entire country and for him would be the post of vice president of Russia. This post could be re-established – it’s not that complicated of a procedure… and Medvedev, as a lawyer, as the author of judicial reforms, as the author of parliamentary reforms – both the lower and upper chambers – could represent the president in parliament. Mevedev could also continue to oversee judicial reforms – this branch requires a deep-rooted renewal in order to provide Russia with true division of power.


What does turbulence mean?


- In your remarks at the Baltic Forum you said that Russia had entered a zone of turbulence. Is this turbulence connected with the domestic protest movement?


- Various forms of protest are present in all the regions. The protests differ in their intensity, frequency and manifestations, but they are everywhere, because a class has emerged that has something to protect. If authorities behave arrogantly, taking away your land or damaging the environment or driving arrogantly on the road, then this impacts people and civil society starts to form. People are no longer inarticulate. They have something to protect, they have certain savings (perhaps modest savings but more substantial than before). And what’s more, they are freer, simply inherently freer.


The zone of turbulence is related, firstly, to the fact that the right way needs to be found to represent these segments in the government. Secondly, this zone of turbulence will also depend on many external factors, which right now are not lining up very well – this includes what’s going on in the Eurozone, in Asia, in the US. The world has come up against a change in the existing order. The bipolar USSR-USA world crumbled. The US for a time managed to fill up three-fourths of the vacuum in global governance. And I wouldn’t say that the US strength has been exhausted, but it is clearly declining. China has not yet matured for global leadership. So we have a zone of turbulence, revolutionary chaos or chaotic revolutionism is being witnessed all over the world. Northern Africa is just one manifestation. And Russia, as one-seventh of the earth’s landmass, cannot be outside this process. So Russia’s domestic problems are being aggravated by external turbulence. And we, over the next one and a half to two years, must find some sort of solution for ourselves.


Interviewed by Ina Oshkaya