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Quick recap of developments since the last update.

Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly

First half consisted of boring economic and political stuff (e.g. increasing GDP by 50% over the next 6 years, implying 7% growth – as realistic as his promise to create 25 million hi-tech jobs last year). Nobody really cares about this.

In the second half, wearing his purple tie of esoteric power, Putin entered hardcore Dr. Strangelove territory, revealing a range of awesome nuclear weaponry with the mediocre CGI demonstrations:

1. A nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range that sounds somewhat redolent of Project Pluto [hmm, could this have been related?]

2. An aircraft-launched hypersonic missile with unlimited range [presumably ramjet based]

3. A nuclear-powered underwater drone that would autonomously cruise the world’s oceans at extremely fast speeds [so presumably using supercavitation] until called upon to detonate its 100MT yield warhead at a port, seeding the area with cobalt-60 that will make it uninhabitable for centuries.

This is all great news, since atomophobia is worse than racism.

Ben Aris commented that this speech would be remembered alongside his Munich speech in 2007, as a throwing down of the gauntlet to the West. However, another commenter replied to him he got a “strong ‘greatest hits, remastered’ vibe off of it.” My take, for what it is worth, is closer to the latter. With less than three weeks to go to the elections, Putin has not even bothered with compiling an official program, and doesn’t even intend to create original agitation videos (instead, they will be compiled from past clips of his speeches). Putin needs to do something to make people show up and excite the normies, and I suppose this is as good as any.

Zhirinovsky vs. Grudinin

PredictIt has finally opened a market on the Russian elections: Who will place 2nd in the 1st round of the 2018 Russian presidential election?

Current odds:

  • Grudinin – 69%
  • Zhirinovsky – 42%
  • Putin, Yavlinsky, Sobchak – 1%

I bought some Zhirik when he was in the 30%’s, because I think it’s basically 50/50 between them. But won’t become rich because the market is very low volume.


There were many good things under Hitler,” – Xenia “She-Wolf of the SS” Sobchak. (out of context quote)

Grudinin on Donbass

Grudinin on the Donbass:

The Donbass population should deal with the situation on its own, [said Grudinin] in Saint-Petersburg… He said that Russia shouldn’t help the denizens of the DNR and LNR, because they can resolve things by themselves.

More confirmation Grudinin is by far the most pro-Ukrainian of the main non-liberal candidates. But nothing more can be expected of a Communist Stalinist with offshore accounts in the West and a “rootless cosmopolitan” by the standards of his own idol.

Or, The Saker is right (for once), and Israel Shamir is wrong.

The 70/70 Myth

There’s this meme or trope amongst Russia observers that the Presidential Administration is aiming to get a “70/70″ (70% for Putin, 70% turnout).

As Alexander Kireev explains, this is nonsense.

Polls indicate that (real, pre-fraud) turnout will be no more than 60% at best.

Putin is polling around 80%. Minus 5% because polls tend to overestimate his support; plus 5% to reflect the customary level of fraud in Russia’s Presidential elections.

For Putin to get 70%, the electoral fraud would actually have to be in favor of his challengers. This is exceedingly unlikely. The local bureaucrats who tally the numbers are not going to do “creative” things like adding voices for Grudinin or Sobchak, since it would put their own skins at risk, e.g. if the kremlins decide to scapegoat one of them for electoral falsification, to “prove” that the “opposition” also engages in fraud.

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How is the Russian media covering the elections?

I don’t watch TV, so I can’t give any personal impressions, but fortunately there are other people to do that in succinct graphical format.

Color scheme is constant: Grudinin, Putin, Zhirinovsky, Yavlinsky, Titov, Baburin, Sobchak.


Total number of media mentions in segments about the elections.


Average number of seconds of TV time per elections segments.


Positive/negative coverage of election candidates.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Media, Politics, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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First polls are in with all eight of the official candidates. There are no surprises.

Results of VCIOM and FOM polls, both from Feb 11 (adjusting for don’t knows, won’t votes, etc.):

Putin 82.3% 84.2%
Zhirinovsky 6.3% 6.8%
Grudinin 8.4% 6.8%
Sobchak 1.2% 1.1%
Yavlinsky 0.9% 0.6%
Titov 0.2% 0.1%
Suraykin 0.1% 0.1%
Baburin 0.6% 0.3%

Only marginal change from what I was expected is that it seems Baburin might take sixth place instead of Titov, but the numbers are so small it doesn’t really matter anyway.

What evidently is a problem, as I have been pointing out, is projected turnout. There’s a chance it might be even lower than 60%, lower even than in the anodyne 2004 election, when nobody of even marginal significance bothered running against Putin.

So they’re evidently getting to work on this.




I have asked a few people about this who have been here longer than I have, and there is a general consensus that there are greater efforts to get people out to vote than in any previous election under Putin.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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russia-elections-2018-official-bulletin So the final official bulletin was confirmed a few days ago. Here are the candidates:

Sergey Baburin (Russian All-People’s Union)

Has an interesting history: Was elected a people’s deputy in the Supreme Soviet of Russia in 1990, and by early 1991 had become the leading contender to become its Chairman, beating out Ruslan Khasbulatov in the first round; then came the abortive August Coup, and he was sidelined as a hardliner (he was later one of only seven deputies to vote against the ratification of the Belavezha Accords in December 1991, and played a critical role in getting the Russian parliament to recognize the transfer of Crimea to the Ukraine as having been unconstitutional in 1992). But if things had gone differently in 1991, he might have played a central role in 1990s Russian politics. As it is, he faded away and is now merely “widely known in narrow circles.”

Constituency*: National-patriots, nationalists, White Guardists

Predicted share of the vote: Would do well to get 1% and beat Titov and Suraykin.

Pavel Grudinin (Communist Party)

Wrote about him here, here.

Latest development is him calling Stalin the “greatest leader in the past 100 years” in an interview with Russian YouTube star Yury Dud.

Constituency: Old Communists, Red bourgeoisie, national-patriots

Predicted share of the vote: As I expected, he seems to have capped out at around 7% in VCIOM and FOM polls (would be higher after adjusting for undecideds). Remains slightly but consistently ahead of Zhirinovsky, so will probably come second. Would do well to get 10%.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party)

His platform.

Constituency: Nationalists, trolls

Predicted share of the vote: Probably around 6-7%. Would do well to beat Grudinin to second place, and is obviously trying to do so (e.g. lavishing praise on Suraykin, since he is an obvious spoiler to Grudinin).

Vladimir Putin (Independent)

No idea who this guy is, or what he’s doing here.

zog-necklace Ksenia Sobchak (Civil Initiative)

Safe stand-in for Navalny, because she has an even higher anti-rating. She has said some things that are very unpopular with ordinary people (Crimea is Ukrainian under international law; Russia is a nation of genetic refuse). But this is par for the course for Russian liberals, who do constitute a distinct voting bloc – after all, around 10% of Russians genuinely didn’t support the Crimean takeover – so this is hardly going to dent her numbers. Supports gay marriage, weed legalization. Has spent the past week doing a literal apology tour in the US.

Constituency: Young SWPL liberals, SJWs

Predicted share of the vote: Would do very well to get 4%. Still, virtually guaranteed to be fourth.

Maxim Suraykin (Communists of Russia)

Boring Komsomol activist. Not clear what his views actually are – his main shtick seems to be that Grudinin only pretends to be a Communist but is actually a capitalist fat cat who is not even a KPRF member.

Constituency: Young Communists, Euroleftists

Predicted share of the vote: He might have had a chance to eke out 1-2% if he was above Grudinin in the list, since babushkas would see the “Communist” next to his name and vote for him out of reflex. As it is, he’ll do great not to be dead last.

Boris Titov (Party of Growth)

Business rights activist, friendly with Putin. Supports Crimea, but against incorporating the LDNR into Russia.

Constituency: Too patriotic to appeal to liberals, too liberal to appeal to patriots.

Predicted share of the vote: Would do extremely well to get 1%. Will probably come sixth, but it’s ultimately a toss-up between him, Baburin, and Suraykin.

Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko)

A Jew from Lvov, Ukraine, he emerged from the Soviet dissident movement to become lifelong Fuhrer of Russia’s leading liberal party Yabloko, which he has headed since 1993 (no term limits for him). Expelled Navalny from the party in 2007 for being too nationalist (!). Advocates the unconditional return of Crimea to the Ukraine, decries Russia’s “imperialist” pursuit of Great Power ambitions, and came out against Putin’s recent directive to stop the mandatory teaching of the Tatar language to Russian schoolchildren in Tatarstan.

Constituency: Old liberals, dissidents

Predicted share of the vote: Will probably come fifth – would do extremely well to beat Sobchak.


Political Compass

My ballpark estimates:

Social Liberalism vs. Conservatism: Sobchak, Yavlinsky < (Navalny) << Grudinin < Putin, Zhirinovsky (curiously, Zhirinovsky has criticized the gay propaganda law, so he’s somewhat of a mixed quantity)

Economic Left vs. Right: Grudinin < Yavlinsky < Putin, Sobchak, Titov < Navalny. (Zhirinovsky has an eclectic mix of socialist, market, and even libertarian ideas and can’t really be classified)

Internationalism vs. Nationalism: Yavlinsky, Sobchak < Grudinin (has criticized “Russian World” concept as akin to fascism) < Putin, Navalny, Titov < Zhirinovsky, Baburin

Ukrainophilia vs. Revanchism: Yavlinsky (half-Ukrainian; wants to give Crimea back unconditionally) < (Navalny) (half-Ukrainian; insists on a second referendum in Crimea) < Sobchak (has merely said that Crimea was illegal) << Titov < Grudinin < Putin < Zhirinovsky, Baburin

Opinion Polls: Suraykin, Baburin, Titov < Yavlinsky, Sobchak < Zhirinovsky, Grudinin < Putin

* “Constituency” is considerably influenced by Natalia Kholmogorova’s schema.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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I am not aware of any active Russian political predictions markets, apart from “Will Vladimir Putin be president of Russia at the end of 2018?” at PredictIt (currently at 93% FWIW).

I suppose there are three main reasons for this:

1. Interesting American fads only reach Russia with a lag time of several times, if they ever do.

2. Russian politics is predictable. Sure, Putin will win. OTOH, predicting things such as the turnout rate, or Zhirinovsky’s share of the vote, or whether or not Navalny spends more than 80 days in jail in 2018, could still be pretty fun.

3. Legal obstructions. Online betting is highly restricted in Russia (e.g. I can’t even access Oddschecker without a VPN).

Furthermore, political predictions market would seem to be outright banned by Article 56, part 3 of the Russian elections law of 2003, which forbids “lotteries and other risk based games” where the winning of prizes depends on the results of the elections.

Even so, VCIOM has opened a predictions market, apparently skirting the law because they don’t take money from any of the participants and thus fail to qualify as a lottery or risk-based game.


Here are the current predictions: Putin – 72%, Grudinin – 11%, Zhirinovsky – 10%, Sobchak – 2%, with turnout pegged at 65%.

Activity seems to be very low, so I don’t think this market is informationally worth much.

On the same website subsection as the predictions market, VCIOM has also released more detailed polls in terms of electoral socio-demographics, which confirm many of the observations I have long made on Russian politics.

(In the following charts: Blue = Putin; Yellow = Zhirinovsky; Pink = Grudinin; Gray = Sobchak; Green = Yavlinsky; Blue = Titov).


Just for orientation: If the elections were to be held on the next Sunday, around 73% would vote for Putin.


Female political conformism: As in the FOM poll, Putin scores much better with women (~78%) than with men (~68%), whereas both the Communist and nationalist candidate score twice better amongst the men, if from a low base.


Old communists, young nationalists: Also as in the FOM poll, the 18-24 year olds are giving Zhirinovsky around 10% to Grudinin’s 5%, while the 60+ year olds are giving 10% to Grudinin and almost nothing to Zhirinovsky.

Some other observations:

Employment: As is an old-established pattern, state workers (~75%) support Putin more than workers in the private sector (~70%).

Location: As usual, residents of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg are the least pro-Putin (~68%), relative to residents of large cities (~70%), small cities (~75), and rural areas (close to 80%).

Income: People with the lowest incomes are significantly more likely to vote for Zhirinovsky, presumably because they tend to the young (more nationalist) and the unemployed.

Anti-rating: Sobchak has by far the highest.

In other Russian elections news, Navalny is planning to lead his flock to a new series of protest meetings tomorrow (Jan 28) in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. I don’t expect anything interesting to happen either now or before the elections in general. Navalny will be arrested, probably before he shows up, and will spend a fortnight in jail. 200 people will get arrested. Turnout will not exceed 10,000, the maximum (realistic) estimate for turnout at the last protests on Tverskaya in March 2017. I probably won’t bother showing up to cover the event.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Prediction, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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Navalny claimed that the state-owned pollsters VCIOM were artificially inflating Putin’s figures, so his Anti-Corruption Fund will start releasing their own weekly polls, the first of which has just been released in Navalny’s latest video address.

Reminder that Putin got 66% in the last FOM poll, and 73% in the last VCIOM poll.

FBK poll:


Oops, what a fail: Putin still gets 62%.


And this is their prediction, which accounts for undecideds, in which Putin gets 78% – which is, incidentally, perfectly in line with my own old-standing prediction.

Meanwhile, as per my last post, this confirms that Grudinin seems to have stopped making gains relative to Zhirinovsky in the past week, having instead merely converged with him.

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Turnout might be much lower than even the record low (60%) than I posited.

Leonid Bershidsky in a recent article:

There are indications that turnout could be lower than ever. Levada Center predicted 52 to 54 percent in December, and the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, a respected independent think tank, came out with a 52 percent forecast earlier this month, putting expected turnout in Moscow and St. Petersburg well below 40 percent. That would be a disaster for the Kremlin: Even the 2004 election, the most boring in history since not a single political heavyweight dared run against Putin, drew 64.3 percent of registered voters.

Campaigning from Putin has been lackluster to say the least.

Main development is that the campaign website has finally been launched ( ). At the time Bershidsky wrote his post, it didn’t even have a program.

That has since been remedied, though the “program” as such consists of a dozen random sound bites (fully open the Crimea bridge at the end of the year; regulate cryptocurrencies; create a network of educational centers for gifted children).

A couple of new polls since my last update.


1. First FOM poll to include Pavel Grudinin (KPRF) gives him 6.2%, translating to around 7.6% adjusting for undecideds, spoiled ballots, etc.

Other candidates: Putin – 65.9%, Zhirinovsky – 6.0%, Sobchak – 1.5%. (The others probably won’t be registered).


FOM is also great in that it usually gives considerably demographic detail [xls].

Some takeaways:

a) Reinforces a point I have often made that Communists are dying out, while nationalists are gaining, as is the pattern in much of the rest of the world. Zhirinovsky gets 2% amongst boomers, but 9% amongst the 18-45 year olds; Grudinin gets 7% amongst the boomers, but only 2% amongst the 18-30 year olds.

b) Women are 73% for Putin, vs. 57% of men, while Grudinin and Zhirinovsky are both about twice as popular amongst men as women. As I said: Female political conformism.

c) US-based pro-Western elections analyst Alexander Kireev notes that Grudinin is performing really well relative to the elections in 2004, the only other election in the age of Putin when the KPRF fielded someone who was not Zyuganov. In the first FOM poll in 2004, Kharitonov got a mere 1.5%, but went on to get 13.7% of the vote (15% adjusting for fraud).

Considering that 69% of Russians still haven’t heard of Grudinin – a pretty lame affair, considering he is now the second place candidate in the polling for an election that is a mere two months away – there is room of him to grow further.

However, I would caution against projecting some sort of exponential trendline:

i) The Communist electorate has been inexorably reduced by the demographic grindstone – it is smaller today than in 2004.

ii) Whereas 69% of Russians were hearing about Grudinin for the first time in this poll, it was only 36% amongst Communist voters.

It was LDPR (72%) and United Russia (78%) voters who were most ignorant about him.

According to this poll, some 53% of Communist voters and 38% of Fair Russia voters say they will consider voting for Grudinin, versus only 15% of LDPR voters and 9% of United Russia voters.

Consequently, it is likely that the majority of his core electorate already knows about him.


2. That this is so is suggested by a new VCIOM poll.

According to them, Grudinin actually peaked on Jan 10, when 7.2% of Russians said they’d vote for Grudinin if elections were held on the nearest Sunday (or 7.6% amongst the firmly decided) versus 4.7% for Zhirinovsky (or 4.2% amongst the firmly decided).

However, as of this poll Jan 15, Grudinin and Zhirinovsky had both converged to 6.1%.

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After the surprise Communist candidacy of Pavel Grudinin, the main question was always going to be whether he would merely inherit Zyuganov’s ratings – or climb well above them by invigorating Russians with the prospect of a new face in politics.

We had to wait a couple of weeks longer than usual due to the New Year holidays, but we now have our answer with the release of the first elections poll to include him.


Here is how the numbers now look according to VCIOM:

  • Putin – 81.1%;
  • Zhirinovsky (nationalist) – 4.2%;
  • Grudinin (communist) – 7.6% (Zyuganov had been at 3.3%);
  • Sobchak (liberal) – 0.7%
  • other people (mostly libs) – 1.6%
  • will spoil ballot – 0.4%
  • can’t say – 4.4%

It is also worth noting that the percentage of people saying they will “definitely” come to vote fell from 70% to 67%. This might be in response to Navalny’s call to boycott the vote.


1. Unless he turns out to be very unlikeable on the TV cameras in the next couple of months, or experiences some other major scandal, then Grudinin – contrary to my expectations before this poll – will almost certainly do better than Zhirinovsky after all.

2. Incidentally, our resident Ukrainophiles should be happy with this development – in his recent debate with Zhirinovsky, Grudinin as much as implied that the “Russian World” was equivalent to fascism, and for all intents and purposes defended the Ukraine’s new language laws (“we should not fall to provocations”). This comports with the gathering evidence that he is the most pro-Ukrainian candidate in this race apart from the liberal candidate Sobchak, who, like Navalny, does not even unambiguously recognize the Crimea as part of Russia. Tellingly, in one of his recent shows, Grudinin was the only candidate to whom Navalny showed a somewhat positive disposition, even if he still rejected him as a “real” candidate.

And this was the guy nominated not just by the Left Front and the KPRF, but also by one of the more prominent national-patriotic organizations (NPSR). No wonder Igor Strelkov quit soon afterwards in disgust.

3. Renewed prediction [old predictions]:

  • Putin – 78% (down from 80%)
  • Zhirinovsky – 7% (down from 8%)
  • Grudinin – 13% (up from Zyuganov’s 7%)
  • Sobchak – 3%

Due to the apparent excitement around the new face, turnout might also be slightly higher than the minimally low 60% I was expecting at the start of the year.

I continue to very much doubt the kremlins will be able to fulfill the first part of their “70/70″ goal (70% turnout, 70% Putin), unless they really go overboard with the fraud this year.

Regardless, his candidacy appears to have been a great play by the Presidential Administration, raising interest in the elections, deflating the impact of Navalny’s calls to boycott them, and presenting no real threat to the Kremlin while sowing further division into the nationalist ranks.

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Conventional wisdom on the Russian elections:

Positive interpretation: Russian elections give Russians more real ideological choice (conservative centrists, Communists, nationalists, liberals) than American ones (conservative neoliberals, liberal neoliberals).

Negative interpretation: Putin and the party of power are assured of winning through overwhelming administrative resources, state media, and a side of electoral fraud. The other parties coordinate their candidates and campaigns with the Presidential Administration. It’s a meaningless farce.

There are elements of truth to both (though as we’ll see they’re also both substantially wrong).

Still, there’s one general, undisputed point – United Russia, Putin, “The Kremlin” wins. It has done so uninterruptedly since 2000 (or since 1991 so far as the Presidency is concerned).

So what’s the point of voting?

Think of the Russian political system as a series of concentric circles.


Map of Metro 2033.
Polis = The Kremlin.
Difference from the book/video game: The Red Line commies and Fourth Reich nationalists share the circle line with Hanseatic League neolibs.
Political marginals (anarchists, Neo-Nazis, The Cult of the Great Worm, etc.) are all located beyond the circle line.

1. The Kremlin and its denizens are in the center (Putin, the silovarchs, the Ozera coop, etc., etc.), much like the medieval fortress is literally in the center of Moscow.

The majority of Russians are basically fine with this system. Its approval rate can be proxied by Putin’s approval rate, which has consistently ranged from 60%-80% during 2000-2017. Academic research shows that these ratings are perfectly “deep” and legitimate. It is periodically “validated” through Putin’s and United Russia’s electoral triumphs.

2. The systemic opposition is arraigned around the Kremlin, and is in turn split up into three segments – the Communists, the nationalists, and the liberals.

While the Communists and nationalists massively outnumber the liberals, the liberals have by far the greater mobilization potential on the streets, the most formidable human capital, and the most significant support from the West.

Relations with the center are civil. Some openly coordinate with the Kremlin, and are even induced into its halls, though rarely into the innermost sanctums (e.g. the nationalist Rogozin, most of the economic liberal bloc). Some oppose the Kremlin, but only from within the system, and tend to defer to it when it insists – this functionally describes all the current Duma parties. However, it is not inconceivable that they would grow buntive in a crisis situation – the closest example we have of this is during the 2011 opposition protests, when Fair Russia briefly showed tantalizing signs of having drifted towards “serious” opposition.

In the 2018 Presidential elections, they are represented thus: Communists – Grudinin; nationalists – Zhirinovsky; liberals – probably Sobchak*.

Why would you vote for any of them? Certainly not because they have any chances of winning.

However, the Kremlin is very much interested in remaining popular. They don’t pay any less attention to opinion polls than classical Western democracies, even if their goals are different (winning elections in the West; detecting simmering discontent in Russia and maximizing the Kremlin’s results in “validating” referendums, i.e. “elections”). To do this successfully, the Kremlin must not only maintain some minimal degree of competence at running the country, but it must also try to remain at the ideological center of the Russian belief space, so as not to allow too many dissatisfied voters to cluster at any particular ideological node. It does this by shifting policy towards that node.

Here is how this translates in practical Russian politics:

A vote for “The Kremlin”, i.e. Putin (/United Russia) = a vote of confidence in the regime.

Grudinin (/KPRF) = shift Left on economic policy and nationality policy.

Zhirinovsky (/LDPR) = shift Right on nationality policy.

Sobchak (/liberals) = shift Left on social policy and on nationality policy; shift Right on economic policy.

In some ways, the resulting equilibrium is remarkably democratic – a sort of “coherent extrapolated volition” of the distilled will of the Russian people (well, unless oligarch interests, institutional resistance, embedded ideological blinkers, etc. get in the way; in Russia as elsewhere, politics is the art of the possible).


The future’s bright, the future’s black and orange.

This explains the paradox of why I am likely to vote for Zhirinovsky in 2018, even though I consider Putin to be the objectively superior Russian ruler (considerable dissatisfaction with some of his policies regardless). The way I see it, I will merely be doing my very small part to help nudge Russia in the direction of the Russian National State, even though I have no great expectations that it will reach that destination under the Kremlin’s current occupants.

3. The outermost circle contains the political outcasts. This includes figures who are fundamentally opposed to the Kremlin, which doesn’t hesitate to return them the favor.

This includes the non-systemic liberal opposition, which is now completely dominated by Navalny; former doyens such as Khodorkovsky, Milov, Kasparov, etc., etc. have long faded into insignificance. It includes anti-Kremlin nationalists – pro-Ukrainian nationalists, Neo-Nazis, National Bolsheviks back when Eduard Limonov was still in the opposition. It includes genuinely revolutionary leftists such as Sergey Udaltsov/Left Front, and various anarchist groups such as Pussy Riot.

Do they act outside the system because there is no political space for them, or is there no political space for them because they act outside the system? I suppose this is a chicken and egg question.

They reject playing by the Kremlin’s rules, and just as the Kremlin doesn’t balk at operating in a “prerogative” fashion over and above the “constitutional” state**, so these marginal players assert the same privileges for themselves.

If they succeed, the resulting outcome will likely be termed a “color revolution.”

However, the very advantage of running a prerogative state in the first place is that it is not absolutely obligated to deal with these characters by the book.

For instance, by disallowing them from running in the elections on the basis of a fraud conviction marred by irregularities (not to mention dwarfed by the scale of the stealing going on every day in the Kremlin itself).

What do you, as a non-systemic oppositionist, do in this situation?

Color revolution isn’t a realistic choice – not when the Kremlin has an 80% approval rating and the support of all major institutions, including the siloviki.

You could also choose to support the “approved” politician whose values align most closely with your own. However, you don’t think she represents and articulates those values well, you think she is a puppet of a man whom you despite, and you firmly believe that you are the only person who can get the job done properly anyway.

Well, you call a boycott of the elections, and start planning on how to discredit them. As Navalny has just done.

I doubt this will be effective, at least in the short-term. Ordinary Russians don’t care – Kremlin approval is around 80%. The West no longer even pretends to respect Russian elections, but what can they do beyond what they are already doing? Turnout will be perhaps 5% points lower than it otherwise would be, and will hurt the liberals themselves more than anybody (Sobchak shares essentially the same electorate with Navalny, spurious claims that nationalists support him to any significant degree regardless). Hardly relevant for a political system where the average level of electoral fraud typically exceeds 5% points.

* I have yet to write in detail about Sobchak’s program, which was released a few days ago, but frankly, I’m not sure there’s any point. Main points: Major changes to the Constitution; gay marriage; marijuana legalization; a ban on justifying Stalin’s repressions; another referendum on the Crimea. Unelectable, of course. But if you want to nudge Russia in that general direction, no reason not to vote for her, unless you think Navalny’s strategy is better.

** To borrow some terms from Richard Sakwa’s “The Crisis of Russian Democracy.”

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Latest development: The KPRF has nominated 57 year old Pavel Grudinin as its candidate.

This is the first time that the KPRF has gone with someone other than old warhorse Zyuganov since 2004, when Nikolay Kharitonov got an unimpressive 13.8% in the Presidential elections.


Coming from a blue-collar background, Grudinin graduated from an agricultural engineering college in 1982, and has since worked on the Lenin State Farm – as head of a mechanical workshop from 1982-89, deputy director from 1990-95, and director to today. During this period, the Lenin State Farm transitioned from state ownership to a cooperative owned by its workers, and successfully sells apples and strawberries to Moscow.

He has been involved in politics since 1997, when he was first elected deputy to the Moscow oblast Duma from 1997-2011. He was a “trusted man” of Vladimir Putin in the 2000 Presidential elections and a member of United Russia until 2010, when he left and joined the KPRF instead he has been an independent ever since but consistently supported by the KPRF.

In 2011, he made the following comments in an interview with the magazine Russian Reporter:

Apartments in the Lenin State Farm are significantly cheaper than in Moscow, but not everyone can settle there. Grudinin, as the head of a state within a state, conducts a harsh national policy, closing the borders to migrants.

Grudinin: “Maybe this is nonsense, I never did this before, but now I do. I tell the investors who build apartments to look at ethnicity. If you sell apartments to the wrong people, I will not work with you. There is such an understanding – face control, where an investor, before buying the apartment, personally talks with everyone. Ivanov – great. Zagorulko – great. Lukashenko – okay. Arutyunyan – think again. Even if we get less money as a result. I am not Rogozin, I don’t think he’s right, but I can see we have a problem. We need to restrict entry. Why do we need so many Uzbeks? Buy machines, and they replace a dozen Uzbeks. There’s be ten times fewer janitors, but everyone will have a vacuum cleaner!”

Interviewer: “Why do you not like Uzbeks?”

Grudinin: “I understand that this is a problem. Ethnic conflict is the future of our country. It’s already clear. Children come to school, not knowing the Russian language. People from the entire aul arrive arrive here. When there is a fight on the playground a white and a black fight, the whites flee if the black wins. But if the white wins, then all the blacks gang up on the white. When there are two of them, it’s not so bad, but there’s a problem when there’s many of them.”

“We had one case a year ago when a ten year old boy crashed his bike into a girl and broke her lip. She got fixed up in hospital and her grandmother went to talk to the boy’s mother. She smashed her door closed. One would think that that would be the end of the incident, but no. The mother phoned her husband, who gathered twenty Azeris, found the girl’s father and grandfather. Afterwards they said that if there were any further problems with their children, they would kill them. On finding out about this, I looked at the CCTV footage, and discovered that the apartment where they live is rented out to one of our farm’s employees. I summoned him, and told him that he has a week to clear them all out – or I will fire you, and your problems won’t end there. And I then phoned the police chef and told him, “Strike up a criminal case and carry it through to the end. Do not take money.” Because this is a bad thing. If our people get drunk, they will go beat them up. And I will have have such a huge mess on my hands. Everyone will suffer.”

Unfortunately, Grudinin’s former colleagues in United Russia, perhaps unhappy with his defection, decided that this interview was extremist and filed a complaint. It’s worth noting that Grudinin didn’t stand by his words, insisting instead that the journalists had quoted him out of context. But that didn’t prevent him from being taken off the ballot box in the 2011 Moscow oblast Duma elections. An appeals court cleared him a couple of years later.

He failed to get into the State Duma as a KPRF deputy in the 2016 Duma elections.

Grudinin was nominated as the single candidate of the Left in a series of primaries organized by Sergey Udaltsov’s Left Front in November 2017. He was also recommend as Prime Minister of Russia by the Second Congress of the National-Patriotic Forces of Russia (NPSR), under President Yury Boldyrev, on December 22. Soon after, his candidacy won a secret vote in the KPRF, and he was officially nominated by Zyuganov and unanimously supported by the Central Committee of the KPRF.

Pavel Grudinin’s platform

On looking through his campaign advertising, one gets the impression that they are looking for some sort of Red/White reconciliation (or what some rather less flatteringly call the Red-Brown alliance).

For instance, here’s one of the images posted in a VK support group. Though they could do with a professional designer.


He seems to have normal relations with the LDPR. In 2012, Grudinin was photographed with LDPR leader Zhirinovsky at the 2012 strawberry harvest at the Lenin State Farm. This was, apparently, not a one-off.

But that’s about where this dallying with nationalists ends.

Writing today for the pro-Putin/patriotic but not really nationalist Vzglyad, Olga Tukhanina went so far as to compare him with Navalny and Boris Yeltsin, but with less rhetorical talent.

Paraphrasing his replies:

Where to get money? Nationalize big enterprises and introduce a progressive tax on the rich (but couldn’t clarify who counted as rich).

What is your economic program? Don’t know, but we’ll gather a team of the best economists, and they’ll write one.

How to get rid of corruption? Lee Kuan Yew managed, he even jailed two of his friends. Who are the two friends you’re going to jail? Do they know about this? My friends are all clean. Then the Singapore variant won’t work, jokes one of the hosts.

We should be friends with the Ukraine. But what if the Ukraine doesn’t want to be friends with us? Then he’ll consult with the Communists and think of something. (My friendly note for Grudinin: The Ukraine banned its Communist Party).

Yes, Crimea is Russia. But what to do with those in the West who think otherwise? Don’t know, I’ll have a Foreign Minister for this.

Russia should end with its imperial ambitions. Better to produce things instead.

We should bring back the Politburo.

In fairness, he has been personally involved in helping with humanitarian supplies to the LDNR, and says he will continue with them indefinitely.

grudinin-on-ukraineHowever, his stances on the Ukraine are if anything even more schizophrenic than the Kremlin’s:

  1. We will continue being friends with the Ukraine
  2. The Ukrainians are a brotherly people
  3. The drunk Poroshenko is not the Ukrainian people
  4. Even a bad peace is better than any war
  5. If the Russian Federation gets busy with its own problems and improves itself, then its neighbors will want to be friends with it

He might want to be friends with the Ukraine, but they certainly don’t want to be friends with him. Not least since he intends to continue economically supporting the LDNR. At least the liberals’ position on unequivocally pulling all support for the Donbass make sense. The idea of “brotherly peoples” is a fading Soviet trope – either they are a subset of the Russian nation, as Russian nationalists insist, and even Putin has at times said; or they are just another neighboring nation, as liberals and the West insist. Of course Poroshenko is not the Ukrainian people – he is about 25% of them; another 25% support the overtly nationalist Tymoshenko, perhaps 10% are hardcore ultranationalists, 15%-20% are genuine Europeanist liberals. The more relevant information is that only 15% can be considered Russia sympathizers.


This is what Pavel Grudinin’s platform essentially boils down to:

  • Political and foreign policy illiteracy at the highest level. “That’s what my Foreign Minister is for.”
  • Doesn’t even have a platform yet (unlike Zhirinovsky, Navalny).
  • The Venezualization of the Russian economy.
  • Strong position on immigration, but with no credible assurance that he’ll actually stand by his words if things get inconvenient.
  • No indication on his stance on freedom of speech. The KPRF formally opposes the removal of Article 282. Perhaps Grudinin has a different opinion since he was actually the subject of a politically motivated prosecution under “anti-extremism” legislation, but that’s not something to count on until and unless he clarifies his position.
  • Communist rhetoric against Russian imperialism converging with liberal talking points, just as Egor Kholmogorov had predicted.*
  • Muh unitary anti-fascist Ukraine.
  • The restoration of the Politburo to cap it all off and mark the Communist Party’s final descent into complete and utter farce.

Response of Russian nationalists: Thanks but no thanks. As one of them noted in the comments to one of Egor Kholmogorov’s posts, he “offers the worst of both Communism and Russophobic liberalism (sovok + betrayal of Russians, and the permanent consolidation of Russia’s dismemberment)”. I think it’s safe to say that any Red-Brown alliance is dead in the water.

What is the electoral context?

People are already making comparisons with Alexander Lukashenko, who rose from collective farm director to President for Life in 1990′s Belarus.

This sort of “tough manager” (krepky hozyistvennik) shtick may have played well in 1990s Russia. But we’re approaching 2018. It isn’t going to fly now.**

Here’s one of the strongest trends in Russian politics: Communist voters are dying out.

As of the 2016 Duma elections, the KPRF was 2x popular as the LDPR amongst 60+ yo’s, whereas the exact reverse is true amongst 18-35 yo’s.***

It is also hard to see how heading a farm named specifically the founder of the Soviet state is going to be relevant in a country where the percentage of people saying Lenin was the “greatest man in history” has dropped from 72% in 1991 to 32% by 2017.

My interpretation:

1. The KPRF, led by a tired Zyuganov who clearly wants to retire, is making a last hail mary to remain relevant in a Russia whose youth doesn’t care a fig for Marxism-Leninism or the world anti-imperialist struggle. Grudinin appeals to both its core voters, and potentially, to some of the LDPR’s as well.

2. Considering that LDPR/Zhirinovsky has become the main locus of discontented voters it is quite possible that Grudinin’s candidacy was approved or even requested by the Presidential Administration.

Or both could be true, I suppose.

I don’t see Grudinin getting much more than Zyuganov would have got (i.e. around 7%).

Much will depend on the results of his debates with Zhirinovsky and Sobchak, but as was confirmed today, both of them are far better versed at rhetoric and performing on TV.

* From 12 Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: “In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists.

** No matter how much Israel Shamir might wish it were otherwise.

*** As I have noted on several occasions, this developments in Western countries, such as the United States and France, where the elderly vote conservatives (Cruz/Jeb!, Fillon) but their grandchildren vote nationalist (Trump, Marine Le Pen). Adjust for Russia’s “conservatives” being Communists, are it all slides into place.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Communism, Politics, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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Yesterday there was another poll on the Russian Presidential elections in 2018, this time from FOM (although state-owned, my impression is that they aren’t any less accurate than the independent – and somewhat oppositionist – Levada).

Adjusting for undecideds/no shows, the results if elections were to be held tomorrow are as follows: Putin – 84%, Zhirinovsky – 9%, Zyuganov – 5%, Sobchak – 3%.

First, I am pretty pleased with these results, since they tally with my 80/7/7/7 prediction (Putin will lose a few percentage points due to lower turnout, but make it up with a little padding of the results; relative to Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky traditionally does better in polls than in real life; and Sobchak will eke out quite a lot more thanks to (a) liberals usually being underweighed by polls, and (b) many of the Yavlinsky (1%) and “other candidate” (1%; I assume these are mostly hardcore Navalny fans) supporters voting for her.

But the second, and more interesting, point is how Zhirinovsky, permanent Fuhrer of the nationalist LDPR, has suddenly become the primary recipient of Russia’s protest vote, a role that was previously the preserve of the Communists. Whereas Zhirinovsky gets 13% to Zyuganov’s 11% and the liberals’ (Sobchak, Yavlinsky, other candidate = Navalny) combined ~9% amongst people with a mixed view of Putin, and 17% to Zyuganov’s 10% and the liberals’ ~8% amongst people who are apathetic towards Putin, Zhirinovsky now commands the support of 40% of Russian voters with a negative view of Putin, versus Zyuganov’s 7%, the liberals’ 18%, and 35% who would not vote or would spoil their ballots (many of these are probably liberals).

Several years ago, it was popular to talk of Hungary’s “Putinization” in neoliberal circles. But I submit that we might now get to see Russia’s “Orbanization,” as the great mass of the opposition to a dominant conservative regime shifts from tired old Communists, and liberals whose popularity is confined to yuppies and the intelligentsia in the big cities, to more overt and hardline nationalists.


Bearing this in mind, it is worthwhile to take a closer look at Zhirinovsky’s 2018 program:

The first thing one notices is that it is something of a mess; an idiosyncratic collection of populist, authoritarian, populist, statist, democratic, and even genuinely liberal proposals. It’s like they locked a cryptoanarchist, an Alt Rightist, and a /pol/tard in a room and forced them to come up with something without bothering to even edit the final product. Said room being Zhirinovsky’s beautiful brain. As such, there is something to be found for almost every exotic species of Russian nationalist – though fully satisfying far fewer of them.

The famous Russian far right blogger/troll Vladimir Frolov (“yarowrath“) once argued that the “basedness” level of a Russian politician could be accurately proxied by the ratio of “russkie” (ethnic Russians) vs. “rossiyane” (anodyne PC term for denizens of Russia) in his vocabulary. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of Russian nationalists is that they are unafraid to speak of the interests of russkie, whereas kremlins and liberals alike opt for the term rossiyane (PM Dmitry Medvedev prefers the even less offensive “inhabitants of Russia”).

Consequently, the second thing one notices is that Zhirinovsky’s 1,200 word program is full of “russkie” – twelve instances, to be precise. In contrast, the similarly short program of Alexey Navalny, whom some believe to be a nationalist, mentions the word a grand total of once – in the context of the “russkie” (Russian) language.

Here is what Zhirinovsky is promising to do for russkie, in the sense of ethnic Russians:

  • Give passports to all Russians. Defend Russians abroad, do not allow foreigners to take children from Russian families.
  • Russia, its environment and its democracy – for everyone: For Russians, and the other peoples of the country.
  • 23. Add the following preamble to the Constitution: “We, Russians and the other peoples of Russia…”
  • 24. Create an Institute of the Russian Holocaust of the 20th Century
  • 66. Rely on Russians, not foreigners, in the Academy of Sciences and the universities.
  • We will not allow [foreigners] to shoot down russkie planes, or to laugh at, criticize, lie about, and smear Russia.

The mention of an institute dedicated to the persecution of Russians in the 20th century is particularly fascinating, since this is one of the ideas that we (Kirill Nesterov, @pigdog, myself) have been promoting at our ROGPR podcast for the past year. There are few better ways to generate national solidarity than to promote the idea of some great shared tragedy, and it’s not like Russians would even have to invent anything. Meanwhile, it will accelerate the further discreditation of Communism, liberalism, and the cult of West Worship.

In Russian Nationalism 101, I mentioned three things that virtually all Russian nationalists agree on: An end to mass immigration from Central Asia; no more prosecutions for “hate speech”; and the liquidation of regional autonomies. Zhirinovsky’s program is a “tick, tick, tick” so far as all of these are concerned.

  • 8. Do not allow people from the south to commit crimes in central Russia.
  • 22. Remove the political Article 282 from the criminal code.
  • 26. The country should be divided into 30-40 guberniyas.
  • 27. Cancel the Federation Council.
  • 34. Limit immigration to Russia.
  • 57. Teach local languages only if locals want to.

Note that the “nationalist” Navalny only ever mentions the cancelation of Article 282 when he is specifically asked about it. It is not in his program, and while he doesn’t shy away from using his social media reach to promote various petitions and causes, including some rather inconsequential ones, for some reason he has never tried to collect signatures for the cancelation of Article 282.

Ideologically, Zhirinovsky’s program can perhaps best be described as populist-reactionary:

  • 12. Reconcile Tsarist, Soviet, and modern Russia.
  • 13. All revolutions are evil.
  • 15. Return Imperial symbols: The black-gold-white flag, “God Save the Tsar” as the national anthem, replace the Kremlin’s red stars with the original imperial eagles.
  • 20. Return the old names of Russia’s cities and streets.
  • 82. Redominate the ruble: Remove two zeros, one dollar is worth 60 kopeks.

Almost all non-Leftist Russian nationalists support some form of de-Communization program. It is, of course, rather strange that Russia has a 700,000 population city named after an Italian Communist leader who didn’t even succeed in taking power, a 250,000 population city named after a Polish red terrorist, and a 200,000 population city named after a German Russophobe.

The program has a strong patriarchic slant, and is strongly targeted towards siloviks:

  • 6. Further strengthen the Army and security services.
  • 7. Hit criminality. Create a system of military field trials.
  • 9. Cancel the moratorium on the death penalty.
  • 21. Do not allow more than 10% negative information on TV and radio.
  • 65. Encourage men to go into the education sector.

This would meet support with mainstream conservative nationalists, though many of its points would not go over well with the more liberal Sputnik i Pogrom. While they support an increase in the size of the military, especially of the Ground Forces – the Ukraine and Belorussia aren’t going to regather back into Russia by themselves – they want to do it at the expense of the National Guard and other bloated police and paramilitary agencies.

However, there are otherwise few specifics on foreign policy, apart from the general policy of defending Russians abroad:

  • We need to finish things up in the Middle East. Reorient foreign policy to the South. Alliance with Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria. This is 400 million people, technologies, resources, armies.

This is probably Zhirinovsky’s background as a Turcologist speaking, but the general point or for that matter even the feasibility of this proposal is a very open question.

There is a strong pro-natality element.

  • 50. Pay women to avoid abortion, the child will be raised by the state.
  • 51. Create a Ministry of Demographics and offer free fertility treatments.
  • 53. Promote a cult of the family.
  • 54. Pay 20,000 rubles per month to people who adopt orphans.
  • 55. Stimulate fertility in regions where deaths exceed births.

It’s worth noting that #55 is basically codeword for ethnic Russian regions.

That said, this is far from a grim document propounding unremitting authoritarianism, militarism, xenophobia, and ultranationalism.

In some respects, it would also increase the civil liberties of ordinary people.

  • 1. Build a country without Communism, Nazism, racism, or authoritarianism.
  • 12. A one party regime doomed the Empire, and the USSR.
  • 17. Name the mistakes of the Soviet leadership, publish the archives, condemn perestroika.
  • 22. Remove the political Article 282 from the criminal code.
  • 29. Replace all the judges.
  • 30. Conduct free and fair elections.
  • 31. Develop local self-government.
  • 42. Political and criminal amnesty. Humanize the Criminal Code.
  • 73. Easen the processs of getting European visas, remove all sanctions.
  • 74. Make life easier for disabled people: Accessible accomodations, more ramps, freedom from having to pay utilities fees.
  • 91. In Russia, the economy, and democracy, was always offered “from above.” Everything was decided by bureaucrats. The people weren’t allowed to decide anything.

Admittedly, there’s a substantial element of schizophrenia here. For instance, given the rest of the program, it’s rather hard to see the Europeans agreeing to expedite #73.

As regards basic governance and economic policy, the proposals fall into two big, somewhat contradictory categories.

On the one hand, there are the “developmental” policies, e.g. high infrastructure spending, the repatriation of offshore capital, and a reduction of regulations on business along lines that one can imagine even institutions like the IMF approving of.

  • 4. Intense development of road networks, trains with speeds of 400km/h.
  • 10. Attention to the fight against corruption. Bribe-taking bureaucrats should be fired and have their assets confiscated. A businessman should compensate anything stolen by a multiple of three.
  • 19. State commission to investigate the looting of the country after 1991.
  • 28. Reduce the numbers of Duma deputies to 200.
  • 35. Forbid banks from offering credit with property as collateral.
  • 42. Political and criminal amnesty. Humanize the Criminal Code.
  • 48. Develop tourism in Russia.
  • 78. Review the results of privatization, without violence and persecution, through persuasion.
  • 81. Organize a mass free distribution of shares in the state companies to Russian citizens.
  • 83. Large-scale economic amnesty, introduce secret accounts in at least one Russian state bank, and return to Russia all capital illegally taken offshore.
  • 87. Companies working in Russia should have their accounts in Russian banks.
  • 92. Motivate rich citizens to return their money to Russia, only here can they be safe, because abroad they are under the threat of sanctions, freezes, and confiscations.
  • 93. No inspections of businesses, apart from restaurants/catering and medicine. Don’t bother hard-working people!
  • 94. Small businesses involved in science and production – freedom from taxes.
  • 96. Reduce amount of compulsory contributions from entrepreneurs.

Orban pushed through the equivalent of #28 in Hungary. A definite answer to the 1990s privatization question needs to be furnished sooner or later to secure property rights in Russia (for comparison, Navalny proposes a windfall tax, as in Britain). #81 is perhaps a good idea to make ordinary Russians feel more invested in any future privatizations, which are otherwise bound to be unpopular. Economic amnesty is an idea often promoted by liberal economists. Since business inspections are too often just a source of rent for bureaucrats in Russia, cutting them down even further is also often proposed.

However, many of Zhirinovsky’s policies are to various extents statist, populist, or just plainly badly thought out; are of dubious efficacy; and would have the general effect of raising spending on social welfare, restricting individual autonomy, increasing state control of the economy, and increasing general inefficiency.

  • 2. Not a single person unemployed, homeless, or hungry.
  • 33. Import substitution, sell finished products, not raw materials, abroad.
  • 37. Cancel the principle of equity construction. The state must build and sell housing.
  • 38. Cancel mortgages. Only building cooperatives and social housing.
  • 39. Forbid debt collectors.
  • 41. Remove all debt-related restrictions on travel abroad.
  • 43. War against unhealthy additives to food. Forbid imports of GMO food.
  • 44. There is an obesity problem. Time to restrict advertising of unhealthy food.
  • 45. No to black market vodka. Create state stores selling cheap but high quality vodka; elsewhere, at market prices.
  • 46. Forbid sects, trainings, centers, etc. whose activities are harmful to citizens.
  • 49. Return completely free healthcare.
  • 59. Cancel the Unified State Exam. Accept students to universities without exams and return 5 year education.
  • 68. Minimum wage of no less than 20,000 rubles.
  • 85. A tax on superincomes.
  • 86. Remove Russia’s foreign currency reserves from US Treasuries.
  • 88. Nationalize trading centers, free up space for domestic producers.
  • 89. Debt forgiveness of at least 50% for all agrobusinesses and farmers.
  • 100. Special attention has to be given to Siberia and the Far East: No tax economy, salary bonuses, housing subsidies, road construction.

Unfortunately the good or at least perspective ideas are more than counterbalanced by alternatingly questionable and outright catastrophic ones which will, in all likelihood, make Russia into Venezuela.

In particular, the assumptions in #45 are simply wrong, and will collapse Russian life expectancy back down by 5 years or so.

As for ending university exams, that’s not just a return to the USSR, but to the 1920s USSR; without even the Unified State Exam to go on, how are universities supposed to select for talent?

However, in all fairness, many of these proposals will play well to the LDPR’s low-information voters.

This hints at the biggest and most irreconcilable problem of nationalism not just in Russia but throughout Europe and the US generally – the human capital is very low.

Nonetheless, there is precisely zero chance of Zhirinovsky winning and consequently trying to push through his more maladaptive ideas (even assuming that they are earnestly meant). As such, a case can be made that Russian nationalists would be well-advised to vote for him to move those issues which the LDPR really is good on – immigration policy, free speech, a vision of a future where ethnic Russians can advocate for their own ethnic interests without being accused of insulting minorities – further within the Overton Window.

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Assuming that it will be just between these four, I think it’s going to go something like this:


Note that Sobchak and any [liberal candidate] can be substituted for Navalny. (Also TBH, I think Navalny has a chance of getting 10% – see below).

If other candidates (but not Navalny) run, for instance, Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko) and Boris Titov (recently nominated by the Party of Growth), then they will split that 7% between each other.

Here’s my logic.

Putin’s result in Presidential elections is usually the same as his approval rating in the Levada polls, which are currently at 80%.

Incidentally, in the very unlikely but not impossible event that Putin doesn’t run after all, but appoints someone like Alexey Dyumin, the successor will get around 60%-70% (Explanation: Medvedev’s result in 2008 was Putin’s approval rating minus 10% points, but he had been built up by Kremlin propaganda beforehand for several years; Putin’s own result in 2000 was approval rating minus 30% points, in the context of only a few months’ worth of “prep,” adversarial TV journalism, and no largescale electoral fraud. Logically, someone like Dyumin should perform somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios).

Zyuganov traditionally polls much better than Zhirinovsky. But that era has now come to an end.


Support for the Communists is in long-term secular decline, while the nationalists are on the ascent. Whereas 60+ year old Communist voters hugely outnumbered 18-24 year old LDPR voters in the 2016 Duma elections, by 22% to 10%, amongst LDPR voters the relationship is the complete inverse, with 60+ year old LDPR voters being outnumbered by 18-24 year old LDPR voters by 19% to 8%. Overall results for the two parties were within a hairsbreadth of each other.


One problem is that Zhirinovsky has a high anti-rating, and tends to underperform his party’s results relative to the Communists (this was especially notable in 2012, when he got almost thrice less than Zyuganov). On the other hand, back in September 2012, the percentage of voters willing to vote for Zhironovsky was 3% versus 6% for Zyuganov, whereas today it is the same 3% to Zyuganov’s much diminished 2%.

I am not going to belabor this point or do any deep analysis at the current stage. There’s still some months left to go and things can still change drastically.

Finally, the liberal candidate.

I have argued that Navalny could get as much as 10%, to the chagrin of hardcore Putinists.

Now Sobchak has a much higher antirating than Navalny, but as a household name, also more name recognizability, so I do not subscribe to the idea that she is totally hopeless and will get something like 1% or 2%. She has said some things that are very unpopular with ordinary people (Crimea is Ukrainian under international law; Russia is a nation of genetic refuse). But this is par for the course for Russian liberals, who do constitute a distinct voting bloc – after all, around 10% of Russians genuinely didn’t support the Crimean takeover – so this is hardly going to dent her numbers. There is even a small chance that making Sobchak say such stereotypically self-hating kreakl things was part of the Kremlin’s condition for allowing her to run (I don’t buy this conspiracy theory; I think she is just an idiot who is being incompetently advised by a britbong PR firm; but it doesn’t really matter).

Now according to the Levada poll (see above), only around 1% are willing to vote for Sobchak (subtracting unknowns/undecideds/etc). A FOM poll suggests that 5% might vote for her, but 87% will not.

The problem is that liberals are less likely to respond to polls, so pollsters tend to systemically underweigh them.


In the Moscow elections, the Levada poll was giving Navalny 8% to Sobyanin’s 78% amongst those who had “made their choice.”

The median prediction at my blog for Navalny was in the low 10%’s, with some of the most enthusiastic Putinists giving him just 5%-8%.

I predicted 20%.

End result: Navalny – 27%.

However, this was very much in line with immediate pre-election secret polls that showed Navalny was at 23%.


Much the same logic should be applied to the [liberal candidate] (with downwards adjustment for Sobchak based on her lack of popularity!; so, instead of ~10% for Navalny, perhaps 5%-7%).

I acknowledge that these arguments will be controversial.

But here is a recent Telegram post by chief editor of Echo of Moscow Alexey Venediktov:



Yes, Boris Titov is seriously being considered by the Presidential Administration as a “liberal candidate for President.” Especially considering that their polls show that she has already caught up with Zhirinovsky (7.5% are ready to vote for her, of those who already made up their minds). …

And wouldn’t you guess it, the next day Boris Titov indeed announced that he was running.

Boris Titov is an economically right-wing politician, businessman (he owns the famous Abrau-Durso champagne brand), and activist for entrepreneur rights. He is also not really an oppositionist, being on good terms with Putin and having once even served as a high functionary in United Russia. This would basically be a rerun of 2012, when Mikhail Prokhorov opposed Putin, except that Titov has even fewer oppositionist credentials.

Anyhow, the final decision is up to Putin. Having Titov run would make the election even more of a formality/farce (cross out as per your political sympathies) than it already is, though perhaps marginally safer than having Sobchak run – though the fact that some kremlins actually fear Sobchak of all people makes the whole affair even more surreal.

I think we can pretty much exclude Navalny being allowed to with at least 95% confidence.

On the other hand, with the reality of an 80% approval rating and total control of the administrative resource behind him, it’s not like allowing Sobchak, Titov, or both to run would make any substantive difference to Putin’s almost certainly overwhelming victory in the 2018 Presidential elections.

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In my opinion, almost certainly yes (quantified: 90%. In line with PredictIt). Just to get that clear off the bat.

But neither is it an absolutely foregone conclusion.

For instance, see this recent “scoop” from The Independent’s Oliver Carroll:

Vladimir Putin is, sources say, tired. And he is reluctant to engage in a major national election – again. The campaign will be reduced to a bare minimum; there will be no repeat of the exhausting test of the 2011-2012 elections, when Mr Putin declared his candidacy six months early.

The reason “scoop” is in apostrophes is that Putin’s tiredness is hardly new to the Moscow rumor mill.

For instance, here is my Twitter conversation with RT’s Bryan MacDonald (posted with his permission) on this back in December 2016:


And there’s still hints that Putin hasn’t yet fully made his mind up. For instance, MacDonald also noted that RBC recently reported that Putin is shifting his annual State of the Union address from December to early next year. While cautioning against reading too deeply into Kremlinological tea leaves, this does conceivably open the possibility of a sudden resignation and endorsement of a successor along the lines of what Yeltsin did with respect to Putin himself on December 31, 1999.

When I asked Bryan MacDonald to quantify his predictions a week ago, he replied: “5/1 he doesn’t run. 4/6 he’s not President in 2023.”

I should stress that MacDonald and Carroll are hardly the only people with such ideas. Another name I can cite is Artem Zagorodnov, who used to work for RBTH. Back in December 2016, he gave a speech on Russian politics for the Juneau World Affairs Council in Alaska, during the course of which he was asked a question about whether Putin would run in 2018. At the time, Zagorodnov gave this a 80% chance. More recently, I asked him again, and he has now upped it to 90%, but he thinks that there is only a 50% chance of Putin finishing his second term.

I should also note that MacDonald and Zagorodnov are (were) not familiar with each other and came to these very similar estimates independently.

Apart from his rumored fatigue, why might Putin not want to run in 2018?

1. By not running in 2018, Putin retains the option of running one more time at some later time in the future.

Originally, the Russian Constitution disallowed more than two Presidential terms, but only so long as they were consecutive; otherwise, you could serve as many terms as you wished, so long as they were broken up at least once every two terms/eight years. This enabled Putin’s controversial “castling” maneuver with Medvedev in 2011-12, which was within the letter if not the spirit of the law. But a Constitutional amendment in 2012, which also lengthened Presidential terms to six years, set an explicit maximum of two terms, consecutive or otherwise. Any further castlings have been ruled out.

Therefore, if Putin runs now, he will never be able to run for President again – even should he resign midway through his fourth term. Not unless he pushes through a Constitutional amendment. But that would mean reneging on a public commitment not to do that, which would be politically far riskier than even his old castling, which ended up in 100,o00 strong protests in Moscow during 2011-12.

2. Putin is currently at the peak of his approval.

At least so long as Putin’s personal ratings are concerned, the “Crimean Consensus” shows no signs of wearing out.


Source: Levada.

But discontent is once again beginning to simmer in the margins. Overall satisfaction with domestic, social, economic, and even foreign policy has reached lows last seen in 2011, when mass protests over electoral fraud in the 2011 Duma elections flared up.


Source: VCIOM; FPRI Bear Market Brief‏.

And it is probably only a matter of time before this begins to overspill into Putin’s approval rates.

Putin assured his place in the history textbooks in 2014.

Now might be as good and stable a time to leave as any while his reserves of political capital are still maxed out.

In so doing, he also escapes the Brezhnevite “President for Life” trap, leaves on his own terms, and enjoys the rest of his life in luxury (the friends he enriched during his Presidency owe him at least that much).

3. The next six years are going to be… boring.

The next Presidential term is looking up to be one of technocratic optimization and further reforms, of privatizing an overly state-dominated economy, of trying to restore relations with the West.

Very boring. Bad for approval ratings. Not the ideal job for a “tired” populist.

Besides, any real rapprochement with the “Western partners” is inconceivable with Putin, who has become thoroughly unhandshakeworthy, still at the helm – at least formally.

Now unless a new round of military confrontations are being planned – a rather unlikely prospect, given sharply negative trends in projected military expenditure – there is a good chance that that Russia will have to confront the near total nature of its geopolitical defeat in the Ukraine, as that country economically recuperates, accelerates Ukrainization, and Russophile dreams of a “second Maidan” and Ukraine’s imminent breakup veer further and further into the realm of fantasy.

Also probably best to keep a low profile during that period.

4. It is still not too late to nominate a successor.

As it stands today, Putin will win approximately 80% of the vote (70% + 10% customary fraud), while the rest will be split about equally between Zyaganov, Zhirinovsky, and [liberal candidate].

In an experiment conducted by Levada this September, every fifth Russian said they were willing to vote for Andrey Semenov, a Presidential candidate endorsed by Putin – even though both Semenov and Putin’s endorsement were complete fictions.

This suggests that building up a successor from nothing will be a trivial task for the Kremlin. That worked with for Yeltsin’s “Family” and Putin himself in 1999-2000, and it will be even easier now, since the Kremlin now has uncontested dominance of all the major TV stations.

Finally, the specific steps that the Kremlin has been taking – for instance, changing the date of the Presidential elections to coincide with the anniversary of Crimea joining Russia, and getting Ksenia Sobchak, an airhead celebrity with a massive anti-rating, to play the role of the liberal candidate, instead of its natural leader Navalny – indicate that they were not totally sure that Putin would be running, and as such, wanted to make absolute sure that any anointed successor would get a convincing victory almost as easily as Putin.

This convincing victory is referred to as a 70/70 in Kremlin parlanace (70% turnout, 70% share of the vote).


Putin going for a walk with potential successor Alexey Dyumin.

Final question: Who would be the successor?

By far the most commonly named “dark horse” candidate is Alexey Dyumin, the current governor of Tula and Putin’s former bodyguard. He personally participated in the events of 2014, and can thus be credibly portrayed as a hero of the “Crimean Spring” (its original name, the “Russian Spring,” has been airbrushed out of history, due to its nationalist connotations). As a loyal military man, basically competent but without being excessively intelligent – he graduated from a third-rate military academy – Dyumin would make a solid replacement for Putin, who would continue to wield extensive influence as some sort of “elder statesman” or “father of the nation” figure.

Meanwhile, in this scenario, Putin’s people would continue to occupy key power positions: Vyacheslav Volodin would continue looking after the Duma, Sergey Shoigu will stay on as Defense Minister, and another of Putin’s former bodyguards, Viktor Zolotov, will remain head of the 340,000 strong National Guard. This would be an additional guarantee against the successor getting too many ideas of his own.

As it happens, I suspect this basic scenario – the rudiments of which have been sketched out by politologists such as the liberal Valery Solovej and the Communist Nafik Famiev during the summer of 2017 – is ultimately likely to play out.

Probably not now, but quite possibly around 2021, or after the end of Putin’s fourth and last term.

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Recent Rasmussen poll:

… 52% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with the president’s statement last Sunday that “… having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world, and an asset to our country, not a liability.” Just 27% disagree, but another 21% are undecided.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans and 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party agree with the statement. Among Democrats, 29% agree; 41% disagree, and 29% are undecided. …

In a sharp turnaround from the Cold War years, 79% of conservatives agree that it’s better to be friends with Russia, but just 27% of liberals share that view.

I wrote about this as a return to pre-Soviet norms back in February:

For if you take the long historical view it is the Liberals/Left who have historically been far less enamored of Russia.

Who talked of the “gendarme of Europe” and “prison of peoples” in 19th century political discourse? Socialists, not conservatives. Marx had very little good to say about Russia and Eastern Europe in general, the idea being that the advanced Western nations were the only ones of interest from a Communist revolutionary perspective.

No, this doesn’t appear to be on account of Republican/conservative infatuation with Putler, as /r/politics and the Blue Checkmarks would have you believe.

Opinion towards him remains extremely negative across the American political spectrum.


This is perhaps the one somewhat unexpected element in this picture:

Men feel much more strongly than women that it’s better “having Russia in a friendly posture.” Those under 40 are only slightly less likely than their elders to agree.

In contrast, the February 2017 poll found Republican opinions on Russia uniformly increasing with younger age groups, going from 31% positive/69% negative amongst the 65+ year olds to 73% positive/25% negative amongst the 18-29 year olds.

This implies that opinion towards Russia decreases with age amongst the younger non-Republican population. But that doesn’t seem to tally with other polls I’ve seen. Or common sense. Older Democrats tend to be Clintonistas, and virulently Russophobic – they genuinely believe Putler stole the 2016 elections – while younger ones are lefty Bernie Bros, who don’t exactly admire Russia, but are realistic enough to acknowledge that the KGB wasn’t behind the KKK.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Republicans, Russia, Russophobes, USA 
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On September 10 there was a round of gubernatorial elections in Russia, as well as elections to local councils in Moscow.

There’s a lot of confusion on account of whether it was a victory for United Russia.

On the one hand, the low turnout – which traditionally favors more motivated liberals – allowed them to outright win most of the prestigious areas of Moscow.


Amazing correlation between liberal victories (green) and bike sharing stations, that ultimate SWPL symbol.

On the other hand, United Russia did score 76% even in Moscow, gaining 1,150 deputies out 1,500. In contrast, liberal opposition, with 180 deputies, didn’t even manage to gather enough mandates to pass the municipal filter for participation in the Mayoral elections in September 2018. Since municipal councils in Moscow are toothless, having no access to the city budget and answering for little more than park benches, this would seem to be irrelevant.

That said, one thing that most people agree on is that this was a defeat for Navalny. He had distanced himself from the Moscow elections, not out of ideological reasons but personal ones; his deputy Leonid Volkov had fallen out with Maxim Kats, a liberal hipster figurehead who went on to unite with Dmitry Gudkov to form the United Democrats, the anti-Putin opposition bloc that went on to sweep SWPLy Moscow in close cooperation with Yavlinsky’s Yabloko. Incidentally, their positions are radically anti-Russian, more so even than Navalny’s; according to insider accounts, disavowal of Crimea – to say nothing of the Donbass – was a hard condition of entry into their coalition. Although this performance might not be that impressive in the large picture, it still probably counts for more than the number of Navalny’s YouTube views.

How important is this development? Probably, not very.

First, turnout was only 15%, and this naturally favored the liberals, who are more motivated than average.

Second, this pattern of voting is in any case a long-established pattern going back to the 1990s, in which the better educated, higher social status (higher IQ, in short) districts vote more strongly for liberal candidates. As I have long pointed out, the problem of very hostile elites is a problem common to both Russia and America.

See the data analysis by Emil Kirkegaard here:


In the less prestigious, lower IQ, more prole areas, United Russia came out well ahead. My own district is pretty representative in this respect.


In terms of the average share of the vote of each political faction (you could vote for up to five people), United Russia got ~1,500, the liberals ~700, the commies ~700, and the nationalists ~300.

Personally I voted for two LDPR candidates, one from Rodina, and some green/ecological chick (she was not in United Russia, a commie, or a liberal traitor, so that was fine by me).

On the one hand, these results are still pretty encouraging; Moscow’s peripheries still reject the Westernist cargo cult, unlike the coddled hipsters of Central Moscow, who hate Russia despite everything that Mayor Sobyanin has done for them in transforming their living spaces into the gentrified SWPL urbanist paradise that they have always yearned for. But is United Russia actually a political force in its own right, or is it just a facade for normies who don’t want to “rock the boat,” and which will fold as quickly as did the Party of Regions in the Ukraine when the pedal is put to the metal? If it’s the latter, with liberals and commies running neck and neck, and nationalists basically out of the picture, the prospects for Russia will be grim in the event of a color revolution.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Moscow, Politics, Russia 
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The Russia wide protests organized by Navalny on June 12 were a flop.

This was not unexpected, given the lack of enthusiasm on social networks – in Moscow, there were 20% fewer people expressing interest in going to this event relative to the March 26th protest on Facebook. The earlier event had translated into 8,000 people, which is pretty much a “fail” so far as a 13 million population metropolis is concerned.

In the smaller Russian cities, where the June 12 protests went ahead as agreed with the local authorities, turnout was unimpressive, typically numbering in the low 100′s.

Pavel Gladkov has collected some photos (h/t melanf):

The protest in Novosibirsk, the third biggest Russian city (1.5 million) and unofficial capital of Siberia, gathered 2,000 people, which is about the same as in March.

Turnout has in general been similar to the March 26 rallies. This implies Navalny’s support on the streets – as in the polls – hasn’t improved since then.

Which, I suppose, explains why Navalny decided to sabotage his own protests in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

Quick recap:

The Moscow city authorities gave Navalny permission to stage a meeting at prospekt Sakharova, a relatively central and spacious location. In Saint-Petersburg, they offered a location at Udelnaya, which is less central, but still spacious and easily accessible by metro.

In the last few hours before the protests, Navalny made a location change, to Tverskaya in Moscow and The Field of Mars in Saint-Petersburg, both of which are at the very centers of those cities. Moreover, Tverskaya in particular was already hosting a massive historical reconstruction festival.

sakahrov-speakers Before the protests, many observers, including myself, had expressed skepticism about Navalny’s claims that stage and sound suppliers had been pressured not to service his event. Navalny used this “insult” as the formal explanation for why he was moving the location of the protest.

However, the only evidence he provided was a phone conversation between two anonymous people. Moreover, as the liberal blogger Ilya Varlamov pointed out, why couldn’t he have bought speakers at a store and then returned/resold them?

Then on the day of the event itself it emerged that a sound and speaker system did emerge on prospekt Sakharova anyway, which should blow up anyone’s suspicion meter through the roof.

The weight of the evidence thus indicates that the sound and speaker blockade reason was bogus.

The likeliest alternative explanation is that Team Navalny, aware that attendance numbers were going to be unimpressive – in the event, an accurate assessment – decided that the only way to get into the news cycle would be to create an interesting spectacle for make benefit of Western cameras.

Unfortunately, due to the very low quality – or malicious competence – of the Western media, he largely succeeded in this, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald points out:

macdonald-crap-russia-journalism Then there were the blatant misrepresentations. Such as when New York Times’ bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar and Financial Times’ Eastern Europe Editor Neil Buckley both attempted to depict barriers clearly erected as props for the military history show as “traps” to impede protesters. Tweets they later deleted, in fairness. Nevertheless, this particular “fake news” tweet by the anti-Russia activist Alex Kokcharov has been shared hundreds of times, enjoying retweets from the likes of Economist magazine editor Edward Lucas and Anders Aslund of NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct.

Almost every correspondent refused to tell followers how the event was “unsanctioned” and “illegal,” instead preferring to act as cheerleaders. Some examples included hacks from Foreign Policy, the Guardian, BBC and the Moscow Times. Meanwhile, Associated Press, the Washington Post, ABC and Fox all managed to omit any mention of the history festival in their reaction to the change of location.

And then there was CNN, always good for a laugh on this beat, breathlessly telling its viewers that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators could be mobilized. When in reality it was around 5,000 in Moscow.

Unfortunately for Navalny, the Russian electorate are not Western audiences, and these stunts are unlikely to work out well for him.

The March 26 meeting was an essentially harmless affair, perhaps a minor inconvenience to some Muscovites, but one that was adequately compensated by the entirely voluntary personal risk the protesters took by participating in an unauthorized gathering.

It was the protesters’ choice to come there and effect non-violent resistance (for the most part) in service of a cause they believed in. It was OMON’s choice to uphold the letter of the law and clear out an unsanctioned protest; they are well-compensated for their trouble. It was my own choice to risk arrest by covering it as a “citizen journalist” of sorts; as with Vincent Law, my greater fear is not getting arrested per se, nor the fines, nor a day or two in detention; it’s the fact of getting arrested *at a Navalny protest*.

The important thing is that the risk of innocent passersby getting caught up was minimal.

This time round, Navalny and his crew purposefully crashed a separate event where people wanted to cosplay historical battles, not participate in an actual one against the police. This would have been irresponsible and unethical course of action for anyone with pretenses to serious politics. That this was very likely based on a lie makes it outright disgraceful. These are the actions of a two bit rabblerouser.

For instance, here is one account of how Navalny supporters ruined the day of one reconstructor who wanted to show Muscovites how medieval Russians made decorative beads (h/t E for partial translation):

They [the liberals] yelled into the faces of myself, the musicians and historical reconstructionists that we were “traitors”, that what we’re doing is useless sh*t, that we should instead be having meetings, that we are paid-off varmints who were placed there in order to disrupt their meetings. To our protests that we’re teaching people crafts and history, we received the reply: “Nobody needs any of that sh*t! We need to have meetings and create a revolution!”. I really wanted to bash these people’s faces in, but people were yelling at us that we shouldn’t give in to provocation, because EVERYTHING was CONSTANTLY being filmed by dozens of cameras.

In the end, the programme continued after a several-hour interruption. Of course, I didn’t make any more beads, because I needed to heat up my oven again and there wasn’t much time left.
In one of the camps, they took down and broke a pavilion, and broke the tent in another. But the reconstructionists, having armed themselves with shields, saved the most important places from total destruction. I understand how difficult it must have been not to grab the spears and axes, as well.

By all rights, this should finally finish off Navalny’s portrayal of himself as a champion of honesty and transparency in politics.

As his recent interview with Ksenia Sobchak confirmed, this is a non too bright man who does not know elementary facts and figures about the state of the Russian economy or public health. He is a one-trick pony who is only any good on corruption, or at least coming up with catchy slogans about it. However, even on corruption, it just so often happens that Navalny’s demonstrated behavior is at odds with his purported principles and beliefs, with this latest episode being just the latest example.

That said, Navalny is undoubtedly extremely talented at playing the democratic martyr for the Western cameras.

Therefore, the main part of his constituency – Western consumers of CNN and Buzzfeed – will have to keep on wondering why the collapse of the Putin regime keeps failing to pan out for the nth time.

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I don’t have much to add to my previous posts on this matter:


An n=8,200 Ipsos poll from May 5 gave Emmanual Macron 63% to Le Pen’s 37%. She needs a miracle.

The betting markets are likewise gloomy. Macron is 87% favorites on PredictIt, which is bad but not hopeless for Le Pen.

However, the picture becomes much worse for the French nationalists when you look at betting markets with a wider breakdown of options. For instance, the probability distribution for the question asking what percentage of the popular vote MLP will get displays a bell curve with a peak around 37%-38%, declining to 1% for the segment 45-46%, and staying at 1% for each consecutive one percentage point segment until we get to 11% predicting 50%+, i.e. a Le Pen victory.

These Le Pen optimists are clearly banking on some kind of miracle – systemic polling problems that massively understate MLP’s support (seemingly disproved in the first round); the spirit of kek; perhaps a few timely leaks.

And it just so happens that kek has delivered through the hacker 4chan.

On May 3, a /pol/ack posted two PDFs with evidence of an offshore bank account owned by Macron in the Cayman Islands.

The first doc is the incorporation of a shell company in Nevis, a country that doesn’t keep ownership records of corporations. The second is proof of a banking relationship with a bank involved in tax evasion in the Cayman Islands.

People have known for a while that Macron underreported his income and assets to the government, but nobody knew where it was stored. Here’s where his money is stored. See what you can do with this, anon. Let’s get grinding. If we can get #MacronCacheCash trending in France for the debates tonight, it might discourage French voters from voting Macron.

Document 1:

Document 2:

palmer-banking-spy Curiously, in the final debate, Le Pen had implied Macron might be in possession of an offshore account in the Bahamas, in response to which Macron had threatened a defamation lawsuit.

The lawyer who the documents indicate set up Macron’s Cayman LLC appears to have had a career as a top CIA banking spy.

One day later, about 9GB of email, photos, and attachments up to April 24, 2017 were posted on the /pol/ boards.

Are you ready /pol/?

In this pastebin are links to torrents of emails between Macron, his team and other officials, politicians as well as original documents and photos

The emails were quickly established as credible, though the Macron campaign has taken a cue from the HRC campaign and hinted that there are fakes interspersed amongst the real emails.

Though nobody has comprehensively looked through the entire thing, and of course doing so before the actual elections is unrealistic, some interesting tidbits are cropping up that may involve insider trading, unauthorized access to classified state information, and the purchase of recreational drugs and perhaps harder stuff.

Needless to say, this has created quite the stir on cyberspace. Wikileaks and Jack Posobiec spread the message on Twitter; as I write this, #MacronLeaks is the number one trending hashtag on French Twitter. The French police have taken a formal interest in ascertaining the identity of the leaker.

Problem: The French media has entered its election silence period, so there will be no substantive discussions of the MacronLeaks in the MSM. (I checked the front pages of the major French newspapers and Le Monde is the only one to have prominent coverage of MacronLeaks).

Which begs the question of whodunnit.

The MSM has, of course, rushed to blame the Russian hacker Ivan. However, as more level-headed people have pointed out, what would be the point of doing this at the last moment? Macron is the least Russia friendly of the four major candidates – his campaign has scandalously barred the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik from his events – and, the logic goes, would now be even less well disposed towards Putin.

On the other hand, a more cynical view might be that the Kremlin views the prospects for cooperation with a Macron-led France as being so dismal anyway that it might as well begin destabilizing him straight away.

Two other possibilities:

(1) Bryan MacDonald: “My bet is other state actors trying to ruin any chance of a future Macron-Putin arrangement or freelance Russians acting the maggot.”

(2) Technically competent, disgruntled Leftist/Communist supporter who wants to undermine Macron, but who doesn’t want Le Pen to benefit from it.

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The other day a Levada poll was released showing an apparently lackluster performance by Navalny in a hypothetical Presidential race against Putin and the other candidates.

If there were elections on the coming Sunday, who would you vote for? (The figures below exclude those said they don’t know, or don’t intend to vote).

Apr13 Apr14 Apr15 Jan16 Apr17
Putin 64 81 82 83 83
Zhirinovsky 7 6 5 4 5
Zyuganov 13 7 9 6 4
Shoigu 3 2 <1 3 2
Navalny <1 <1 1 1 2
Medvedev 3 <1 <1 <1 1
Mironov 1 1 1 1 1
Prokhorov 4 1 1 1 <1
Other 4 2 1 2 2

This seems very bad for “Alexey 2 Percent,” as he was just styled by the great Paul Robinson.

On the one hand, he is certainly correct in his main point that one shouldn’t be rushing to buy the hype around Navalny generated by the Western media.

OTOH, I don’t think it’s quite as catastrophic for Navalny as the professor makes it out to be. For instance, in February 2012, (adjusted for non-voter’s/don’t knows) about 6% of Russians intended to vote for Prokhorov. In the event, he got 8%, which would have been closer to 9% without electoral fraud.

Of perhaps greater relevance, Levada and VCIOM opinion polls were giving the Kremlin-backed candidate Sobyanin about 70% versus 9-13% for Navalny in the Moscow mayoral election of 2013. In the event, Sobyanin only narrowly avoided a second round with 51% to Navalny’s 27%.

navalny-voting-intentions Even more worrying for the Kremlin though is that the percentage of Russians saying they were “probably” or “definitely” going to vote for Navalny increased from the 5% level he enjoyed from March 2012 to February 2017 (i.e. encompassing the period of the Moscow elections) to 10% in March 2017 following the release of the Medvedev corruption video.

Now just to make it clear I am not implying that Navalny is any sort of serious electoral threat to Putin – at least for now. In particular, the President’s ratings are at a consistent ~80% since Crimea, whereas during the 2012-13 period they were hovering at a nadir of ~60%.

Putin’s relatively greater popularily will, presumably, mostly or even wholly cancel out Navalny’s momentum.

And, of course, the question of whether Navalny will even be allowed to run is still an open one. Just a few hours ago a Russian court upheld the five year suspended sentence given to Navalny for the Kirovles Affair, which might be grounds for formally barring him from the Presidential race – though as in 2013, it is possible that it will not be enforced. Still, I’m not going to bet on that. Navalny is far more charismatic than Prokhorov, he is the only liberal candidate with a reasonable chance of making inroads into the (considerably bigger) nationalist electorate, and the recent attack on him by kremlin-affiliated thugs – which threatens to make him blind in one eye, if his own assertions are true – might create a martyr effect for him (as the murky dioxin poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, which helped drive Ukrainians to stage the Orange Revolution). It would not be wise for the kremlins to risk a Navalny run.

One other very interesting, and even more interesting development, is the complete collapse of Zyuganov’s (Communist) support – he has gone from 13% in April 2013, to just 5% today; practically level pegging with the nationalist Zhirinovsky, who has also declined, but by a far more modest degree, despite losing part of his nationalist base to Putin after Crimea.

russia-elections-2016-party-support-age-group As I have long pointed out, the Red base of pensioners is dying out – there are three times fewer Communist voters in the youngest age group versus the oldest, whereas the LDPR’s share, conversely, doubles – and the demographics are now fast translating into electoral politics.

What this means in practice is that in the unlikely scenario that Navalny does run, I strongly suspect that he and Putin will between them compress the two fossils of Russian politics – that is, Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky – into the single digits, and will manage to come a distant second, perhaps 15% to Putin’s 70%.

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hi-reddit-russia A couple of weeks back I had an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with /r/Russia.

Direct link: Hi /r/Russia! Anatoly Karlin, writer for The Unz Review / Анатолий Карлин, “пейсатель” о России, геополитике. AMA!

Thought I would reprint some of the questions and answers there so that they don’t vanish into the digital ether.



You were at the March 26 protests

Can we confidently say that the Kremlin lost young voters forever.

Does Russia have a new protest generation?

For example in the west, there was the contrast between the WWII conservative generation and the young generation of the 60s( this so-called counterculture )

Yes, here’s my account of the March 26 protests.

I don’t think the Kremlin has lost young voters, though some kremlins are definitely trying to. Ultimately, Putin after Crimea still has the steady support of about 80% of Russians, so that precludes any great dip in support amongst young people.

My impression is that paradoxically, both liberal and pro-Putin sentiments might be somewhat higher amongst the younger generations, alongside a melange of other, more idiosyncratic ideologies like monarchism and whatnot. Why? Because Communist sympathies collapse amongst younger Russians. That is, relative to the older generations, there are still plenty of “vatniks,” but many fewer “sovoks.”

If there is going to be a strong youth-based protest movement in the future – which isn’t the case now, 8,000 protesters in a city of 12 million is nothing – I suspect nationalists will play a big role in it.


Two questions

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important politcal challenges facing our country and how can those challenges can be adress?
  2. What should the federal government’s top three priorities be in setting a sound foreign policy vital to our interest?

(1) The lack of a clearcut succession mechanism is a serious problem. Putin after Crimea has become sort of what the poli-sci types call a “charismatic leader,” so his own power is quite secure, but you can’t say the same for the beigeocratic bugmen who make up his entourage from Medvedev on down. Hopefully he can groom an adequate replacement in his remaining years as President.

(2) It all boils down to this: Be smarter.


Alexey Pushkov: “Russia invested $200bn in Ukraine’s economy in the past 20 years, the US – $5bn in the “development of democracy.” Looks like we didn’t invest correctly. Important lesson.”

The lack of a clearcut succession mechanism is a serious problem. Putin after Crimea has become sort of what the poli-sci types call a “charismatic leader,” so his own power is quite secure, but you can’t say the same for the beigeocratic bugmen who make up his entourage from Medvedev on down. Hopefully he can groom an adequate replacement in his remaining years as President.

What do you think might happen if Putin fails to produce a successor in time (for one reason or another)? Are there any political elites or oligarchs who might be plotting an aggressive move to be executed against Putin (if his support wanes over time) or shortly after him suddenly stepping down (ill health, death, or something else)? Maybe someone in the military or siloviki? Indeed, the lack of any clear mechanisms will cause chaos, which will be an opportunity for some.

I am just as skeptical about the prospects of an internal coup against Putin as about the prospects of a color revolution (detailed article about this).

Putin’s approval rating hasn’t consistently dipped below 60% since late 1999. Any event or development that brings it down into dangerous territory is likely to be so unexpected and traumatic that little could be meaningfully predicted about it. If Putin steps down due to “life” reasons (e.g. ill health), Medvedev would be the immediate logical successor. He will get by in the short to medium term, I suppose, though being much less popular and charismatic than Putin his position will be shakier.


How much of a role did the US have in the Russian troubles in the 90s? Mostly talking about the domestic problems. Aside from their monetary support of Yelstin in the 1996 election, can’t think of any nefarious actions, while some claim that the CIA conspired with the oligarchs to destroy the country, and then with the Chechens to destroy it again, and so on. From what I’ve read, the US (as a whole, with the exception of some officials including presidents) was mostly disinterested in Russian domestic problems, leaving it to its own problems.

Do you think that if the US managed to execute a Marshall plan-style aid for Russia back then, it would have been a better place now?

I think US role in that is overdone in “patriotic” Russian propaganda. Most of the damage was either self-inflicted (the kleptocratic nature of the privatizations), or inevitable (reintroducing markets after 60 years of central planning – you can turn a fish into a fish stew, but turning a fish stew into a fish is harder, as the economists joked).

To be sure, the oligarchs pretty much were Western agents of influence, but I agree with you that the dominant US policy towards Russia was disinterest.

Russian opinion towards the US was extremely positive in the early 1990s, through to the war against Serbia. There were even serious considerations of pursuing NATO membership through to the early 2000s. If there ever was an opportunity to draw Russia within the Euro-Atlantic orbit and preempt a Sino-Russian alliance, it was then. Instead, Washington D.C. considered itself the victory in the Cold War and chose to expand NATO (a policy opposed by both George Kennan and Henry Kissinger).


Do you think Lenin will be buried? How do you expect the 100th anniversary of his revolution will be “commemorated” in Russia?

Lenin was a traitor, so if his body has to be disposed of in some way, it should be cremated and scattered to the four winds.

That said, it does have some historical value as the oldest well preserved body in the world, so perhaps it could be moved to an outskirt of Moscow. Maybe the commies could crowdfund a “shrine” of some sort there.


If Vladimir Zhirinovsky had a daughter named Martine could she lead the LDPR to power?

Martine Lebedeva would be a good name for a video game anti-heroine.


Political Theory

Any favorites among right-wing thinkers from nineteenth century? Do you think that, say, Pobedonostev still holds water today as an actual political philosopher, or he should be read from purely historical POV? Name your three favorite russian philosophers, right-wing or not.

I haven’t studied Pobedonostev in any great depth, but I’m not enarmored with him; too often he seems to adopt egregiously reactionary positions just for, well, the heck of it.

I do recall him having some good thoughts on how the mass media operates, rushing to print anything without fact-checking (#fakenews?). But his proposed solutions tended to be antagonistically authoritarian, and some were outright crazy, like his arguments against mass schooling.

Favorite 3 Russian philosophers:

  1. Ivan Ilyin
  2. Vladimir Vernadsky
  3. Nikolay Berdyaev


What’s your take on classic Moldbug writings from 2008-2013, and separately, on current state of neoreactosphere?

I am not a big fan of Moldbug.

For instance, he not only denies AGW, but also seems to be under the impression that this makes him some sort of dissident against the “weaponized memeplex of Hypercalvinist Atheo-Oecumenic conspiracy,” as opposed to just subscribing to one of the tenets of Conservatism Inc. (USA).

As for his big idea, neocameralism – dividing up sovereignty into shares to be bought up by Silicon Valley oligarchs? Congratulations, neoreactionaries – you’ve just handed the SJWs absolute political power on a platter.

My view on NRx (in its original formulation) is that it was just libertarians trying to deal with the fact that the average person has an IQ of 100. Since I was never a libertarian, it never appealed to me all that strongly, despite certain sympathies for it. To be sure, there was also an “ethnonationalist” strain in NRx, but my impression is that it has since pretty much merged into the Alt Right (as Michael Anissimov predicted a couple of years back).


Let me just say that I greatly value your blogging over the years. It’s a breath of fresh air. Western coverage of Russia is 100% propaganda but the simpletons over at RT are not much better. I realise your biases – you’re open about them – but I much prefer that over feigned ‘neutrality’ which always end up in a monotone demonisation.

Now to my question. Putin strikes me as less of a nationalist than an imperialist . An imperialist believes in a larger, over-arching idea. Rome went from being a nation-state to an Empire, and being “roman” moved from an ethnic concept to a universal concept. Same is true with America.

In my view, if you’re a Russian nationalist, then you should be against imperialism. This isn’t to say that you don’t want Russia to be strong(which is often confused with being an imperialist by naïve people). Because only nationalism will preserve the Russian nation(see the Central Asian immigration problem).

So, with such a large preamble, do you A) agree with my characterisation of Putin and B) what do you think are the chances of purely ethnic Russian(with some allowances for other ethnicities, as long as they meld into the larger Russian core) nationalism? I’m thinking post-Putin mostly given that he is in his mid-60s and is unlikely to change.

I am a Russian nationalist, but I subscribe to the concept of the triune Russian nation – i.e., of Great Russians, Little Russians, and White Russians – as the nation-building core of a prospective “Big Russia.”

This implicitly demands the eventual reunification of the Russian lands – not as an imperial project, but a nation-(re)building one.

The most “imperial” aspects of Russia are (1) Chechnya/Ingushetia/Dagestan and (2) Central Asia, both of which were only brought within the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century. And I am indeed lukewarm about whether or not the former should remain within Russia, and am certainly opposed to any significant degree of integration with the latter (not least for demographic reasons: There are about now as many young Central Asians as there are ethnic Russians).

With that out of the way, to answer your specific questions:

(A) Putin is an imperialist, a nationalist, as well as a conservative, a liberal, a liberal-conservative, a patriot, a sovok, an opportunist, and so forth. His modus operandi has always been to balance between different political and ideological factions.

(B) Support for this strain of nationalism is certainly growing – as of the latest polls, “Russia for [ethnic] Russians” enjoys about 50% support, and that viewpoint is relatively far more prevalent amongst the younger generations.



Who will take power next in Ukraine? Do you think the Kremlin’s decision to take a passive approach will be vindicated? My impression is that Ukraine is a bit of a dumpster fire at the moment, which will make anyone who steps inside regret it. But then, vigorous action might have and might yet restore the status quo ante of a reasonably large and friendly buffer state (minus west Ukraine).

I speculated about developments in Ukraine here. There’s a possibility that Tymoshenko is mounting a slow-motion coup against Poroshenko with the help of Turchinov, Kolomoysky, and his pet far right batallions.

I unenthusiastically supported Minsk II at the time, however I think since then its detractors have been proven right – as of Q4 2016, the Ukrainian economy was growing by close to 5% (after all, even Ukraine has to hit bottom at some point). That said, Trump’s election victory is an unexpected wild card that may yet rescue the day, and Ukrainian nationalists have proved to be reliably helpful.

restore the status quo ante
friendly buffer state

Pick one. Pre-Maidan Ukraine was not friendly.

Yes, this is true. Yanukovych only turned to EEU at the last moment, right after running an extensive pro-EU campaign. Genius!

The demographics in Ukraine are also very unfavorable in terms of attitudes towards Russia. The Far West is growing vigorously – it has some of the highest fertility rates in Europe – whereas the Donbass was in a true death spiral even before the war.

Moreover, even I can sympathize with Ukrainians who don’t want their country to be a buffer state. While both the EU and Russia can sell tantalizing (if unrealistic) visions of what is possible – TyschaVDen’ to the west, space race victory to the east – literally like, nobody, wants to be a “buffer” between a bunch of gayropean degenerates and sovok cretins. :)


What is your opinion on the syrian intervention and how much longer in your opinion will we stay in the country?

I initially supported it on the theory that its goals were to provide cheap real life training for the Russian Air Force; secure itself a couple of useful bases in the MENA region; use it as a bargaining chip with the US in future discussions about spheres of influence in Eurasia.

I have since become more skeptical about it. There is now a much larger degree of involvement, including ground involvement, and it seems like Russia is taking its own rhetoric about fighting the terrorists in Syria so as not to have to fight them in Russia itself seriously. That said, I still support it, though I now have major reservations about the dangers of overextension.

If there is no further substantial US intervention, I expect Syria to be eventually divided between the Syrian government west of the Euphrates, and Kurdistan east of it, maybe by 2019-20. They will come to some kind of confederal arrangement. If however the neocons win out and move forwards with HRC’s no fly zone ideas, who knows what will happen. Nothing good, that’s for certain.


What’s the general sentiment towards Germany? What do Russians think about Germany today and how much did the feelings towards Germany change after our relations took a change for the worse recently? Also, what do you think would need to happen to better the German-Russian relations?

(1) Were generally good until 2014. I can’t find polls on Levada, but I would imagine Russian opinion of Germany tracks that of the EU, which was consistently higher than opinion of the US, but converged after 2014.

(2) AfD comes to power in Germany. Khodorkovsky comes to power in Russia.

More realistically, if the US goes full neocon and goes gallivanting on Middle East adventures again. There are committed Atlanticists in Germany like Julian Roepcke, but they are still a minority. German assessments of US trustworthiness have already plummeted from ~60% under Obama to close to 20% after Trump (similar to the current figures for Russia), and especially if the SPD takes back power and anyone other than Macron or Hamon win in France, I could just about see the reformation of the Paris/Berlin/Moscow bloc that opposed the Iraq War. Still, it’s a huge longshot.

Thank you! Military misadventures of the US are the most realistic possibility for an improvement in my eyes, too. But such an outside influence wouldn’t be a very substantial one and also may only be short lived.

Still, it’s a bit paradox that while the “West” seems to be united in its condemnation of and mistrust towards Russia, Germany is building NordstreamII and some german lower rank politicians like Seehofer keep traveling to Moscow, seemingly to keep relations from dropping too low. I think Germany is caught in the middle, having to appease its main and most influential ally, the US, while trying to maintain some contact with Russia and access to the Russian market on which can be build upon in the future, if the situation improves and allows for it.

A last note on why I asked my question… I was very moved by Putin’s speech at the German Bundestag in 2001 and felt like the vision of a shared EU/Russian market, common security policy and general cooperation between the EU and what is now the EEU would have been a true path to stability and prosperity for our region and most of the world and it saddens me very much that this vision is more or less dead now.


What do you think of use of military force to achieve Russian goals? Syria seems to me to be a success, regardless of many possible concerns, however instances like Georgia and Ukraine seem to be very much a mixed bag. In short – was it worth it, and was there a viable alternative?

Georgia – Russian peacekeepers were directly attacked, no choice but to respond forcefully.

Ukraine – Crimea was an undisputed success that saved it from Donbass’ sad fate. If anything, a timely Russian large-scale intervention in early 2014 would have resulted in far fewer overall deaths and suffering.

Syria – See here.



Will Russia return to the cutting edge of space exploration (and/or exploitation, colonization, etc.) technology in the near future?

How does the Russian military stack up against the US and China when it comes to the space domain?

No. In fact, I expect Russia to continue slipping behind.

Ultimately, there is only so much $3.5tn economy and $3bn Roskosmos budget can sustain versus a $20tn economy (USA, China) and a $35bn NASA budget/$6bn and rapidly growing Chinese space budget.

That said, I don’t expect space colonization to occur on any substantial scale in this century, Musk’s rhetoric regardless.


As a transhumanist myself I don’t really understand how transhumanism and nationalism mixed together in you. The idea of transhumanism transcends the ideas of nations, races and even the human nature. Technological evolution should unite the humanity and as long people become more and more connected today with each other – the ideas of national goverments and nations will be rendered oblosete with time.

Good question.

Very legitimate one, of course. I am sure that once we get to computer superintelligence or CRISPR ourselves up to 175 average IQs, the world will become thoroughly cosmopolitan (support for tolerance, open borders, free trade, etc. tends to increase with IQ).

Problem #1 – developing those technologies takes brains. Elite brains. “Smart fractions,” as they’re known in the psychometric literature. As well as the appropriate technological growth-friendly institutions, which again need a certain level of average national IQ to maintain.

Problem #2 – the evidence suggests that mass immigration from the Third World has negative effects on average national IQ. There is also good recent economic research that suggests that immigrants tend to carry over their home country cultural attitudes, with negative impacts on the quality of institutions in the host countries. See Garett Jones.

Can you envision the US or Japan (average IQ ~100) launching a singularity? It doesn’t seem entirely implausible.

Can you envision Brazil or Indonesia (average IQ ~85) launching a singularity? Sub-Saharan Africa (average IQ ~70)? Seems rather less likely.

As the neoreactionaries say, you can’t cultivate gardens without walls. We don’t know what kind of smart fraction ingenuity would be necessary for the biosphere to complete its transition into a disembodied noosphere. As such, it makes sense to play it safe.

Thank you for broad answer! Technological singularity is my dream. I wish would live long enough only to see the start of it. I have limited knowledge about general AI and even less about gene alteration technology, but guts of the computer engineer say that achieving artificial or virtual intelligence is faster way to help humanity to solve difficult problems. Only after development of such system humanity would reach the level when they will “gene-engineer” the humanity itself. Putting it simply – be smart enough to become smarter first and use this knowledge later.

Sometimes I think that sometimes society and technology develops way ahead of human basic behavior – eat, dominate and multiply – and that creates problems we have worldwide.



Russia’s economic growth 2000-2008: how much is luck and how much is sound fiscal management/ macroeconomic policy? I find this to be a fundamental question when it comes to assessing Putin’s legacy.

Russia’s future economic growth: will Putin be able to deliver solid numbers or do you agree with me that the preferable route for Russia going forward would be to be led by liberal reformists such as Medvedev/Kudrin?

EEU: Does it make sense for Russia economically? Should it continue to be pursued for geopolitical purposes? Bonus: should Russia seek closer ties with Europe or do it’s own Eurasian thing?

Also, do you share my assessment that Putin’s domestic policy since 2008 of increased authoritarianism etc has been a bad thing and that there is a need for a change in direction?

(1) Russia did about average for the ex-Soviet region – much better than Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, most of the Central Asian states; about the same as two of the “Baltic tigers,” Latvia and Lithuania; and worse than Estonia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.

Oil production in the latter two greatly increased relative to the peak Soviet period, whereas Russia’s only recovered to where they were. It might have done better without hasty corruption-wracked privatizations; even star reformer Poland didn’t rush with them, and they did very well. Even just doing what Belarus did would have probably been better. Their GDP stopped falling around 1995. OTOH, it wasn’t a total disaster like Ukraine. I don’t know if the Estonian example is extendable to Russia given its status as a tiny entrepot.

(2) What does “reform” even mean? Russia is now 40th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ratings. I call that successful reform.

Then there is the “cult of reform” which involves installing pro-Western yesmen into power for a temporary bump to the stockmarket in return for selling state assets for pennies on the dollar, unilateral geopolitical concessions, etc.

Kudrin once went on record calling on Russians to drink more vodka for the good of the budget. Vodka bingeing is the leading cause of premature mortality in Russia. I don’t think Russia needs “economic geniuses” like that, regardless of the opinions of Davos bugmen.

(3) I supported the EEU when it appeared to be something around which Russia could return to its older borders through peaceful economic integration. Since then it has started to look more like a mechanism to send cheap labor to Russia, styming automation, suppressing wages, helping Central Asian sovok dictators stay in power, and perhaps eventually turning Russia into Greater Turkestan. I support a wall with Central Asia and the regathering of the Russian lands.

(4) “Bonus: should Russia seek closer ties with Europe or do it’s own Eurasian thing?”
Meaningless question. Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong. Europe is a geographical expression. – Bismarck. For instance, even today there are huge differences in attitudes towards Russia, from Russophobic Swedes to Russophilic Italians.

(5) I don’t have any cardinal disagreements with the setup of the Russian political system, though there are certainly many specific points of disagreement (e.g. the lack of a clear succession mechanism; the undeniably high levels of corruption within the elites; etc).

Thank you for the reply.

1) This does not really answer my question. Basically, how much credit can Putin take for Russia’s fast economic growth? His critics would say he simply “got lucky” as he was able to export expensive oil and gas.

2) I have noted the progress in the “doing business” ranking. However, how significant is this in practice? By “reform”, I mean modernisation and diversification away from energy dependence. The govt seems to have largely failed in this regard – would you agree?

4) Andrei Tsygankov divides Russia’s political class into three ‘schools’: Westernisers, statists and civilisationists. Westernisers (Medvedev, Kudrin etc) perceive Russia as a “European” country and argue that Russia should join the ranks of Western countries and seek closer ties with the EU and disregard Eurasian integration initiatives – essentially, become as “normal” a European state as it can.

5) What about heavy state ownership of the media? On corruption – is it fair to say that Putin does not appear to have done enough? Are you familiar with any of the intricacies of it – ie how difficult would it be to actually “clean up” Russia and get it to Northern European levels of corruption? Saakashvili appears to have managed to do something like this in Georgia, for all his flaws.

(1) The point that I tried to make, perhaps unsuccessfully, is that this is a very hard question that might be impossible to answer without rewinding history. Perhaps Russia could have done a bit better – though not necessarily through “Western approved” methods, as Belarus showed – but it’s also easy how it could have gone considerably worse (see Ukraine).

(2) The ease of business rankings seem to be pretty important in that (a) they are objective, unlike many other indices, such as the CPI; (b) businesspeople pay a lot attention to it; (c) n=1, but it syncs with my own impressions that the Russian bureaucracy has improved, if from a very low base.

Consider diversification practically, instead of as a slogan. Since Russia produces as much oil as Saudi Arabia, diversification away from it is not easy, just as it is not for, say, Norway, or Australia (both fully developed countries with large natural resource sectors). Unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, Russia does have a substantial manufacturing base – comparable in scope to that of France, Italy, India, and Brazil. In my opinion, the problem with the Russian economy isn’t so much that there’s no diversification beyond oil and gas – there is – but that it tends to be technologically underdeveloped.

(4) There is a difference in becoming a “normal European country” (which is good, and something that Russia has been doing anyway, not unsuccessfully as was pointed out by Treisman & Schleifer as early as 2003) and pursuing European integration, which right now is akin to boarding a sinking ship, and was never a realistic option for Russia anyway.
(5) “What about heavy state ownership of the media?”

The (realistic) alternative is ownership by oligarchs who wish their own and pro-Western agendas. Here’s the famous quote on this from Pelevin (only in Russian, unfortunately):

“On corruption – is it fair to say that Putin does not appear to have done enough? Are you familiar with any of the intricacies of it – ie how difficult would it be to actually “clean up” Russia and get it to Northern European levels of corruption?”

Yes, that’s fair. He is far too easy on corrupt members of his entourage. Which, frankly, is most or all of them.

That said, I am very skeptical that Russia can “solve” corruption for a variety of historical (both Tsarist Russia and USSR failed to), comparative (Italy, Greece, etc. haven’t come anywhere near Northern European standards, despite decades of institutional convergence by dint of EU membership), and cultural/biocultural (see hbdchick’s theories on the Hajnal Line) reasons.

Obviously we should aim to become better, but expectations should be kept realistic. I am pretty sure that liberal appetites for corruption are constrained only by their own lack of access to power, not ethics, and besides, Ukraine next door has now – twice! – demonstrated that color revolutions do nothing for improving corruption.

“Saakashvili appears to have managed to do something like this in Georgia, for all his flaws.”
Commented on this here:

“6% of Georgians reported paying a bribe in the past year in 2004, the first year of Saakashvili’s Presidency, and before his reforms could reasonably be expected to have taken effect; in 2013, the last year of his President, it was 4%. An improvement, sure, but not a particularly radical one. Actual opinion polls by Transparency International suggest that lowlevel corruption was not a big problem in Georgia pre-Saakashvili, and its reduction under him could just as easily have been a simple matter of the general withering away of the state’s regulatory agencies under his libertarian reforms. For instance, the near wholesale removal of university tuition subsidies – essential for democratic access to higher education in a country as poor as Georgia – led to a plunge in tertiary enrollment by almost a third relative to the early-to-mid-2000s. Fewer students automatically translates to fewer bribes for grades. These examples can be extended indefinitely: Less contact with the state automatically leads to “lower” corruption. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good” in all cases.”

Share of exports does not equal level of dependency. Natural resources may make out a large part of Norwegian exports, but they siphon only a very small percentage​ of this income into the state budget (<4% per annum). Russia has clearly taken a bigger hit from the recent crisis than many other energy exporters.

It seems I may have fallen prey to the myth of Saakashvili’s ingenuity on this front. How come Georgia’s level of corruption was already so low? Did they not go through the same decade of looting during the 90′s? In any case, does Georgia’s relative similarly to Russia (in terms of history and culture) not suggest that Russia should be able to reach a similar level?

The revelations by Navalny suggest something bordering on complete apathy towards corruption on the part of the Russian elites, wouldn’t you agree? You don’t really see the same level of – let’s face it – looting among the leaders of less corrupt countries. This leads me to suspect they are ultimately responsible for the high levels of corruption.

On the topic of inequality – I assume you agree it is a significant problem in Russia. Do you see any remedies for it? Would you favour additional Khodorkovsky-style, let’s call it, “acquisitions” by the state? Russia appears to be in quite a unique position in that it could massively improve its level of inequality by dealing only with a few select individuals. Again, my suspicion is that the political elite much prefers the current situation, wherein it enjoys free access to these looted assets.

I wasn’t aware there was any unified consensus on what exactly constitutes oil & gas dependency (i.e. share of the budget, share of exports, share of GDP, or some combination of the three).

But speaking of the budget… The share of oil & gas in the consolidated budget is now 21%, so I don’t think the situation is exactly catastrophic. Ultimately, despite the recent collapse in oil prices, the Russian budget has avoided slipping deep into the red.

I don’t think Georgia is similar to Russia at all. It is Orthodox Christian, but otherwise they speak a totally different language, belong to another (older) civilization, are genetically distinct, etc. It is also much more rural. Don’t think its very extendable to Russia at all.

Re-corruption. Mostly agreed. I would also note that there are different kinds of corruption, e.g.:

  • Everyday corruption – high by European standards though not an outlier (not only Ukraine but Romania, Hungary, Lithuania are similar); seems to be constant under Putin.
  • Business corruption (e.g. pay to get construction permit) – high by European standards though not outlier; massively improved according to World Bank Enterprise Surveys under Putin.
  • Elite corruption – very hard to measure – not exactly like you can poll them on this, like you can random individuals and businesses – but seems to be very high; trends hard to ascertain, though my guess would be that the situation is modestly better than in the 1990s, but hasn’t seen any major improvement under Putin.

Re-inequality. The political elite as such, though wealthy, doesn’t enjoy access to most of those “looted assets.” They mostly belong to the oligarchs who became rich off the 1990s privatizations, and who were explicitly told to stay out of politics (Khodorkovsky disobeyed).

Should those oligarchs be expropriated? I don’t know. On the other hand, it might frighten businesspeople and discourage longterm investment (the standard economists’ argument). On the other hand, it’s not as if they don’t deserve it, and so long as this issue remains unresolved, the consequences of privatization will remain a potential source of political illegitimacy.

I wasn’t aware there was any unified consensus on what exactly constitutes oil & gas dependency (i.e. share of the budget, share of exports, share of GDP, or some combination of the three).

I don’t think one exists, hence my objection to going simply by “share of GDP”.

But speaking of the budget… The share of oil & gas in the consolidated budget is now 21%, so I don’t think the situation is exactly catastrophic.

That doesn’t seem too bad. However, I wonder what the number would be if you included indirect income from the oil and gas sector – ie payroll taxes on employees and even the economic activity generated by their spending (this isn’t measurable, but I’m sure some estimates could be generated). This could be quite significant simply given how much more profitable this sector is than other sectors of the Russian economy.

I don’t think Georgia is similar to Russia at all. It is Orthodox Christian, but otherwise they speak a totally different language, belong to another (older) civilization, are genetically distinct, etc. It is also much more rural. Don’t think its very extendable to Russia at all.

I can see how there are certain differences, but I don’t see why they should result in such a disparity re corruption levels. You also have to factor in the 70 years spent as part of the same union. IQ levels and GDP per capita also point in Russia’s favour in this sphere (though the latter point may be negated by the “resource curse” argument).

I find your distinction between different types of corruption useful. This leads me to believe that “elite corruption” (what I guess you could also term “inequality”) is the real problem here. This, coincidentally, appears to be the domain over which Putin should be able to exert the most influence.

I’m not sure if this is so much about the political elite, in general, as about the small clique surrounding Putin. As Navalny’s most recent work revealed, the oligarchs’ assets appear to be largely at the disposal of this inner circle. For example, Usmanov gifted Medvedev his personal homes and allowed him to stay in his residence​ in Italy. Why give that up?

Even if Putin did want to break the piggy bank this would be an extremely risky (even potentially lethal) project, as the remaining guys would do anything they can to protect their assets. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and Putin will need to maintain his “performance legitimacy” somehow.

It will be interesting to see how Putin’s popularity develops going forward. Any ideas? I assume it can only go so low post-Crimea, but the lacklustre economic predictions are not very reassuring. Absent regular foreign policy victories (which is hardly a reliable political strategy despite recent successes), I suspect there may be clouds lining up in Putin’s horizon. If there’s one thing Navalny’s documentary showed, it’s that people are eyeing the oligarchic piggy bank and they may grow increasingly unhappy with Putin if he does not let more of its contents flow into their pockets.

I kind of do and kind of don’t buy the economic argument against re-acquisition of assets. On the one hand, I believe it could be done in a way that would clearly single out the top 6-7 cats. These would be distinct from foreign investors in that they will be natives and their assets will have formerly belonged to the state and often be related to natural resources. On the other hand, I guess you can always trust clueless foreign investors with zero local knowledge to completely fail to understand what’s going on and proceed to get their panties in a twist.

Sure, the indirect effects of the oil & gas sector certainly has positive downstream effects – certainly inflates consumption to some extent – though of course similar considerations would apply to all large per capita oil & gas exporters.

Pretty much agreed with everything you say about corruption here. that seems to describe reality.

I am actually quite optimistic about economic growth in the next 5 years, barring any major political or geopolitical shocks. We’ve had a two year period of gloom, but this period also saw a tight monetary and fiscal policy, the taming of inflation, and a demographic shock as the numbers of workers entering the labor force plummeted (minimum fertility in Russia was in 1999). But the negative aspects above should attenuate soon, while the positive ones stand the Russia economy in good stead for a strong recovery in the near future.

I’m not categorically against re-appropriation. As you say, it’s not entirely obvious that the reaction will be all that bad, and certainly few people would feel sorry about the likes of Usmanov or Abramovich getting their (belated) just desserts.

I did not think of the demographic factor. I wonder if it will be sufficient to bring about decent growth figures. I wish I shared your optimism, but I feel like significant structural changes are needed to see anything above 2% growth.


Which sectors you believe are likely to become future drivers of Russian economy?

Probably the current mainstays: Oil & gas, steel, the military-industrial complex.

I am actually pretty pessimistic on the long-term prospects of the Russian economy, though not for the usual reasons such as demographics and corruption. Automation in manufacturing is extremely low, scientific output is minimal however you try to measure it, on virtually any hi-tech metric from numbers of supercomputers to numbers of high-thoroughput sequencers, Russia is on the level of small European countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

Despite a few areas of excellence such as nuclear power, Putin’s preference for football stadiums (and the Rotenbergs’ wallets) over R&D funding is increasing Russia’s technological lag, and I’m concerned even the MIC will simply be unable to compete with the likes of the US or China past c.2025.

Considering Putin’s past job of “acquiring” foreign technology in the DDR, he must be aware of Russia’s technological weakness.

What are the prospects of reindustrialisation and foreign investment in Russia considering the collapse in oil prices, Western sanctions as well as more positive economics aspects such as a cheaper Ruble and turning to non-Western sources of investment.

Edit: How well will raising trade barriers work for encouraging domestic manufacturing like how agriculture is benefitting now.

He’s no doubt aware of it, and has even said as much (recall the nanotech initiative back around 2008? Or his promise of 20mn (?) hi-tech jobs in 2012? There was also, of course, Skolkovo. But none of these seem to have been particularly successful to my knowledge. Rosnano was handed over to Anatoly Chubais (LOL), who I think preceeded to invest most of it in Western startups, perhaps after skimming some off for himself.

I don’t know what Russia can do to change to radically improve the situation. Even the East-Central European states that have integrated with the EU haven’t developed strong hi-tech sectors; neither has Mediterranean Europe. It’s something that remains largely confined to the US, North-West Europe, Japan, and increasingly, China. Maybe its just a combination of superior human capital and/or institutions.

However, less money on show-off sporting events and more money for R&D would surely be a good start. There’s also a huge amount of bloat and corruption in Russia higher education, from university rectors to paid-for dissertations (they constitute approximately 10% of the total according to the Dissernet plagiarism detection organization). This must be tackled, but with Putin himself being the recipient of a fictive PhD, not to mention a good percentage of the Russian elites, that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.


• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Nationalism, Neoreaction, Politics, Russia, Ukraine 
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Probably unintentionally, but still.

The video, subtly titled “Hitler 1945/Navalny 2018,” basically argues that if you oppose Medvedev’s corruption and the importation of infinity Moslems into Russia then you are Hitler.

Its current Dislikes to Likes ratio is at around 10.

According to Navalny himself, the man behind the video is Sergey Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration.

The kremlin connection is probably true.

First, it obviously has a high production value, and has many of the stylistic features of the My Duck’s Vision studio, known for its goofy hyperbolic rhetoric and CGI overkill, which nobody really uses nowadays apart from the kremlins.

Second, the video has been shown to [edit 4/20: as has just been brought to my attention by Alexey Kovalev, they were actually shown another video, about Navalny's involvement in the Kirovles affair (an alleged corruption scandal for which Navalny had been convicted), not the one about how he is Hitler; in his post on the matter, Navalny had implied otherwise, which serves as a good reminder that what Navalny says should be fact checked as well] students of Vladimir State University, some of whom had allegedly been forced to go there as punishment for participating in the protests against corruption on March 26.

After the video, the head of the regional law school’s department for counter extremism outreach amongst youth, one vibrantly named Alla Byba lectures the disgruntled students for their temerity in asking her that she also show some of Navalny’s videos – for example, on how Dmitry Peskov wears watches worth three times his annual salary – in the interests of academic neutrality.

“You all know there that is an information war against the Russian Federation,” she informs the students, “No wonder that terrorist organizations are intensively recruiting across the Internet.”

So the basic takeaway is that as we well know actual terrorists have no religion or nationality, discussing Medvedev’s corruption and opposing infinity Moslems in Moscow makes you an extremist, a supporter of Adolf Hitler, and a member of the sixth-column ala Dugin.

You can hardly find a better way to inflate Navalny’s otherwise very modest approval ratings and smother away his real failings, such as a lack of knowledge about policy.

Indeed, as Egor Prosvirnin argues, calling Navalny a Russian fascist is perhaps the one thing that can save him – because it is evidently false to just about everyone who is not in the over 50, no Internet connection, sub-90 IQ demographic. But by attacking him on the basis of his supposed nationalism, the kremlins may well actually end up forcing Navalny to (re)adopt Russian nationalism. In the current climate, that could well increase Navalny’s popularity by a factor of of two or three, making him a real political threat to the kremlins.

All of which begs Milyukov’s classic question: Is this treason, or stupidity?

Well, judge for yourselves.

Some biographic data on Kiriyenko from the English Wikipedia (no mention of this in the Russian version, incidentally):

Sergei Kiriyenko’s grandfather, Yakov Israitel, made his name as a devoted communist and member of the Cheka, and Vladimir Lenin awarded him with an inscribed pistol for his good service to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Sergei Kiriyenko, son of a Jewish father, was born in Sukhumi, the capital of the Abkhazian ASSR, and grew up in Sochi, in southern Russia. He adopted Ukrainian surname of his mother.

He was also one of the Gaidar’s “young reformers” responsible for the theft-ridden privatizations of the 1990s, and was Prime Minister during the 1998 default. After that, he spent the next seven years in inconsequential posts, until Putin plucked him out of obscurity to head Rosatom, the state nuclear power behemoth.

There have also been rumors in the press (which he denied) that he attended Scientology seminars in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod.

Speaking of weird quasi-Masonic associations… Kirienko’s direct boss now is Anton Vaino, a descendant of Estonian communists. On becoming head of the Presidential Administration, the Internet quickly discovered his dissertation about the “nooscope,” a theoretical device that tracks “the collective conscience of mankind” thought a system of “spatial scanners” that monitor “changes in the biosphere.”

Many Russians expressed the hope that Vaino had paid someone to write it, because having an academic fraud in a position of power is par for the course in Russia, and far preferable to him being the deranged madman who wrote many dozens of pages about this pseudoscientific nonsense.

Apart from “treason” and “stupidity,” I suppose there is also a 666D chess explanation, a “mnogokhodovka” so to speak. If the kremlins could get nationalists to hop back aboard the Navalny bandwagon – meme Navalny into becoming a Russian Richard Spencer, as one Twitter user just suggested to me – then perhaps the kremlins could use the opportunity to shut down Russian nationalists along with Navalny himself in a future crackdown (for instance, if it coincides with the surrender of Donbass).

However, I don’t think that’s true, because I don’t think the kremlins are any smarter than Trump.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alexei Navalny, Politics, Russia 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.