Bryan MacDonald has covered PM Mikhail Mishustin’s new Cabinet in detail at his RT blog, so I’ll avoid repeating the listings there and widely available elsewhere.
Despite the heavy import of Putin’s proposed Constitutional changes, the actual change in the Cabinet has been negligible. Sergey Shoigu, Sergey Lavrov (contra initial rumors), and Vladimir Kolokoltsev (see my translation of an interview with him several years back) remain in Defense, Foreign, and Interior Ministries, respectively. So no change in the three most important “power” positions in the Cabinet after the PM.
Anton Siluanov stays as Finance Minister, even if replaced as First Deputy PM by Andrey Belousov. The latter is harder on Russia’s comprador oligarchs, constantly coming up with proposals to tax them more. But he is no Sergey Glazyev, who is a genuine Soviet nationalist. Reminder that monetarist hardliner Elvira Nabiullina remains chairwoman of the Russian Central Bank.
And as I have also pointed out, Mikhail Mishustin is himself – in addition to being a wise investor who appears to have honestly become a millionaire in the 2000s, and a skilled technocrat – an economic liberal. He rationalized the land registry system in Russia before taking up his long stint as head of the Federal Tax Service, and in a recent interview he came out against abolishing the flat income tax in favor of progressive taxation on the grounds that the latter are “inefficient” and irrelevant in Russia’s context.
So I don’t know in what world this is some kind of handover of power from “Atlanticists” to “Sovereignists” as some have described it.
It’s not the converse, either. Two notable people who left include Vladimir Medinsky and Olga Vasilyeva, the Culture and Education Ministers, respectively. (As well as the hapless and scandal-wracked Deputy PM and former Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko). They are outspoken, in the case of the former often comically so, conservatives. Contra Bryan MacDonald, they are not nationalists; they don’t call themselves such, neither do actual Russian nationalists. Even so, Medinsky – who has also had his share of scandals, including a plagiarized PhD dissertation – is being replaced by a direct protege, Olga Lyubimova (right)*. Who had been responsible for doling out money to pro-Orthodox films. Meanwhile, Medinsky himself becomes Putin’s cultural advisor, so it’s hardly a major demotion.
Vasilyeva’s replacement is Sergey Kravtsov. He is not a conservative hardliner like his predecessor (though nor is he a liberal), but what he does have is some major real world successes, having played a central role in suppressing cheating in the Unified State Exam, closed 1,500 higher education institutions that functioned as degree mills, and – as will surely be welcomed by many readers of his blog – has pushed Russia to play a more active role in international standardized tests such as TIMSS/PIRLS, PIAAC, ICCS, and PISA.
So no major change in the center of gravity towards “liberalism” (or whatever) either.
Here’s a simpler explanation – who stayed, and who went, was significantly dependent on their actual… performance. There are two polls I could find on this topic, though unfortunately both are a bit dated. They are a FOM poll from June 2018 (at the beginning of Medvedev’s Second Cabinet) that asks people whether the Minister in question did a good job or not; and a series of VCIOM polls asking people to give each Minister a score out of 5, although unfortunately that series only runs up to 2017.
Nonetheless, assuming that the relative assessment scores/rankings haven’t changed cardinally since then, and assuming that popularity in opinion polls proxies performance…
People who stayed:
- Defense Minister Shoigu: 50% positive, 2% negative = +48% (FOM); 4.58 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Foreign Minister Lavrov: 44% positive, 3% negative = +41% (FOM); 4.65 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Interior Minister Kolokoltsev: 6% positive, 5% negative = +1% (FOM); 3.59 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Energy Minister Alexander Novak: 4% positive, 4% negative = +0% (FOM); 3.68 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Finance Minister Anton Siluanov: 4% positive, 9% negative = -5% (FOM); 2.99 (latest VCIOM poll)
People who left:
- Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova: 5% positive, 13% negative = -8% (FOM); 3.22 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva: 4% positive, 8% negative = -4% (FOM); 3.31 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky: 3% positive, 7% negative = -4% (FOM); 3.24 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin: 2% positive, 7% negative = -5% (FOM); 3.06 (latest VCIOM poll)
- Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov: 1% positive, 4% negative = –3% (FOM); 3.04 (latest VCIOM poll)
Well, you get the idea.
I know this sounds really radical, but perhaps the perceived performance of Ministers in office plays some role in whether they stay on or not, as opposed to how Atlanticist or Sovereignist PUTLER feels on any particular day.
Incidentally, the biggest discussions and memes on Runet about the Cabinet reshuffle have centered around orthothot Olga Lyubimova, who has a rather interesting background.
Photo from 2008: “Who are you people? What do you need? I don’t know you. Go fuck yourselves.”
She also perhaps blogged too much in her youth, including one particularly powerful post from 2008 where she admits to hating museums, opera, ballet, and classical music. Sounds like an excellent qualification for the Ministry of Culture, but some beg to differ.