As of today, voting has started on the Putin amendments to the 1993 Russian Constitution, which was imposed on us under tank barrels and sponsored by the US State Department.
As a result of the coronavirus, the voting will run from June 25 to July 1, with people being given the chance to vote from home or, in a new innovation for Russia, online (at least in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod). I did so myself today, the process was quick, simple and accomplished through the Gosuslugi state e-services portal.
My primary reason for voting YES is that, unlike the globalist 1993 Constitution, this one would define the “carriers of the Russian language” to be the “state-forming” people of the Russian Federation (государствообразующий народ), which is really a round-about way of saying ethnic Russians without really saying it.
This is something that Russian nationalists and some nationalist-adjacent people, such as Konstantin Malofeev and elements of the Russian Orthodox Church, had insisted upon – and we (mostly) got what we asked for.
Comments of the Constitutional Court which clarify the Official Line [PDF]:
The provision on the Russian language as the language of the state-forming people, as part of the multinational union of equal peoples of the Russian Federation (Article 68, part 1, of the Constitution of the RF in the present edition), is based on the objective recognition of the role of the Russian people [russkie] in the formation of Russian statehood, whose continuer is the Russian Federation. It does not detract from the dignity of other people, and cannot be considered as incompatible with the provisions of the Constitution of the RF on the multinational people of the Russian Federation (Article 3, part 1), with the equal rights and freedoms of the person and citizen irrespective of his/her ethnicity (Article 19, part 2), or with the equal rights and self-determination of peoples (preamble).
That’s a lot of bureaucratese, but it’s ultimately pretty unambiguous.
As I pointed out, most Eastern European countries and for that matter many of the Russian Federation’s own ethnic minority republics are “national states” according to their Constitutions. And, in rejoinder to the more “multinational” sovoks, it need be noted that even the RSFSR Constitution of 1978 mentioned ethnic Russians (russkie) in its preamble. I do not believe that Russians are inferior to Poles, Hungarians, or Tatars and that as such we do not deserve our own national state.
Although some of the more autistic Russian nationalists have insisted on opposing the amendment on account of there being no explicit mention of “russkie”, I consider this to be a moot point. The energetic opposition of self-hating Russian liberals, multinational “noviops” and ethnic minority nationalists to the amendments proves that they, at least, know what’s up.
The new Constitution also makes reference to Russia’s “thousand year history of statehood” (thus at least implicitly claiming successorship over the political carapace it assumed during this period, as opposed to the 1993 Constitution treating it as a novel, historyless formation), makes mention of God, and defines marriage as a union between man and woman. Incidentally, the US Embassy seems to have taken especially sharp exception to that latter part:
Politologically, apart from some vague additional social guarantees that were transparently made to increase turnout, the main change is of course that it “nullifies” Putin’s existing terms, allowing him to theoretically run for another couple of six year terms after 2024. I do not think Putin will, at least past 2030, though it should be noted that even if he powers through until 2036, he would still be only a year older than Biden would be at the end of his term in 2024.
In any case, this is not a huge concern for me. And as I also said, I think the main function of the amendment is to give Putin more options come 2024, flexibility that will be needed given the increasingly fraught geopolitical situation with respect to the Great Bifurcation and the apparent disintegration of traditional American identity. And even if he does run again and again, this has become less of an issue for me, I have become a lot happier with Putin since c.2018, as he has moved in an increasingly nationalist-technocratic direction.
Two examples from just the past day continue to illustrate that.
First, in a documentary released on June 21, Putin implicitly noted that Russia was shorn of many of its traditional, historical territories in 1991. This is not an isolated occurrence, he has been increasingly overt about this in the past couple of years:
Firstly, Crimea has always been ours, even from the legal point of view. Secondly, we did not get it – the people living in Crimea decided to reunite with Russia, and this is the highest degree of manifestation of democracy.
When the Soviet Union was created, the right of withdrawal was stipulated in the treaty. Since the procedure of withdrawal was not specified, the question arises: if this or that republic became part of the Soviet Union, got a huge amount of Russian lands, traditional Russian historical territories, and then suddenly decided to leave this union. Let it at least leave with what she came. And not to carry away gifts received from the Russian people with it.
Incidentally, as pointed out by blogger denalt, the new Constitution even has a point clarifying the political rights of territories that subsequently join the Russian Federation. While the Constitution bars Russians from the Presidency if they had ever held a foreign citizenship or residency permit, and requires that they have been resident in Russia for the previous 25 years, an explicit exception is made for such territories, which include Crimea now and possibly other recovered “gifts” in the future.
Second, Russia introduced some further economic reforms. The most notable has been that Russia has ditched its flat income tax of 13%, adding an additional bracket of 15% for those making more than 5 million rubles ($72,000) a year. The flat tax has long been a Communist bugbear, and I assume this was done to assuage some of their concerns while making what is in reality a very limited concession.
Probably of more importance, the corporate tax rate on IT companies has been reduced from the standard 20% to just 3%, putting Russia on par with India and Ireland. This is very good news for Russia, since venture capital funding for IT projects is badly developed relative to most of the developed world and China. In line with this, there have recently been rumors that the Kremlin is trying to poach back Pavel Durov, the based, libertarian, and fasting founder of VK and CEO of Telegram. Possibly adding credence to these rumors is the fact that Telegram has been unblocked in Russia a few weeks ago (not that the block was ever very effective). As it is a well established fact that Putin reads my blog, and bearing in mind that I have constantly called for banning Western social media within Russia… well, Russia has Yandex (Google), it has VK (Facebook) – and Telegram wouldn’t make a bad substitute for Twitter. Though, yes, these are just speculations.
Will the Constitutional amendment win?
Obviously it will, solidly – and yes, including accounting for any shenanigans. The polls consistently show a victory for YES (the only exception, Superjob, is a very low quality Internet poll that has always been wrong, I don’t know why people even cite it).
As a referendum on Putin, he might be down from his stellar pre-pensions reform ~80% approval ratings, but his current rating of 60% is still highly respectable by international standards.
Also, as usual, the non-systemic opposition is divided on whether to vote NO or boycott. In a bold and uncharacteristic show of defiance, KPRF leader Zyuganov has actually urged his commies to vote NO.
According to the first exit polls from VCIOM, the result is 72.9% YES and 26.6% NO. Though the result may yet go down, probably the people most enthusiastic about the amendments (such as myself) voted earlier, and 31% of exiting people refused to answer.