Experts: ‘Revolution in Russia’ to be initiated by oligarchs
Russian society is unlikely to demand regime change, despite the worsening economic situation, and the only engine for democratic changes is the business elite, experts have told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Independent experts are extremely skeptical about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements about a budget surplus and production growth.
The main cause of the crisis, according to Dmitriy Travin, a professor at the European University in St. Petersburg, is the profoundly bad state of the Russian economy.
"At the end of the last year the economy was already at a standstill, stagnation was about to start,” Travin told Deutsche Welle.
“And this was on the backdrop of very high oil prices. But this year the situation has deteriorated significantly. We are moving from stagnation to recession - to direct decline in production."
Falling oil prices are the second important factor influencing the economic situation, according to Travin. He excludes the kind of conspiracy among petroleum exporting countries, and believes that, most likely, such a downward trend is taking place for objective reasons. Sanctions have further contributed to the decline of Russian economy, but, as the analyst believes, to a lesser degree than the two factors mentioned before.
The situation for the Russian people has been exacerbated mostly due to the so-called "anti-sanctions" - measures to restrict food imports from the United States and the European Union that Russia itself imposed in August 2014, which made Russians the hostages of the Russian policy, according to Travin. Despite this, the majority of the population continues to back Kremlin policy.
Sociologist Victor Voronkov, the president of the St. Petersburg Center for Independent Social Research, supported Travin’s position.
"Our society is very individualistic, it is pretty bad at being united, and especially bad at challenging confidence,” Voronkov said.
“Therefore, this society is easily manipulated, and the current situation reflects that."
However, Voronkov adds that "Russian society is undergoing such rapid changes that today it is almost impossible to interpret the results of opinion polls.”
“I believe that 70 percent do not care about politics and have no idea what is happening in Ukraine and in the world. What they are concerned about are the prices in stores and pharmacies, housing prices and the size of their own purses. And if during the polls they are asked whether they support Putin's policy, they willingly reply ‘yes.’"
Both experts agree that time has not come yet for the society to voice their discontent, despite the worsening economic situation.
Travin believes the situation has not yet deteriorated greatly for most Russian citizens, but at the end of the day everything will depend on oil prices. If the fall is comparable to that seen in 1998, and wages fall and prices grow, then it is unlikely the current political regime will be able to cling to power for a long time."
Voronkov said that even if Russia has a new leader in the next two years, this will be brought about "not by the social activity of the population, but by an oligarchic coup," since the current crisis has been a huge blow to large businesses, which are losing billions of dollars, according to the expert.
This, in turn, will mean that democracy in Russia will be implanted “from above,” responding to the demands of the elite, and not to those of the society, the expert said.