Russia in no sense is a democracy in the Western sense of that term. It is completely controlled by an elitist oligarchy, obedient to Vladimir Putin, and dependent upon him for its continued access to privilege and wealth.
“In Putin’s Russia, the political power, government structure and a substantial chunk of economic resources are controlled by a network…of ’siloviki’. The word comes from the Russian for strength and refers to officials from the police, military and secret services.” Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya, ‘A world of privilege at stake for Putin loyalists’, The Washington Post, February 26, 2012
In the USSR, the siloviki were feared, if not respected, as the guarantors of Soviet power. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they were humiliated and deserted by President Boris Yeltzin and battered by a temporarily free press. When Vladimir Putin eventually assumed the Presidency in 2000, the siloviki slipped back into power, hungry to take their share of the spoils available to a new oligarchy. They now comprise a network of bureaucrats, businessmen and corrupt hangers-on with a vital pro-Putin stake in the March 2012 presidential election.
The core of the silivoki is located within the 104 most influential people in Putin’s Russia. Among those holding 22 posts closest to Putin, at the very pinacle of the power structure, 14 are former KGB associates and the others are either close friends or other trusted colleagues from his home town of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
The most successful members of this network enjoy expensive property, lucrative investments, and large overseas bank accounts. They send their offspring to study at the world’s most prestigious universities. They live in luxurious accommodations, all the while earning relatively modest government salaries. The siloviki have built Putin a billion-dollar palace in return for the privileges that he has bestowed upon them. It is estimated that Putin and the siloviki control 15 per cent of Russia’s gross domestic product.
The only risk confronting Vladimir Putin, in such a tightly controlled system, would emanate from within the siloviki itself. If Putin continues to deliver the goods, he is completely safe from any electorate and from any potential Russian spring. The scent of jasmine will be quickly and ruthlessly obliterated by a Russian Mafia that learned how to enforce its blood oath of loyalty during the late years of the Evil Empire.
“The elite have shown no signs they are willing to cede authority or privilege. To give up all this?… Their business assets and residences? Their palaces and country houses? Their bank accounts and control over financial flows? Their power and influence within Russia and abroad? And why? Because 100,000 people gathered in Moscow streets? They will be trying to stay in power for a long, long time. Forever.” Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya, ”A world of privilege at stake for Putin loyalists’, ibid.
A nice radioactive cup of tea for each of you from your best friend Vlady, Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya?