The Transition Project: The Importance of Timing

When, sooner or later, events occur that could restart the process of democratic transit in Russia, potential future reformers will inevitably be faced with the question «where to start?» and one can only hope that it will be accompanied by the question «how to avoid making new mistakes?».

Putin’s death or any other «exclusion» does not mean that the new Kremlin authorities will decide the morning after to repeal all his laws, release political prisoners, welcome back those in exile, and call free elections. On the contrary, it is much more likely that immediately after Putin’s «expulsion,» the regime will need a forceful reinforcement and tightening of domestic politics, since Putin’s successor needs — even with the best future intentions — to first consolidate his own power and ensure its retention and stability. We proceed from the assumption that Putin’s «sudden» successor will not be interested in continuing the war in Ukraine — but we do not rule out the possibility that the continuation of the war is the only tool to achieve consensus in the ruling elite. Also, the current economic situation in Russia is not acutely crisis-ridden, but the possibility of a sharp escalation of socio-economic tensions cannot be ruled out, which will certainly affect the available policy options.

The long «fall of the patriarch», continuing as another presidential term of Vladimir Putin (who will turn 78 at the end of this period, exactly as Stalin did in 1953), will no doubt complicate any attempt to return the Russian Federation as a whole to the path of democratic transit.

Therefore, while in the rapid (within a year) change of power option it makes sense to talk about the sequence of actions within the framework of a unified Russian state, in which, among other things, it is necessary to restore normal federal relations, in the second case the central issue becomes the problem of moderating the disintegrating imperial state.

What will be the sequence of steps in both cases, and what are the universal stages of any transit? We continue to publish chapters of The Transition Project, a step-by-step expert guide to democratic transformations in Russia after the change of power.

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