Константин Сонин (ksonin) wrote,
Константин Сонин

Ничего рябчик, а? Рябчик что надо. Главное, подлива. Подлива замечательная. Это в ней чего? ...

Владимир Гельман, один из ведущих российских учёных-политологов, профессор Европейского университета и Специальный финский профессор (Finland Distinguished Professor) Университета Хельсинки, выпустил книгу в University of Pittsburgh Press. Как всякая общественная наука, в которой перемешана теория и практика, российская политология необъятна, но академических учёных, заметных в мире, в ней примерно четверо. Гельман - один из них.

Книга называется "Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes" (покупайте, читайте!) и рассказывает, подозреваю, про развитие событий в нашей стране в последние двадцать лет. Пока, в качестве рекламы, привожу, с разрешения автора, кусок предисловия, рассказывающий, без прикрас и в то же время без лишних подробностей, первый шаг в науку ведущего политолога России.

Действующие лица в предисловии:

Володя, наивный политический активист 24 лет
Анатолий Собчак, знаменитый оратор, только что избранный председателем Ленсовета
Дима, молодой человек в приёмной

"It was a very lovely and sunny day in the summer of 1990 when I sat at the reception hall in the Mariinsky Palace in (then) Leningrad. I was a 24-year-old activist for the anti-Communist prodemocratic movement, which had gained a majority of seats during the recent city council elections. After this victory, I had received two rather different job offers from two groups of my acquaintances. One was from a team of sociologists, who conducted research on political and social changes in the city and in the country as a whole. They invited me to join their ranks and argued that my insider knowledge of emerging social movements would be a great advantage in launching a professional career in the study of politics. The other group ncluded newly elected deputies, who were busy arranging a new system of city government; they believed that my experience of electoral campaigns and my reputation as an activist would be a key asset for improving a rather chaotic decision-making process. I had to choose between a junior research fellowship at the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences, and a somewhat mid-range position in the newly formed apparatus of the city council. The latter option initially sounded tempting, and I came for a job interview with the chair of the city council, Anatoly Sobchak.

A professor of law who had been elected to the Soviet parliament during the first semicompetitive elections in 1989, he had gained great popularity as a vocal and outspoken critic of the Soviet system; the following year, Leningrad deputies invited Sobchak to serve as chair of the city council upon winning a seat in the by-elections. As usual, he took a long time to arrive, and while waiting for him, I chatted with a receptionist named Dima, a smiling, talkative guy the same age as myself.

Finally, Sobchak arrived, and we went to his extraordinarily large office, with its excellent view of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Without asking me anything or even taking my presence into account, my potential boss began a long and passionate speech, as if he were giving a talk before hundreds of people, even though nobody else was in the room (I think he used this opportunity as a testing ground for one of his public appearances, which were bringing him countrywide fame at that time). Sobchak’s speech was full of bright rhetoric but rather vague in substance—he blamed the previous system, complained about current turbulence, and promised that the city would flourish under his leadership. After a seemingly endless speech, he paused, and I was able to ask a question I considered essential for my future job: “Anatoly Aleksandrovich, how do you perceive the system of city government that you plan to build?”

Sobchak turned toward me at last, shifted his attention down to earth, and changed his tone to a more sincere and frank register. “Well ... there are the city council deputies, who are numerous, noisy, and disorganized; they have to respond to the complaints of ordinary citizens and mostly work in their local constituencies instead of having long discussions. Then there is the city executive committee; it should deal with matters of everyday routine, such as bumpy roads and leaking pipes, but not go beyond such duties. And I myself [a broad glance around the office], with the aid of my apparatus [a close look at me], will conduct politics in the city.” I was shocked to hear these rather cynical words from a person who had a public image as a democratic icon. “But this sounds almost the same as what we had before, under the Communists ... and what about democracy?”

Sobchak was probably surprised that someone who was supposed to become a member of his emerging team had posed such a naive question. He responded firmly, as certain university professors often do when they pretend to tell the truth to freshmen: “You know, we are in power now—that is democracy.” (literally, in Russian: “my teper’ u vlasti, eto i est’ demokratiya”). This was somewhat astonishing—my great expectations of democratic politics were ruined, and I was unable to turn myself into a minor cog in the newly emerging political machine. I turned my back on Sobchak and left his office, not even saying goodbye. Then I walked directly to the Institute of Sociology, and joined the world of scholarship, not the world of politics.

It was the turning point of my entire professional career. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to receive a formal education in social and political sciences—but despite (or perhaps thanks to) this fact, I later became a professor of political science in two universities and in two countries. And the lessons I learned from Sobchak in his office many years ago were worth dozens of textbooks on normative political theory to me. I realized that the ultimate goal of politicians is the maximization of power—in other words, they aspire to stay in power by any means for as long as possible and to acquire as much power as possible, regardless of their democratic rhetoric and public image; this is the essence of politics. The point is that some politicians are able to achieve this goal, but others are not so successful. In the former category, we observe dictatorships of various types—ranging from Mobutu in Zaire to Lukashenko in Belarus—while in the latter we may observe varieties of other political regimes (not necessarily democraticones).

In fact, Sobchak also failed to achieve this goal and did not maximize his power in Leningrad and (after 1991) St. Petersburg. Six years later, in 1996, as a city mayor, he faced tough electoral competition from his deputy, Vladimir Yakovlev, and lost by a tiny margin. His other deputy, namely Vladimir Putin, learned certain lessons from Sobchak in his career as a politician—but these lessons were very different from those I’d learned, because of the difference between politics and political science. Putin, at least for the time being, was able to maximize his power as president and prime minister of Russia, although more recently he has been facing increasing challenges. And Dima, whom I had met on that memorable day, also learned some lessons: Dmitry Medvedev, too, has served as president and prime minister of Russia. He is still a very nice, frequently smiling, and talkative guy—but in a sense, he is still a receptionist.

This is a book about how and why Russia failed to become a democracy after the collapse of Communism, and about the causes and consequences of its trajectory of regime changes toward authoritarianism after 1991…"

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