To Avoid Revolution, Russia Must Democratize—Economist

Civil unrest in lausanne.  Source: wikimedia.orgAs the economic crisis continues to impact Russia, economist Yegor Gaidar argues that Russia must democratize to avoid serious social clashes.

Gaidar, the director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, describes two options authorities may take to curb protest: wide-scale repression, or democratization.  The former could lead to unrest and even revolution.  Yet whether Russian authorities are willing or capable of doing the latter remains open to heated debate.

Gaidar’s piece first appeared in the the Vedomosti newspaper on June 16th.  Juncture: Russia Has Had Enough Revolutions (Rus).

“What is happening in our economy is having political consequences. Governing Russia when the population’s real income is rising 10% a year is a pleasant occupation. Under those conditions political repressions and voting manipulations are not needed to maintain power and popularity. Leading a country when the population’s real income is declining and the number of unemployed is increasing rapidly is a difficult occupation.

“In this situation, the Russian authorities have two options. First, they can harshen political repressions. As historical experience shows, this is the road to revolution and catastrophe. Sooner or later, the state will not have a single reliable regiment. The second option is to democratize the regime, separate the branches of power, and restore the independence of the press, real elections, federalism, and the independence of the judiciary system — everything that allows a society to adapt to the realities of a changing world.

“This road is hard, and you won’t travel its full length in a few months, but many countries have succeeded on this road. Spain after Franco is the most vivid but far from the sole example of this. I hope that our authorities will choose the strategy of adapting to the changed conditions of world development. The two revolutions our country suffered through in the twentieth century are enough for us.”