Economic liberals have long been valued by Vladimir Putin. Many of them belong to the closest circle of the “family” (semja). Now more and more of them are turning their backs on the Kremlin.
Anti-Western hawks and supporters of imperial Russia have long dominated the country’s leadership. Liberal forces have become weaker and weaker, remain clearly in the background and are now breaking away from Putin in some cases.
Economic liberals have long been valued by Putin – but not in the highest power structure, but as technocratic pragmatists in the Russian government, in the central bank, in the audit office. This applies to Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Economics Minister Maxim Rešetnikov and, of course, Prime Minister Michail Mišustin.
Gerhard Mangott is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna
The liberal camp also includes the commendable director of the Russian central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, and the head of the Audit Office, Alexei Kudrin. Kudrin is closest to Putin in this circle. He has known Putin for more than thirty years and was a successful Russian finance minister for many years. Putin still appreciates dialogue with him, and Kudrin is able to be cautious about his criticism of Putin.
In this liberal-technocratic camp, however, there have also recently been moves by Putin to withdraw. This includes people who once promoted Putin. They are people from the “family” (semja) – that’s what they called the camp of the minions and whisperers of Boris Yeltsin and the oligarchs associated with him.
Anatoly Chubais, Yeltsin’s finance and privatization minister and, for a time, his chief of staff, has left the country. He was most recently a consultant for sustainable development, but before that he was a board member of state-owned companies for a long time. He was one of Putin’s supporters in this elite “family” cartel.
He certainly does not approve of the war; But he also left the country because, with his fortune, living conditions in the West will certainly be more pleasant than in sanctioned Russia.
The oligarchs Pyotr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, who also belonged to Yeltsin’s leadership, have also left the country. Too much attention is paid to the resignation of “family member” Valentin Jumašev. Although he was also a supporter of Putin, he has not played an influential role for a long time.
The (economic) liberal actors in Russia are becoming fewer and fewer. This applies not only to various dignitaries and big businessmen, but also to a part of the liberal middle class. It is not possible to give a precise number of how many liberal-minded citizens have left Russia in recent months, but there are very many.
people trying to escape growing internal repression; People, highly qualified and well educated, who no longer see any career or prosperity prospects in sanctioned Russia. This includes many liberal political actors. They are forced into exile by persecution and repression or have to fear for their health. In recent months and years, many members of the opposition have fled Russia. Others are in prison – above all the right-wing liberal Aleksej Navalnij.
More important than the resignation of liberal-oriented officials and executives is therefore the emigration of liberal ideas and their standard-bearers from Russia. Of course there are still liberal politicians in Russia. What is still there is weak in terms of leadership and mobilization. There is no longer a figurehead of the liberal opposition in Russia. There have been no liberals in the State Duma since 2007.
The dominant discourse has shifted to the camp of advocates of authoritarian and repressive state control. Siloviki, i.e. representatives of the intelligence services and the armed forces, have seized the leadership. Putin made them great and Putin needs them to secure his authoritarian rule. A perfect symbiosis with no end in sight.