Russia between Europe and Authoritarianism: New developments addressed from an liberal perspective 

On the day of the 100 anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Russian experts gave their assessment of the current state of Russia in the framework of an FNF event. Professors and researchers discussed the economic and political situation as well as the relationship with the European Union from different perspectives. 

Economic expert Evgeny Gontmakher, Chief researcher at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, describes the decreasing share of Russia in the world economy and the strong need for a change of strategy on the economic as well as the political level. The role of the state should be diminished with measures such as privatising state-owned companies. This could also help to foster foreign investment in Russia.

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Worryingly, the rule of law and civil rights continue to be under attack. Several examples can currently be observed, for instance attacks of journalists, increasing protests and corruption, as mentioned by Marc Franco from the Edgemont Royal Institute of Foreign Relations. For Ella Paneyakh, Associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the Higher School of Economics of St. Petersburg, the increasing protests show a stronger social capital and a shift of the society from Russia’s traditional values to European post-modern values. More and more young people are engaged in organizations and are protesting, supported by their parents. This however, Ms Paneyakh strongly emphasises, leads to an increasing gap between the Russian state and the society, which is often overlooked by the European parties. Evgeny Gontmakher shares this view, but is not entirely sympathetic to the conclusion. In his opinion, social capital is still low and Russia has no tradition of political action. The fact that the Russian state has not yet reacted to the protests can show that the movements have so far not become relevant.

Marc Franco uses a quotation of Donald Tusk to elaborate on the clearly negative perspective from the European Union towards Russia, which is nowadays present in Brussels politics. Tatiana Parkhalina, Deputy Director of the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences at the Russian Academy of Sciences, explains the impact of the Ukraine crisis and the political impossibility to implement the Minsk agreements. Moreover, not sharing common values is making it more difficult for the EU and Russia to understand each other. Not only the political, but also the economic situation has an effect on this relation, according to Evgeny Gontmakher. Russia is not ready to move closer to an integrated world, as power-keeping seems to be more important.

On the challenging question “What after Putin?”, the assessment is quite diverse. Evgeny Gontmakher makes his position very clear: in fact, nobody knows. But, Tatiana Parkhalina names the current rumours about the creation of a new political institution whose appointed president could be Vladimir Putin with a lifelong tenure, thus continuing to rule the country.

Frauke Ohler is a Student Assistant in the European Dialogue Programme