What will Russia be like, in which there is no bandit Prigozhin, the monarchist Strelkov is in prison and the “butcher” Surovikin is unknown where? Here is what Alexander Baumanov, a political scientist at the Carnegie Russian Center, thinks.
If we discard the marginally tragic and fatalistic version of the plane crash of Yevgeny Prigozhin and think in the same way as most ordinary supporters and opponents of the Russian regime, then the death of the leader of the Wagner group clearly reveals the features of a mafia state operating on the principles of a criminal group. The plane crash appears to have melted away the last frost that hid the essence of the Russian regime, revealing the structure of the harsh northern soil underneath.
The word “treason” was already mentioned in Vladimir Putin’s first speech after the start of Prigozhin’s armed uprising. The Russian president has already spoken several times about how he fundamentally perceives the difference between enemies and traitors. This distinction may be based not only on the gangster spirit of the 1990s that shaped Putin, but also on the ethics of the intelligence agencies. In its prism, “our” person, who allowed himself to be lured by the enemy, is worse than a dissident and an open opponent.
An important part of the technology of punishment in both dictatorship and organized crime is that before the destruction of the enemy, there is a vision of reconciliation, forgiveness, and sometimes even approaching the hood.
From the very beginning, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a belittling and contemptuous assessment of Prigozhin’s uprising when he called it, for example, “an unfortunate accident” for Western audiences. However, this contrasted sharply with Putin’s long-standing myth of trying to cause unrest (in Russian history, this is a period of deep internal and external crisis after the death of Ivan the Terrible at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, note ed.) must be nipped in the bud. According to the relentless repetition of the representatives of the ruling group, this sadness heralds the disintegration of the country.
Putin himself has repeated many times that he considers it his task to prevent this confusion and disintegration from the very beginning of his stay in power. Whoever turns out to be the source of such a threat, be it Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, the leaders of the Kyiv protests on the Maidan or Alexei Navalny, is simply the main evil for him.
Playing cards to the enemy
The word “betrayal” spoken by the leader mafia statethere must be consequences. Otherwise, a system built more on informal relationships than on formal institutions can easily become unmanageable even given its principles and practices.
The absence of a clear punishment for the “traitor” Prigozhin, his reappearance in Russia after his announced exile to Belarus, as well as his frequent presence in St. “for your everything, for the enemy the law” in the really broad sense of the word.
Of course, what happened was not a classic betrayal from the regime’s point of view. Prigozhin did not go over to the side of the enemy in the form of a geopolitical opponent. Unlike various defectors from the ruling party, opposition leaders (obviously working on commission from abroad) or Ukraine, which deceived Russia with the West and thus deserves severe punishment in Putin’s understanding, for Prigozhin it was not a question of defecting to the enemy. . However, its action caused an intense release of energy, which created pressure within the system, causing it to split and become entangled. With this, Prigogine himself has already played the cards of the enemy. However, there was a break to consider the punishment.
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Dictators often refrain from military purges, especially during wars. Even so, two months after the coup, the system seemed to have found an adequate way to punish the patriotic rebel. Prigozhin’s media holding was liquidated, its main power asset – the Wagner group – was partially transferred to the Ministry of Defense, partially sent to Belarus and Africa. A video recorded by Prigogine from Africa, published shortly before the disaster, indicates that the regime has found a new position for itself – a kind of patriotic exile, accompanied by degradation.
An important part of the technology of punishment in both dictatorship and organized crime is that before the destruction of the enemy, there is a vision of reconciliation, forgiveness, and sometimes even approaching the hood. We also know it from mafia movies – rival factions and their bosses come together to have someone jump out of a birthday cake and shoot one side, or they reconcile and then destroy one side of the enemy, like in The Godfather.
Steal from yourself
Russia has its own tradition in this respect. Many high-ranking victims of the Stalinist terror, after the first wave of accusations and dismissals from important positions, received a new, albeit lower, position in the hierarchy. However, they were subsequently destroyed. Director Solomon Mikhoels was even awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946, but was killed two years later in a poorly disguised collision with a truck.
The downing of the plane with the leaders of the recent uprising right above Putin’s residence can be seen as a kind of response to the actions of Prigozhin himself, who had several military aircraft shot down during the march to Moscow. It was precisely the lack of responsibility for the death of Russian pilots that was often mentioned in the discussion about the scandalous impunity of the leader of the uprising.
Prigozhin’s criminal background and his management style give the right to a similar answer. He himself acted as the boss of his junior gang, who contacted people from the gang of the main boss. The financial demands that Putin himself presented to Prigozhin may have looked ritualistic, but in the proper system they were a serious aggravating circumstance. The one who stole from his people broke the law and broke the unwritten rules.
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