Liberal reforms: coming or going?

With elections for a new parliament and a new president on the horizon the Russian blogosphere are split over whether the country going to the polls will lead to a new era of liberal reforms. With the winter drawing in across the country the debate is hotting up on LiveJournal, Russia's most popular blogging platform, as to whether the country should pursue a new era of reforms or continue to follow the path set by the Kremlin in recent years.

Some commentators like alexys, suggest that the authorities are will not push on with reforms because the public are too "afraid of instability, hunger and poverty".

The need for stability is emphasized by similor, who looks to the unique nature of Russia to explain the current regime's approach to reforms, "everyone forgets that the main thing is stability. There is only one freedom - not freedom `from' but freedom `to'... freedom to do something better with the country. I think that Russia really has its own way." In the wake of the instability in the 1990s compared to the relative prosperity of the following decade it is no surprise that some bloggers make these points.

This gradualist approach is supported by contra_ventum who endorses the need for change, but only over time, "Liberal reforms are necessary for the country's survival, but they have to be gradual. First we have to prepare the legal foundation, then mobilise the society and then make one step all together. Step by step."

Those who want a change of gear are however determined to make their voices heard, with many like Oleg Kozyrev striking a downbeat tone,
"I believe that the upcoming elections may be the end of reforms. But I hope not. I hope for a new generation of democrats who will change our approach to the reforms and make them more human." The elections for the Duma at the end of the year will show whether this new generation of democrats can encourage a new more liberal course.

It took a commentator from outside Russia, r_l in Estonia, to strike a lighter tone and conclude the debate, "it's no longer glamorous to be Liberal". As with so much in modern Russia, perhaps the success of implementing or blocking liberal reforms will ultimately come down to fashion more than anything else.

These summaries have been taken from recent Livejournal posts a special community set up for this newspaper at and compiled by Marina Pustilnik.

Russian Beyond the Headlines users can post their own views on this community. Through the Russian blogosphere has almost tripled in 12 months and its readers exceed the combined total of all mainstream media. Bloggers have become well known media figures commentating on news, culture and current affairs.

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