Questions for the (P)resident

Against all expectations, there is no diarchy in Russia. What we have is a reincarnation of the imperial coat of arms, where the sovereign bird has one body and two heads. And even that which could arouse jealousy or conflicts does not spur them. For example, the live call-in show with the prime minister on national television, with the entire nation at once, compared to the modest presidential videoblog, which can be used for communication with the more technologically-advanced part of the population. That is, with the absolute minority.
What we have is not a relationship of competition between the two co-rulers, but one of "complementarity." We can even devise a formula of the current regime: (p)resident. It can be applied to the both faces of the two-member reign.

Thus, today the country communicates with one of its two inseparable faces. And we are in a hurry to finish writing this text before the live broadcast starts. So as not to know what the co-head of the Russian state will be asked. And to ask our naive questions at random, without knowing the real context.

Question number one. Why do you need the planned fifteen years of transmittable authority, which can be passed on from one member of the corporation to another and back (Three and a half years left of the current term plus two six-year terms for the next (p)resident)? Do you need it to create a free country, a country that is successful and responsible, that involves its citizens in the process of making their common life more comfortable; the twenty years of peace and quiet that Peter Stolypin had once asked for? Or do you need it simply to make sure, in Nikolai Karamzin's words, that Russia remains under your command as long as possible?

The first option poses a certain kind of problem. The second one poses a different kind.

In the first case, some interconnected conflicts will come into play, ones that had shaken even more long-term regimes before. There is a law of historical cycles; you leaped up to the crest at the peak of such a cycle, and now we are all witnessing this cycle's termination. This is the cycle of revolutionary rise that turns into an authoritarian reaction. Let's remember an elegant and significant parallel: with an interval of 200 years, the main stages of the French Revolution repeated themselves in Russian history. The year 1789: the Convocation of the States-General. The beginning of the personnel coup. 1989: the 19th Party Conference, which turned into the 1st Congress of People's Deputies. 1791: the unsuccessful flight of the king. 1991: Foros. 1793: the execution of Louis and Marie-Antoinette. 1993: the attempted White House coup and shooting. 1799: Colonel Napoleon seized the reins of power. 1999: lieutenant-colonel Putin comes to informal power. 1804: lifelong consulship with the prospect of restoring the title of Emperor. 2004: victory in the second round of elections with the prospect of a third term, which is equal to the start of a lifelong reign... Now, let's imagine the impossible: in 1808, at the height of his fame, Napoleon leaves. He is the main person in the history of mankind. He had seized Tilsit, he had conquered Erfurt. But no Berezina, no Elba, no island of St. Helena. A new historical cycle. With new people and new problems, but not with guaranteed defeats that become a practically inevitable consequence of the attempt to prolong the authoritarian charm, to transform the energy of authoritarian power into a universal imperial rise...

There is another conflict, as well - the modern society is not an aging beauty, and the regime is not a plastic surgeon; it is impossible to change the face of the country, to make it free and friendly, under anesthesia. The side effects of the anesthesia will be worse than not doing the surgery. Having woken up, the patient might lose control and rip off the bandages; and, Lord forbid, the patient might look in the mirror, too. In this case, if we continue with the medical metaphor, not cosmetic surgery is necessary, but physical therapy-a daily, accumulating habit of freedom and self-management, because only this kind of habit can contain our proclivity to addicting revolutions. As for standing in place... Nikolay Turgenev rightly objected in reply to Karamzin's dreary sigh: what's the benefit of such standing!

And there is another troubling question. Will the promised humanization take place or not? We can have an endless array of different opinions about the situation with Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Some might see it as lawful retribution, some - as a fatal mistake of the previous period. Nevertheless, this case at least creates grounds for disagreement. Whereas there can be no disagreements regarding the fate of inmate Svetlana Bakhmina, just like there can't be alternate opinions about her pardoning: it would have become a symbol of a softening regime, both political and humanitarian. Prison is no place for a pregnant woman, a woman who has just given birth or is nursing an infant, unless this woman had killed someone or had dishonored and debased human life; Bakhmina's pardon could have become - and would have become-a precedent, a starting point for thousands of similar decisions. Is it true that the authorities believe that they might have gone too far with Bakhmina, but they can't let her out because this would immediately be followed by a demand to release the ill inmate Vasily Alexanyan, and then it might even lead to freeing Khodorkovsky, which would not be the tough-guy thing to do? Or is this all malicious slander? Why not refute this slander, then, and take a step down the kind path of mercy?

Freedom, responsibility and mercy are the pillars of a successful country. Everything else is just an addendum to these pillars, tools for achieving the main goal. Including a strong presidential power, and the even stronger power of a prime minister. And the credit and monetary policy. And the media policy.

Will we move in this direction? Please, answer this question. We really want to know.

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