Mikhail Khodorkovsky: What Happened In Kemerovo Reveals Russia’s Dire State Of Government

April 3, 2018

I’d like you to read an unemotional but nonetheless important speech which I have written, inspired by the recent events in Kemerovo.  I would like to preface this speech with the fact that I have for many years worked with issues of management, both in theory and in practice.

The system of management applied in the Russian government today is drastically out of touch with the state of society, which is steadily declining from bad to worse and, in the near future, will only continue to accelerate in the same direction.

The collapse of the USSR was largely due to the regime’s cumbersome and rigidly vertical system of government, which in the end proved to be unsustainable.

“Rigidly vertical” sounds like a decent concept in theory, yet when applied concretely to a nationwide system of government, the majority of society will undoubtedly cease to function properly — governing an entire country is no simple matter.

No computer can erase or eradicate the flaws of human nature, and we’re not talking about dealing with hardware here, but with a living and breathing society.

The average person can at any given time be expected to deal with around 7-9 tasks simultaneously, often in the form of assistants who undertake tasks on their behalf.  The chain of command among assistants through which they are capable of processing tasks and delivering signals back and forth is ineffective after 3-4 levels of command.

It’s easy to assume in an ideal world that, Putin, together with his assistants, would be able to maintain effective control over around 10,000 objects.

But what are 10 thousand objects in a country of 140 million, where each and every person is treated simply as an ‘object’ (apologies for the terminology) for production, as if they were an ‘object’ in a communal household, as an ‘object’ of healthcare, as an ‘object’ of social security, and so on and so forth.

In the best case scenario a president governs in unison with his entire cabinet, which he is competent in managing.  This allows him to “see” the hundreds of thousands of issues that arise between the people and the government for which he is responsible.

The reality in today’s Russia is much worse: Putin is not a management genius, as some would have us believe, but rather simply an ageing man with his own problems. This ageing man is overly keen on pursuing foreign policy, while his own assistants are far from ideal.

Therefore the actual number of governmental tasks that Putin and his team can handle is somewhere in the region of 500-1000.

But what does this mean in practice? In Kemerovo’s population of half a million Putin really only sees and deals with one or two people who function as managers, and they are required to make decisions on just two issues. Can you guess which they are?

Turning out votes during elections and otherwise keeping a low profile.

So what about Kemerovo’s fire safety standards? Such an issue would never have even crossed their minds!

In a normal system of government such human limitations are overcome by what is known as the rule of law — That is, independent principles that people abide by without the interference of Putin and his entourage.  Such limitations are reduced by strong government that is responsible to parliament, which in its turn is accountable to the electorate.  These problems can be solved by local, regional self-government, independent centres of decision making which are free from the tyranny of centralised top-down government and are — like Putin himself — accountable only to the voters.

But in order to have such vital centres of local government, which answers to the voters and only the voters, there must exist a real independent judiciary, a genuine and uncorrupted parliament and a strong government.  Today we have a pseudo-government along with a parliament of stooges who answer only to Vladimir Putin.

The country has not yet fallen apart due to the fact that there is no “rigid verticality” as we knew it during the Soviet Union, rather today we see instead territorial fiefdoms, complete with their own feudal overlords who answer directly to Putin and his inner circle for their efforts in stealing money, collecting votes and keeping things quiet.

These people are not answerable to anyone and face no consequences for their actions so long as the local people do not make too much noise about the current state of affairs.

But perhaps this is better than no government at all.  Russia is drowning at a steady and constant pace, a fact which can be easily seen in the disintegration of our medical and educational systems, the stagnation of our economic growth (which is twice lower than the global average) — In other words; every modern aspect of our society is degenerating.

Now Putin is beginning to “tighten the screws”, as he’s heard by legend that such methods worked for Joseph Stalin.  The truth is that this strategy did not work the first time, and secondly the demands of society and industry at that time were incomparably lower.  And what will we Russian citizens get out of this? Simply an acceleration of our own national disintegration.

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