Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Russia: "Putin Made The Middle Class Strong"

SOURCE Russia Insights

Oleg Bondarenko, an expert in Russia culture and political affairs, has said that without Putin "the Russian middle class, an important guarantee of stable development, wouldn't be so strong now."

Bondarenko said: "Recently those who protested against Putin and "unfair elections" on the Bolotnaya Square are more often called "the creative class" in the Russian media. Journalistic assumptions are taken for granted by people and become popular opinions; however, they should be clarified. What is the "creative class" and who are its real leaders? It is necessary to analyze that in detail.

"After appearing in the early 2000s, this expression became a discovery of the magazine Business week and the American economist Richard Florida. In Florida's book "Creative class: people who change the future" the core of society is called the creative class or "people of creative professions". The basis for the development of creative economy, Florida says, is the principle of "three T-s" - technology, talent and tolerance - and the creativity is explained as "the creation based on the knowledge of practical new forms".

"In Russia not only journalists-poets-artists-architects-musicians can be considered the creative class but, above all, a large number of mature "office workers", who finally decided to make themselves known. It should be noted, however, that the representatives of office employees got stronger largely thanks to Putin's successful policy in economy - "Putinomics". The model "material freedom - civil self-realisation", when after a gradual achievement of the former the demand for the latter grows, has worked. People who are employed, as a rule, in the private sector and have already made a career feel restricted within the current political party system in Russia. That's why the current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the start of the political reform - now in Russia, with a population of 143 million people, 500 people will be enough to register a new party.

"Besides, the natural component of the "creative class" are teachers, doctors, research institute workers, university professors, faculty - those who both by their age and by the nature of their work, and hence by requirements, significantly differ from the office workers. This group of people is much closer to the Russian definition of a typical "intelligentsia" than this trendy and obscure word combination. Historically, however, it was the intelligentsia in Russia that the Soviet regime was up in arms against, defining it as a "layer between the proletariat and the peasantry", or even worse, calling them in the Leninist manner with obscene words. Perhaps, that is why the Russian intelligentsia is opposed to communists, but at the same time it's not opposed to the state. Paternalistically oriented, it will not oppose the state because of the lack of alternative offers of employment from the poorly growing private sector. Moreover, in recent years there was an increase of its material wealth, and we can hardly expect revolutionary mood from it.

"Who can become the long-awaited leader of this "creative class"? Under certain circumstances "office workers" can follow the bohemian crowd - journalist Leonid Parfyonov, writers Boris Akunin and Dmitry Bykov, musician Yuri Shevchuk - but not the retired Russian liberals, booed by the audience on the Bolotnaya Square in those cold days. Lawyer and blogger Alexei Navalny, who is often presented as the new Che Guevara, frankly speaking, still is not a serious politician. The Russian intelligentsia is at the same time critical and paternalistic. Writers should write, but not become street orators. The conclusion is obvious: since there is no apparent new leader, a true leader is the one who forms the new Russian system - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Without him the Russian middle class, an important guarantee of stable development, wouldn't be so strong now. And it is unlikely that the middle class would prefer to risk its stability for something unknown. As a result, Putin remains that undiscovered political leader of the Russian educated city dwellers, the leader who preserved the economic prosperity that will generate new Russian political leaders."

Oleg Bondarenko is a political scientist, journalist, director of the Russian-Ukrainian Information Center.