If we want to get an answer to a question whether Dmitry Medvedev is a liberal and if yes what it could mean, we need to look at the Russian political history of the recent decade. Doing this, we find that this history can be described as the story of struggle between advocates of “manageable democracy” and “sovereign democracy”.
The “manageable democracy” began to be talked about as far back as the early 2000’s. While the Kremlin’s opponents depicted it as regress from the real democracy, the Kremlin’s ideologists and politicians saw a certain positive meaning in it. From their point of view, underdevelopment of democratic institutions in Russia, absence of stable parties and civil society, weakness and corruption of the judicial power, and the low consciousness of the population easily falling to different psychoses and populism – all that made it “necessary” a certain interference by the authority in the community’s life. The concept of the “manageable democracy” assumed that along with sticking to democratic procedures the authority must direct those procedures a bit and supervise it where necessary.
This concept was formed in the Kremlin’s administration at the time of Alexander Stalyevich Voloshin, who is to be recognized its godfather. The concept assumed that election must be really competitive in some way. At the same time, it was considered to be wise to cut off some “inappropriate” candidates through, for example, starting prosecutor’s checks and investigations against them. Those investigations never ended up in putting people in prison. They only were intended for getting the concrete political objectives. Similarly, “managing” the informational field was considered to be very important, but direct censorship, or ban on coverage of some events and ban on mentioning some persons were considered to be inadmissible.
The main thing was that the ideologists of the manageable democracy realized and admitted it was a hybrid and underdeveloped form and that is was a transitive stage. That means, they recognized the existence of real democracy and that it was the desirable outcome of the transition period. However, the time limits of that period were rather unclear.
The epoch of manageable democracy was over with YUKOS case. Blending the politics and sharing out the property did not fit any more the previous accurate and relatively civilized intellectualist frame. That’s where the “sovereign democracy” began. There it was assumed that democratic procedures are only cardboard decorations put on the stage, while it’s puppeteers who decide what all the characters on the stage will be performing and who will be allowed to appear on the stage at all.
While before that the prosecutor’s offices and the judicial system on the whole only complied with delicate commissions by the Kremlin, now they turned into the chief driving force of the political, financial and property sharing out. Moreover, making the prosecution to be the main regulator of political activities by citizens and various elite groups promoted making the mechanism of “corruption loyalty” cementing the statehood. “Forget your political ambitions, just salute and hang the Putin’s portrait on the wall, share your profits with the right people, and you’ll get even more” such was the slogan of the “sovereign democracy”. Those who followed it were announced to be “the nation-interests oriented elite” and were granted safe conduct.
And the main feature of the “sovereign democracy” was its difference from the manageable one that was a bit ashamed of its inferiority. On the contrary, the sovereign democracy made it its claim to fame. It announced there is no authentic democracy and it just cannot be. And our democracy is not false or temporary phenomenon, but the new ground in the social history of the mankind, the guarantee for our wealth and our triumph over our enemies and ill-wishers.
Obviously, Dmitry Medvedev, who began his political career as the first deputy for Alexander Voloshin mentioned above, has inclination for the entourage and forms of the “manageable democracy”. A kind of art, if we can say so, and not aggressive style is his real element. He would prefer court of arbitration to prosecutor’s investigation, and IPO to clearance sale of the confiscated property. Those preferences, though, not only reflect Dmitry Medvedev’s inclination; they are also his apparatus resource. As the outcome of his struggle for independence of the judicial power one may forecast some substitution of the staff, who distinguished themselves during the epoch of “sovereign democracy”, with the staff more appropriate for “manageable democracy” ideals.
However, nothing can be repeated exactly. The new manageable democracy is not that old one. That one was proposed as optimal and pragmatic way of continuing the reforms and making progress for the real democracy. And now we are offered the manageable democracy as a stylistic alternative to the sovereign one. As if they say to us “could you submit without additional enforcement, as your choice is not between the authentic and false democracies; your choice is between the two false ones, originated from same source”.