Authoritarianism in Economic Crisis

The system of government consolidated by Vladimir Putin has some systemic vulnerabilities which are being tested by what could be a new economic crisis in the country. Yuri Zarakhovich of Time points to a few of them:

Putin’s instinct is to desperately seek to reassert control. Last week he unveiled a plan to stanch the capital flow out of Russia, blocking banks from turning bailout funds from the government into foreign currency. But it’s not clear that such moves will stop the political cronies long installed in key economic and financial positions from prioritizing their own personal interests, and some fear that restrictions now being clamped onto the financial system will harm the business environment in the long run. In the Siberian city of Barnaul, pensioners, angry with rapidly declining living standards and rapidly rising bills, last week stormed and occupied the Regional Administration Building, demanding more money. Russian sociologists are expecting a massive wave of similar protests and strikes to roll throughout Russia, not unlike those that shook the country in the 1990s, with angry coal miners blocking railways in Siberia and unpaid workers striking in the cities. Now some enterprises are again failing to pay their workers, while others simply go out of business. But disruptive protests would contravene a new labor code passed under Putin in 2001, which sets tight restrictions on the forms of protest available to trade unions. But a Russian state that narrows the options of legal protest available to its people during a major national crisis may be courting serious trouble — it’s certainly a principle that Czar Nicholas II failed to understand.