Proposed Pension Reforms Would Undermine Putin Regime, Kholmogorov Says

May 10, 2016
Illustration for RIA Novosti

Appointment of Siloviki as Regional Heads ‘More Important’ than Any Regional Amalgamation, Petersburg Politics Says

Staunton, VA, May 10, 2016 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to name two more siloviki [law-enforcement, military and intelligence officers] to head two more federal subjects (Sverdlovsk and Kurgan Regions), bringing their total to ten and the repressive policies they have immediately unleashed, is “far more important” than new talk about regional amalgamation, according to Petersburg Politics Foundation.

In its report for April released March 10, the group says that it has reached this conclusion because these appointments come near the start of the Duma electoral cycle and signal the Kremlin’s intention to have “men in uniform” and with security service skills in place to control the situation.
In the words of Mikhail Vinogradov, president of the foundation, “intrigue remains in the relationships of the regions with the federal authorities as to whether as to whether the federal center will allow the governors to strengthen their positions inside their territories and create lobbyists in the federal parliament or will take steps intended to lower” the power of governors.
Many regional elites were disturbed by Valentina Matviyenko’s suggestions about regional amalgamation, the foundation head said. But reaction to her ideas showed that there was no new body of support for moving in that direction. Instead, it was simply Moscow reminder that no federal subject and no governor is “’untouchable.’”
In an analysis of this report for the portal, Yekaterina Lazareva agrees that too much has been made about the amalgamation discussion and that Putin’s appointment of two more siloviki to be regional heads is a far more important indicator of where the country is headed, especially as these new men quickly solidified their power with arrests.
She cites the words of Leonid Davydov, a political analyst, who pointed out that “the siloviki have levers: the president told them to ensure the purity of elections, including the primaries” and consequently, they will do what they can to ensure that in order to remain in office. Only time will tell if they will succeeds.
A major problem is the management of single-member district voting, something that has not taken place for more than ten years. In such districts, the role of the parties and of normal administrative measures may be lower. That may be one of the reasons the Kremlin is now turning to the siloviki, who have their own special means.
The Petersburg Politics Foundation listed ten federal subjects where there may be problems and where Moscow may want to rely on siloviki in the near future. They are Buryatia, Komi Republic, Primorsky Territory, Khabarovsk Territory, Voronezh Region, Ivanovo Region, St. Petersburg, and two Urals subjects, Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk Regions.
Moscow Still Won’t Help Children of Those Who Died in World War II
Staunton, VA, May 10, 2016 – Every year, Russian officials bemoan the fact that the number of World War II veterans who survive is declining fast, especially now that the youngest are in their late 80s. But at least Moscow pays them some attention. But it has completely failed to attend to and help another and larger group of victims – the children of those who died in that war.

In a remarkable article which appeared May 9 on the Kavkazskaya Politika portal, Svetlana Bolotnikova observes that “the state has been quite concerned about the [war’s] veterans but it has entirely forgotten about the children of those soldiers who died” in that conflict.
As a result, the journalist and commentator says, this group, which is far larger although already in its 70s, has grown up not only “without fathers” but “in hunger and poverty,” a damning indictment of a regime that constantly proclaims its commitment to taking care of those Russians who suffered from that war.

Bolotnikova devotes most of her article to recounting the often horrific lives of families caught up in this situation, people who had already suffered from the GULAG and the Holodomyr before the war and whose suffering only increased when they were caught up in the conflict when their husbands were killed or missing in action.

Such mothers and their children also suffered, she recounts, when they lived on occupied territories and were afraid of the consequences of turning to officials, and when Soviet officials refused to help them and their children beyond suggesting that widows give up their children to orphanages and get to work.

But in addition to their suffering, these people who number in the hundreds of thousands suffered because at no point did the government of the USSR or has the government of the Russian Federation adopt special programs to provide assistance for those whose fathers or mothers died in the conflict.

That has left many in dire poverty, without prospects for education and pensions, and in a situation that one of their number says has left the children of the dead and the MIAs from World War II in a much worse position that those who are children of veterans who have served in the Russian military since that time.

Some regions and some all-Russian political parties have moved to do something about this, but they have been consistently opposed by the Putin regime and United Russia. Fifteen federal subjects – including Adygeya – have adopted special laws, and the KPRF has introduced legislation to rectify the situation.

Representatives of the Kremlin and the party of power have routinely rejected this proposal with many representatives of United Russia saying that such a measure could open the way to providing government support for all children born during World War II even if their parents survived.

“Yet another argument those opposed” to such a measure often advance, Bolotnikova says, is that those involved are already older than 70 and have other bases to claim pensions. That may be true in some cases, but the journalist’s investigation shows that it is not true in all too many.

Yes, it is true, the journalist concludes, the proposed law won’t make a big distinction between the children of those who died and of those who lived. But it is also the case that even this measure would provide “laughably” small assistance to many who have not received any throughout their lives.

In short, it appears, such a law is the least Moscow can do; unfortunately, at present and despite all its ballyhoo about the Great Patriotic War, the Putin government isn’t prepared to do even that.

Proposed Pension Reforms Would Undermine Putin Regime, Kholmogorov Says
Staunton, VA, May 10, 2016 – To save money, the Russian finance ministry has proposed to raise the retirement age to 65, end pension payments to those who are still working, and otherwise reduce the amount Moscow has to pay out. Many are horrified, but in fact, the reform doesn’t go far enough for those who want radical change in Russia, Stanislav Belkovsky says.

While “all the progressive Russian world” has recoiled in horror from the ministry’s plan with even the deputy prime minister demanding that the reform not be taken seriously, the Russian commentator says by way of a kind of “modest proposal” that the government should go further.
In a commentary at, he points out that it would have been difficult to think of any proposal just before Duma elections that could harm the ruling party with its most reliable supporters, pensioners and those who expect to be pensioners soon under the current rules.
It is very much an open question just how much the government’s plan would save, he suggests, but its proposals and the even more radical ones Belkovsky offers, he suggests, would exert a powerful influence on Russian “national psychology” and thus “merit the most decisive support.”
In this “game,” he says, those who work are “passive participant[s]:” while the “active” player is the state which forces you to work.” Under those conditions, people feel that they haven’t “earned” their pensions but rather are experiencing “the greatest display of state mercy to themselves.”
And he adds, “within the framework of this logic, it is not you who create national wealth but the state which then shares it with you. A pension is the embodiment of the Russian dream not to work” and at the same time a reaffirmation of the notion that Russians should be grateful for the generosity of the state.”
People who feel this way are not going to become “responsible citizens” prepared to take control of their own lives. That will be “impossible,” Belkovsky suggests. Such people can only be “state slaves” with various amounts of possibility permitted by the regime.
But the situation would be radically transformed, he continues, “if it suddenly became clear that it is practically impossible to live to receive one’s pension.” If the pension age is boosted not to 65 but to 67 or even more, that will become the case for most Russians – and that brave new world will change how they view themselves and the state.
They will recognize, he continues, that they have been “working not in order to achieve an early flight from the oppression of work but for their own flourishing because there is no other way out.” And with that view, they will see the state not as the source of their well-being in retirement but rather as an institution they have rights against and can make demands of.
Pension age in Russia, Kholmogorov continues, “this is the psychological gates of age. And when one goes on a pension, one becomes an old man or an old woman.” It would be best for that date to be as late as possible and set not in a “round” year divisible by ten or five but rather 67 or if ultimately possible 72.
The Russian commentator says he also welcomes the equalization of retirement ages for men and women in the name of “real gender equality.” He says he would, however, like to see an earlier retirement ages set for LGBT people because of the difficulties they currently face in Russian life.
In support of his modest proposal, Kholmogorov reminds his readers that “a change of power in Russia … [will be] impossible without the transformation of political culture” and that won’t happen “without a revolution in political consciousness.” Pension reform can be a first step in that direction, especially if it is even more radical than the government is now proposing.