Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 106

In an interview published yesterday, Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), put forward one of the most thoroughgoing critiques to date of President Vladimir Putin’s rule. Nemtsov’s comments came when his interviewer,’s Mikhail Fishman, asked him to assess the first year of the SPS’s existence as a party. Nemtsov said the SPS had fulfilled 60-70 percent of its election promises, including the passage of a law permitting land sales, a new Criminal Procedural Code that allows criminal cases to be brought against parliamentary deputies without first getting the parliament’s permission to do so (deputies have heretofore enjoyed a blanket immunity from criminal prosecution), and the beginnings of judicial reform.

Nemtsov added, however, that one of the SPS’s main failures has been its lack of sufficient strength to oppose the establishment of a “managed democracy” in the country. “I mean the staking on bureaucratic capitalism: the president is depending exclusively on the bureaucratic and power elements and is giving the bureaucracy, which he himself came out of, carte blanche,” Nemtsov said. “I also mean Chchenya, where the force variant is being insisted upon exclusively with maniacal stubbornness. I also mean the ‘cleansing’ [zachistka] of the parliament, both the upper and lower chambers. I mean the centralization of both the budget and [state] power, the sharp violation of the balance of power in general.”

Nemtsov also referred to “the practically complete monopolization” of national television, and charged that a Kremlin commission headed by deputy presidential chief of staff Dmitri Kozak, set up ostensibly to help local self-government, is in fact aimed at “the destruction of local self-government” for the sake of “strengthening the vertical of power.”

Nemtsov added that the authorities were, in his view, carrying out contradictory policies: “On the one hand, the movement toward the West, on the other hand, a Byzantine special services system of governing the country, in which the people appointed to important posts know nothing about either the economy or state management,” he said. “The only thing taken into consideration is personal devotion. On the one hand, they talk about lowering taxes, on the other hand, they strengthen the bureaucracy. On the one hand, they talk about conducting social policy, on the other hand, people in twenty-five regions are not receiving their salaries.”

Nemtsov elaborated on the kind of system that, in his view, exists today in Russia. “Putin inherited oligarchic capitalism,” he said. “But instead of building European capitalism, he finished off two oligarchs [an apparent reference to Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky–MONITOR] and the remaining ones rule the roost in the regions. Therefore it is very easy to explain the position of [Kremlin chief of staff Aleksandr] Voloshin. Voloshin, as an element of the Yeltsinite system, kept his position and, to all appearances, will continue to hold it. With them [the Yeltsinites–MONITOR] coexist the special services bureaucracy. As a result, bureaucratic oligarchic capitalism is being built in Russia, which falls heavily on small and medium-sized business and in which it is impossible to form a multi-million middle class. It’s a paradoxical thing: The president lowers taxes and talks about how small and medium-sized business must get a green light [and] hold meetings in the Kremlin. But during the last two years, the number of people working in this sphere has decreased by 4 million.” Large corporations, Nemtsov concluded, predominate in the economy, while “the role of social organizations and the share of small and medium-sized businesses are infinitesimal.” Nemtsov, it should be noted, said that the SPS “should take a position of constructive serious opposition” to the government (, May 30).