If there is to be a change of regime in Russia, it will most likely come in the form of a military coup, analyst of Russian politics Vladimir Juškin says. But it will take decades for the imperial mindset to disappear in Russia.
"There are only two possibilities for change. A popular uprising would take longer, but a military coup is a more realistic option," Juškin told ERR. He said that Russian generals have begun to speak up as they realize that they will be made the scapegoat for the military failure in Ukraine. This would mean dishonorable discharges and other steps to impact their well-being. "They are already voicing their displeasure," the analyst said.
At the same time, it is a peculiarity of Russia that change always happens unexpectedly. Juškin said that no one expected the 1991 coup the way it happened.
"Russia is peculiar in that everything happens at a moment's notice. And it can happen as an uprising, when the people no longer have food, or as a military coup, when the army sees it is being turned into the scapegoat and refuses to go along," he said.
What is more, a coup would result in events in three or four largest cities in Russia, while the rest of the country would go on living as per usual. People in the periphery still live pretty much like they did under socialism, Juškin offered. "Why did the people like the Brezhnev era? Because things were calm, there were no upheavals or reason to worry. Everything was fine – there was vodka and zakuska, and parties at the Friendship of Peoples Fountain," he said.
According to Juškin, the Russian elite has never offered the people a path in which they would have much say. "There has never been a debate in Russia about a social contract, it is not something the elite thinks about. The elite has lived its life and the people another. The people are ensured a minimal living standard, while they in turn provide the elite with the right to rule. That is how it has always been and still is."
It could take 30-40 years for the Russkiy Mir to disappear
Asked how long the current Russian administration's idea of the Russkiy Mir (Russian world) that it uses to justify its imperial ambitions might endure, Juškin said it might require a change in generations.
"As long as Putin and his closest allies live, it will not be going anywhere. It is the only idea that ties them all together. Because the disappearance of the Russkiy Mir and the imperial consciousness would mean an end to those people and the regime. That is why it is not going anywhere. It could try and hide, change its appearance, but it is the only thing propping up the imperial sentiment," the analyst said.
Juškin also pointed to British historian Arnold Toynbee's saying that an empire dies when the last person who remembers its greatness does. "We need to wait another 30-40 years for the last generation to carry the imperial idea in their genes to perish."
Isolating Russia the only cure
Talking about ways to overcome the Russkiy Mir, Juškin emphasized the need to isolate it as an imperial concept.
"It needs to be stopped on all levels – political, cultural etc. Isolation needs to be maximal for as long as imperial Putin and his successor, who will also not be a democrat, rule in the Kremlin. The tin needs to be conserved and left to stew in its own juice until a solution emerges," Juškin said. "So, only isolation – I see no other options – only sanctions, including cultural ones."
Ways Russia can fall apart
The analyst also talked about possible scenarios for Russia's disintegration and China's role therein.
He started by talking about Chechnya the leader of which Ramzan Kadyrov rules Russia alongside Putin, according to Juškin.
"Russia is not led by Putin but a union (Juškin uses the word unia – ed.) Putin-Kadyrov. Putin is paying reparations for losing the Chechen war in exchange for Kadyrov's support. In truth, Chechnya is long since an independent state with sharia law, and everything is different from Russia," Juškin said.
Right now, Kadyrov has managed to subjugate all other Chechen teyps (tribes – ed.) but as soon as his power wanes, there will be an explosion in Chechnya, Juškin suggested. "They have the blood feud principle. The other teyps will take revenge on Kadyrov for his alliance with Putin."
"That is why – when things will explode in Chechnya, and they will explode, there will be a khalifate from sea to shining sea (from the Black Sea to the Caspian – ed.)," the analyst went on.
The area east of the Caucasus is already closely linked to Turkey, Juškin added. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been funding Turkic culture for the past 20 years, children are learning Turkish at school. We are seeing the reemergence of Turan that will cover a part of Central Asian republics, he said.
China already colonizing Siberia
China is already partly colonizing Siberia, Juškin said. Putin has leased territory for a period of 99 years on two occasions already.
"But China is only using the land for minerals extraction – taking coal and timber to factories across the border. China is already colonizing Siberia from an economic perspective."
There are around 150 million Chinese living on the other side of the Amur River. "Therefore, migration pressure is considerable," Juškin added. "Russians living in the Far East said that a third of marriages are to Chinese people."
Additionally, around 150,000 people cross the Urals to live in the European part of Russia every year.
Juškin said that people in China are talking abut Siberia as a northern territory, a vast area full of natural resources that Russia cannot afford to use. "The Chinese believe that the Russians cannot utilize the resources, while the Chinese are hardworking and want to mine them, process them and sell to the world so the world could live better. The northern territories concept is already working, as is China's economic expansion. Putin sells it and gets a payday, but it is effectively colonization," the analyst described.
"Russia is slowly ending its own existence. I would like to live to see the return of the Moscow Principality and the prince when he visits Estonia," Juškin jokingly said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski