President Dmitry Medvedev is today paying a very special visit to Germany in order to participate in celebrations that have more significance for contemporary Russia than he dares to admit.
The divide within society over Soviet history connects directly with the splits on the way out of the current crisis, which were illustrated by the ambivalent celebrations of the November holidays. In this turbulent environment, Putin wants to position himself as a “rock” of confidence standing against the ill-conceived “innovations,” asserting at every meeting of the government that “our plans are still alive and well, and they will continue and be completed. There is no doubt about it.” He can hardly fail to see, however, that time is not on his side, and the central question of the leadership acquires critical urgency well before the presidential elections in 2012. Medvedev might think that time is working for him, but re-inventing himself as a champion of change is an order much taller than his limited intentions, which he will present this week in an address to the parliament. He fancies “modernization” as an evolutionary and certainly non-violent process over which he would preside benevolently disallowing any “excesses.” The problem is that the strength of the thoroughly corrupt system of power to which Medvedev belongs entirely is in its rigidity. Thus, opening it up for transformation – even if only by words – could trigger a spontaneous collapse. The Berlin Wall is an object lesson in such a breakdown, and Medvedev may find himself to be merely the weakest part of the wall of fear and lies that Putin has built.