Last year was for Russia both extraordinarily hard and very unlucky –but it saw strikingly little economic reforms and practically no political development.
President Medvedev tries to demonstrate his determination and character in confronting this “sea of troubles,” even resorting to firing the officials responsible for disasters in Ulyanovsk and Perm. Putin’s plan appears to be to prolong the “neither-here-nor-there” year from mid-2009 into 2011, when he will find an opportune moment to declare that after much hard thinking Medvedev has decided not to participate in the presidential elections. That would certainly be a great relief to the political elite, enervated by the intricacies of the duumvirate and unnerved by the debates on modernization that converge on the conclusion about political change. The idea of “change” remains deeply unpopular, but the intensity of unexpected events signals that hidden and undesired changes are in fact developing fast under the façade of an immobile political system. A new year is in the making, but its calendar cannot be fixed.