The main goal is to entirely eradicate European mechanisms of power transfer in Russia and to consolidate the Byzantine model of succession. ~ Sergei Kovalev

Really?  The “Byzantine model”?  Putin wants to create a system in which the previous ruler is either blinded or exiled to a monastery following debilitating civil war?  That was, as often as not, the “Byzantine model” for succession, since there wasn’t actually a “Byzantine model” for succession to the throne.  (Only in the last three centuries was there regularly a reasonably stable hereditary dynasty, which still didn’t necessarily stop the civil wars and assassinations, but simply limited it to members of the same family.)  It was in this respect much like the old Roman system, where contingents of the army rose up around a general or rival claimant and then knocked off the emperor to put their leader in his place.  In fact, I am positive that Putin does not want to institute such a system, since it means that his prime minister will be forced to have him blinded and tonsured in a little over a year.  The system Kovalev is actually describing is actually very unlike the way transfers of power were handled in Byzantium: the transfer promises to be peaceful and ratified by a formal popular vote.  There will be, I expect, no palace coups, no poisonings and no tongue-slitting.

Yes, I know Kovalev is just using Byzantine in the pejorative, ill-informed way that modern people often do–they use it to describe whatever it is they don’t like about another country or, in the case of some modern Russians, whatever they don’t like about their own.  Do you see how Kovalev uses it?  It is the opposite of European, the antithesis of the way things are supposed to be.  Along with the “Mongol yoke” thesis, the Byzantine role in creating modern Russian political culture is another preferred cop-out for explaining why Russian politics has been the way it has.  To refer to what is happening in modern Russia as a revival of Byzantine political practices would be like describing the schemes of Hu Jintao with references to the Tang dynasty.  We would all, I think, see the transparent silliness of that.

P.S. The article reached this silly claim about Byzantine models by trying to tell us about the deep and ancient servility bred into the Russian people (a trait, we are supposed to believe, that none of their Slavic and Baltic neighbours shares), which is the classic Westerniser’s complaint about why Russians don’t like people like him.  The truth is that mass democracy will favour candidates who can provide, or be perceived as providing, security and some measure of stability, because these are the political goods that most people expect from government above all else.

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