Some people would say that civil war has been a constant for the past two decades contrary to the views of State Duma speaker Naryshkin, who believes that this is an idyllic time in Russia’s history. In actual fact parts of the Caucasus have been in a state of perpetual unrest ever since late President Boris Yelsin launched the first onslaught on Chechnya in the 1990s.
If the current stagnation intensifies and more and more people end up poor, while the Kremlin cracks down severely on all forms of dissent either through crippling legislation or through arrests and violent responses to any street protest, a large number of uncontrollable forces could take centre stage, primarily right-wing nationalists, an extension of the nascent fascism among the powers that be. Given the ethnic composition of the Russian population, even minor incidents could trigger a violent reaction throughout Russia, leading to civil war and to secessionist movements. Given that the Russian authorities have aided and abetted secession in other former Soviet republics, they will have no leg to stand on if Tatarstan, for example, sought secession, in particular if violence is erupting in other parts of Russia.
Against the backdrop of bloody and repressive crackdowns, the lack of media outlets providing a picture of developments due to the Kremlin’s shutdown of all opposition voices, violence would be likely to erupt in different republics, leading to various terrorist acts and hampering production and exports of Russia’s natural resources, which are key to federal revenues.
Investment will dry up, the federal centre will lose control and different factions will fight for control in what could be, as Naryshkin might put, a new Time of Troubles, the result of the current policies implemented by Naryshkin and the Kremlin.
This is the most harrowing potential development in Russia, a development that is feared more and more by people in Russia. Indeed such fear may be the only sentiment that is preventing the worst-case scenario from coming to fruition – at least for the time being.