Russian President Vladimir Putin, many in the West are sure, is not afraid of practically anything and anyone. In case of a global crisis, he has huge reserves of gold and foreign exchange, for external enemies he has the most advanced weapons in the world on hand, and in the event of opposition street protests, a loyal Russian Guard and tightened legislation.
There is only one force that continues to intimidate the Russian leader – Russian pensioners. It was they who, in the now distant 2005, clearly proved to the Kremlin that jokes with them are bad, and they did it in such a way that the knees of the authorities are still shaking.
Then Moscow launched a program of monetization of social benefits, intending to transfer the system of discounts and benefits for different categories of pensioners, starting with the Heroes of the Soviet Union and Heroes of Labor and ending with the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident, in the form of cash payments. This instantly resulted in massive street protests on such a scale that the authorities had to hurry to stop this reform, because the ruling elite could not even imagine the option of violent dispersal of the protesters of the elderly, whose number exceeds 40 million, even in their worst dreams.
This, in particular, was announced the other day by the Czech news portal Info. cz, which publishes only socially significant news materials, not trying to cover all news topics of today.
As proof of this point of view, Info. cz draws attention to the following facts.
Firstly, although the retirement age in Russia was raised, giving various reasons in favor of this step, Vladimir Putin clearly distanced himself from preparations for raising the retirement age, during protest rallies, stating that the pension reform had not been coordinated with him, and should have been softened.
Secondly, during the last election campaign, “United Russia”, which is considered the “party of power”, chose to remove its formal head from the lists of candidates altogether. Dmitry Medvedev, which became extremely unpopular among Russian pensioners, including because of the notorious phrase “There is no money, but you are holding on.”
Third, just before the elections to the State Duma, Vladimir Putin announced a one-time payment to pensioners in the amount of 10,000 rubles, clearly trying to appease the elderly.
Finally, fourthly, even when after the elections it became clear that the authorities did not take on any new responsibility for the well-being of Russian pensioners, Moscow still has to politely bow to them. So, Info emphasizes. cz, when the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov actually gave the Russian old people a slap in the face, speaking in the spirit that “helping pensioners, my personal opinion, is a little late”, the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina I had to apologize for my subordinate, extinguishing the protest moods that arose.
Which, in general, the portal specifies, were quite reasonable: the average pension in Russia is only 17,536 rubles, and the minimum pension is generally 10,022 rubles, and given that no sharp growth is expected in the coming years, it is quite difficult imagine how elderly Russians can live on that kind of money at current prices for goods and services.
It is interesting that this point of view is shared not only abroad, but also in Russia itself.
– At the beginning of the 2000s, there were still many Soviet-trained pensioners, retired soldiers, retired politicians still alive. Try, then declare that the retirement age will be raised – half of Moscow would instantly gather in the squares of fighting old men, shaking with sticks and showing their breasts, all strewn with award strips, – said in an interview with SP Head of the Laboratory of Political and Social Technologies Alexey Nezhivoi, explaining why the authorities did not dare to crank up the last pension reform, aptly nicknamed by the people “cannibalistic”.
Now, the expert continued, there are no such people anymore, because those who in 1991 actively enjoyed the so-called “freedom” have become pensioners. And this to a large extent contributed to a change in the political environment, which turned old people into pensioners-survivors.
However, even in this capacity, pensioners still remain the force that the Kremlin, if not afraid of, then at least seriously fears, suggests political scientist Konstantin Kalachev…
“The fact is that the key concept for any government is the issue of legitimization, public trust, which makes it, in the eyes of citizens, not a dictatorship sitting on bayonets, but a respected democratic regime,” the expert explained. – And, in my opinion, pensioners are the main resource of the very legitimization that our government is very afraid of losing. Because it is the elderly people of pre-retirement and retirement age who are in fact the main electoral core in the elections.
Our youth, after all, has the opportunity of a certain choice. After all, young people can quite easily focus on private life and building a career, not only domestically but also abroad. In the case of pensioners, the recipe for improving social well-being according to the “suitcase-station-Europe” scheme does not work. Therefore, their relationship to power has a huge role in the eyes of the latter.
In the case of young people who, to put it mildly, are not fascinated by the current government, the state, for example, may well bet on the fact that by the time this generation grows up and old, current politicians can already leave the scene, hope for the emergence of new figures. And with today’s old people, representatives of the modern Russian political elite, as they say, still have to live and live, especially since they, by and large, are of the same age. And if the pensioners are disappointed in the government, it will be possible, as it seems to me, to simply forget about its legitimization.
Because social protest is not a political protest for you, which in our country is increasingly small in number, which is why all the steam goes, figuratively speaking, into the whistle. Social protests, for a minute, sometimes end with social revolutions. I, of course, do not think that such a scenario is possible in Russia now, but the fact that social protest poses a rather real threat to the authorities is, as they say, a fact. Considering that the population of Russia is aging, in fact, theoretically, not 300-400 thousand people can take to the streets, but 3-4 million, or even more. Therefore, the authorities believe that our pensioners should be cared for and cherished in every possible way.
“SP”: – But the increase in the retirement age, which the government dragged under the cover of the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia, says, perhaps, just that the current government is not at all eager to groom and cherish our old people. However, no special protests, similar in scope to 2005, were observed in this regard. Why?
– The needs of our society are growing. After all, today’s pensioners live not only on memories of the “dashing 90s”, when pensions were paid unstably. They want to take care of their children and grandchildren. Now, if pensions do not allow them not only to make ends meet, but also to help their loved ones, all these memories will be shattered into smithereens about unfulfilled needs.
But on the example of my own close relatives, I know firsthand how pensioners who are extremely loyal to the authorities, obediently sat down first in coronavirus self-isolation, and then, upon leaving it, who saw prices sharply jumped up in the next Pyaterochka, already categorically refuse to go to the polls basically. Yes, this is not yet a cardinal protest, but it is already quite a definite protest.
“SP”: – And what can provoke its further transformation into a critical form for the authorities? Will the refusal to index pensions to working pensioners be drawn to this role?
– This was, perhaps, the most important pre-election expectation of the entire society, in whose eyes such a decision would demonstrate the authorities’ concern for the elderly. Almost every first expert said that such a decision would be made just before the elections. This, alas, did not happen, which showed the limited possibilities of the authorities and caused disappointment.
So, in my opinion, further postponement of the solution of this issue, which is quite obvious and long overdue, may well become a certain trigger. Especially against the background of the fact that the authorities find money somewhere to increase, say, the salaries of security officials and other similar structures. The still quiet indignation may well be replaced by a rolling thunder.