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Political Technologists: Gleb Pavlovsky

Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Foundation for Effective Politics. Photo: Konstantin Zavrazhin

Gleb Pavlovsky, Russia's best-known political technologist and consultant, is the head of the pro-government Foundation for Effective Politics. He is a constant presence in the media. The FEP has launched several popular websites including Strana.ru, Vesti.ru, Smi.ru, Ukraina.Ru, Inosmi.ru. Time Magazine, discussing Pavlovsky's role in the 1999-2000 election campaigns, crowned him "Russia's Dick Morris" and the "new anti-hero of Russian politics":

 "Gleb Pavlovsky, an owlish political consultant with a taste for casual clothes and an abiding reputation for dirty tricks, is being hailed as a genius by the winners and a cynical villain by the losers … it is a sign of the times that Putin's election is not credited to a business tycoon or Kremlin staff member but to a professional political organizer--a former dissident and political exile who scorns the 'intellectual poverty' of the Gorbachev years and is bullish on the Internet. His consulting firm, the Fund for Effective Politics, avoids the limelight but enjoys a reputation for achieving the impossible."

"The main weapon employed by Pavlovsky was the Internet. Only a million or so Russians have access to the Web, he notes, but they are the elite--in universities, government offices, security services and the mass media. This makes the Net a powerful yet dangerous tool, Pavlovsky remarked recently. Through it, he explains, black propaganda can easily be 'laundered' into 'white' press reports."[16]

A 2006 article on "Democracy's Doubles" by Ivan Krastev further probes Pavlosky's role:

"Russia's political system can best be grasped by looking at the country's 'political technologists', the Kremlin's infamous grand masters of manipulation. Just as the Soviet regime could not be properly understood without reference to communist ideology, managed democracy today cannot be grasped without reference to the political technologists and their view of democracy and politics …

In a Kremlin world dominated by mediocre apparatchiks, KGB officers, and ruthless oligarchs, the political technologists might look like people from another planet. They come from the milieu of the intelligentsia and the world of alternative culture. Gleb Pavlovsky is a policy intellectual and a former dissident who was persecuted in Soviet times for his 'reformist delusions'. … Pavlovsky worked with George Soros and his Open Society Institute in the early 1990s and briefly acted as editor of a Russian version of the Journal of Democracy. … They were Russia's liberals. In the early 1990s, they proclaimed their belief in free and fair elections, limited government, democratic pluralism, and independent media. Today, however, they have all become 'political technologists'.

"The Russian political technologist resembles a Western political consultant in the way that the electric chair resembles an armchair. Political consultants in the West (however low one's opinion of them) work with independent media, and their trade is influencing these media. Political technologists are experts in manipulating dependent media. Political consultants in the West are experts at winning votes for their candidates; political technologists are also specialists in winning votes, but they take matters one step further—they are also specialists in 'creative counting' of the votes. A political consultant works for one of the parties in an election and does his best to help that party win; the political technologist is not interested in the victory of his party but in the victory of 'the system'. His goal is not to maximize the vote for his client, but to obtain an election result as close as possible to the percentage of the vote that the Kremlin has planned for his client … They are the ideologues and the symbol of Russian managed democracy. They operate in a world of 'clones' and 'doubles'; of 'administrative resources', 'active measures', and 'kompromat' [compromising information] ...

"In the wake of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Modest Kolerov, Pavlovsky's deputy at the Center for Effective Policies, joined the presidential administration as head of the new 'anti-Orange' department dealing with the post-Soviet republics. The political technologist can be found everywhere in the policy process, performing all kinds of jobs. In his role as 'gray cardinal', Pavlovsky urged the Kremlin to adopt new legislation that would create a body known as the Public Chamber in order to control Russia's NGOs. In his role as a policy expert he supported the move, and then in his role as an independent political commentator he explained to the public what a wonderful policy the Kremlin had initiated. The circle was closed."[17]

Gleb Pavlovsky, who was born in Odessa, was also involved in the 2005 Ukrainian election campaign in support of Viktor Yanukovich. In 2006, following the Orange Revolution, the Ukrainian Security Service banned Pavlovsky from entering the country for a period of five years, on grounds that his activities were "contrary to the interests of Ukraine."[18]

In "How the West Misunderstands Russia" in a recent publication by the European Council on Foreign Relations, Pavlovsky puts forth on Russia's weakness, its neighbourhood policy and the Southern Caucasus:

"The new Russia has transcended its Soviet identity and managed to put down uprisings in the post-Soviet space as far away as Tajikistan. It has dealt with a new generation of security threats on its territory – such as the societal terror of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev – entirely on its own … Russia also helped other new nations in Eastern Europe create identities of their own. Is this not a contribution to international security? Doesn't all of this demonstrate Russia's global know-how?"

 "Russia's activities in the Caucasus, especially since 2000, do not only benefit Russia. By bringing recalcitrant minorities into a new security consensus, Russia has helped transform local ethnic conflict into a constructive process of nation-building. Therefore, when Russia claims to be a central element in the security of Eurasia, on a par with the US and the EU, this is not a claim by a Hobbesian state that wants to play the role of the Leviathan. Rather, it is an argument in favour of a universal legal order."[19]

            (Full text of ECFR's publication: What Does Russia Think?)

 


[18] "Pavlovsky Barred from Entering Ukraine" (in Russian), Grani.ru, 24 October 2006.

[19] "How the West Misunderstands Russia", European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2009, p. 74

[20] Pavlovsky, "Putin – Medvedev Tandem Moving Toward a Split" (in Russian), Grani.ru, 19 November 2009.

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