Personnel Stagnation to Splinter Putin Elite With Battle of Lost Generations

April 19, 2024
Andrey Pertsev

This is a summary of an article originally published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace under the title "Personnel Stagnation to Splinter Putin Elite With Battle of Lost Generations."


The author writes: 

  • The Russian elite is both fearful and hopeful about the major personnel changes expected to follow March’s presidential election. The new configuration of power could cement the successes of the ambitious and largely effective bureaucrats in their sixties. But it’s also possible that President Vladimir Putin could replace these aging professionals with younger bureaucrats in their forties.
  • There are three distinct generations within the ruling Russian elite. 
    • First, there is a group of people around seventy years of age: these are primarily members of Putin’s inner circle who control key resources, hold high-status positions, and head the security services. 
    • The second generational cohort comprises ambitious and often professional bureaucrats in their sixties. 
    • The third and final generation is made up of politicians and officials in their forties, including some “princes” with benefactors in the oldest group and ambitious bureaucrats who currently hold secondary or tertiary roles, but are already making names for themselves and want to get further ahead. 
      • The conflict over the clashing interests of these generations is becoming increasingly acute. The principle reason is Putin’s ultraconservative personnel and resource allocation policies of recent years. 
  • In theory, intra-elite competition benefits any political system by forcing its members to be as efficient as possible. Younger players gradually replace older figures, while motivated and professional middle-aged bureaucrats endeavor to keep their positions. However, in order to be beneficial, competition must be lasting, natural, and follow clear rules, which is not the case in Putin’s nontransparent and nepotistic Russia, where competitive processes could spin out of control when one generation loses or starts to fear that it is losing. 
  • Putin is more likely to promote those in their forties in order to rejuvenate the bureaucracy. After all, those in their sixties have been in power for too long and can envisage life without him. The problem is that Russia doesn’t have enough young administrators ready to replace those in their sixties. 
  • There is no easy solution for the Kremlin. The battle of the generations, which could jeopardize the stability of the system and prompt a split in the elite, was made inevitable by Putin himself through his ultraconservative personnel policy of the past decade, and by his refusal to leave his position—putting his own interests above those of his regime.

Read the full article on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.


Andrey Pertsev

Andrey Pertsev is a journalist with Meduza website.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by the Kremlin shared under a public license.