Home Geopolitics The Armed Mutiny in Russia: The Failed Dictatorship Beginning of the End

The Armed Mutiny in Russia: The Failed Dictatorship Beginning of the End

The story of June 24, 2023 is an exceptionally important moment in Russian history. It is important not because of its physical scale, but because of its ideological, semantic scale, and the consequences, which will determine the vector of the country’s movement in the near future.

What happened can be viewed from different angles, in search of cause-and-effect connections, depending on the position of the observer. The difference of viewpoints, substantiated not by episodes of alternate reality, but by verified facts, is what forms the real picture, generating an adequate analysis of events, as is the spectrum of possible plausible perspectives.

In this essay I will not touch on event details and tactical reasons for recent events, not geopolitical nuances. I will attempt to examine the insurgency of the fighters and the founder of the Private Military Company, the Wagner Group, in terms of the fundamentals and consequences for the authorities, the population, and the elites.

It seems to me correct to analyze what happened on a simple one-dimensional plane: the causes, the development of the actions and reactions of the actors involved, as well as the political and social consequences for the country as a whole.  


Prigozhin, the official head of the illegal, according to the Russian Constitution, Private Military Company – Wagner Group is a non-systemic marginal adventurer, a tool of the domain – authoritarian leader of the Russian state in balancing and neutralizing the systemic risks coming from various interest groups of the systemic nomenclature.

Prigozhin is a personality with a passionate personal profile and flexible consciousness. The type of his personality is quite obvious: ambition, domination, violence as a procedural and functional norm, adventurism, lack of long-term planning, notions of good and evil marked by traditional criminal culture, life in the moment. As a researcher who has studied the social and behavioral phenomenon of the Italian Sicilian Mafia for many years, I can say that this is the type of criminal aristocrat-entrepreneur, a mafia leader. Like any bright criminal leader, Prigozhin has the skills of organization and coordination, intuitive understanding and adequate assessment of benefits and costs, which allows him to be successful in tactical terms.

The tactical vision shapes the motivations, all actions and the vector of activity in the behavior of Prigozhin as a sociopathic criminal leader. And given the ambiguous legal and systemic-political status of the war on the front lines, which determines the interests of both Prigozhin and his fighters, it is high-quality and successful tactics that allow him to survive today and tomorrow. There are no long-term plans.

2. Prigozhin’s conflict with the military leadership should not be regarded as part of a strategic plan of the State Intelligence Agency or other security agencies, allegedly providing serious patronage to the Wagner Group and using it to win internecine conflicts with other security agencies. In a situation of multifactoriality arises multifactoriality, which in principle precludes strict controllability and even more or less effective goal-setting. This is worth remembering for all conspiracy theorists and supporters of conspiracies. The situation is emergent and dialectical, and the point of equilibrium cannot be determined.

This means that each of the participants in the conflict had their own interests, expectations, goals, opportunities and constraints, determined by the same set in each of the other actors. Prigozhin, having entered the peak in the conflict with the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, raised the heat and the stakes even further, counting on a positive reaction for himself from the supreme power and getting more opportunities. 

But when the stakes keep getting higher and no one wins, there is no choice but to keep raising the stakes as long as there are enough resources. In this sense, having had no success in taking a course of acute conflict with the military and having a very elastic and unstable status and de facto legal non-existence, Prigozhin has chosen to go all-in and raise the stakes by force. His phantom legal status determines his dependence not on the system or the law, but on one person or the supreme elite. This means that his uncertain legal status can allow him to be charged with any crime. The only things he has are fighters, money, and a need for the domain. In these three factors is his strength and capability. When one component falls out, it must be compensated for by the other two.

3 Thus Prigozhin, by apparently forcing the severity of the conflict with the military in order to preserve his security, did not succeed at first. On the contrary, he got a de facto abandonment of former agreements with the supreme power, silence and uncertainty. The uncertainty of today and tomorrow is, for such people, the main anxiety, the main risk. In fact, Prigozhin’s performance is a way to get certainty, even the most unfavorable for him.

Prigozhin now got certainty, albeit short-term and unreliable. But he definitely managed to jump out of the state of “necessary nobody,” at least the situation has been transformed: this is exactly what he needed. 

In fact, by putting on a show, playing the madman (one of the model strategies in game theory), Prigozhin received conditional guarantees of immunity and an opportunity to move to the legal paradigm of another state – a rigid totalitarian dictatorship, where the law is the object and the dictator is the subject, which means no barriers for the introduction or elimination of any legislative norms in the interests of the dictator.  This country is Belarus, which will probably allow Prigozhin and his fighters to remain free and active, at least for a while. According to some insiders in power, Prigozhin and his network in Africa and the Middle East will continue to fulfill obligations under the “outer perimeter” – the Wagner Group’s military contracts with governments and opposition groups. It may not be worth trusting such insiders, but the realization of such an option is possible for the time being. At least, the Wagner centers both in St. Petersburg and in a number of regions have resumed their work, and the Wagner Internet resources and social networks have been unblocked by the supervisory authorities.

Of course, this raises a lot of questions of both a procedural and substantive nature, which I will discuss later. Nevertheless, Prigozhin managed to change the configuration in his favor, forcing the trend of recent months and achieving basic goals at least for the short term: he got out of the ring of threats and risks of destruction around him in one way or another inside the country, transforming the conflict and shifting it to the next stage, where the distribution of opportunities and risks of the parties has not yet been formed and settled.


The March of Justice, as Prigozhin called his rebellion, is the forcing of the existing conflict situation, when one – obviously weaker – side has growing risks and threats from the opposite side, while the opposite, stronger side takes no active action, preserves uncertainty and, up to a certain point, avoids open effective (physical) conflict, but obviously increases the potential and threats of physical destruction of the opponent. Such a situation is more or less characteristic of open conflicts between two parties with known and obviously different interests. Such basic deterministic conflicts can include state wars, clashes between groups with polar values and beliefs, the struggle of political elites, etc. 

Moreover, the inactivity of the strong side may have different tactical reasons: deception of the enemy in order to follow a sharp, total or targeted attack, a signal of readiness for negotiations and a truce, internal instability or indecision in choosing the best and most effective option for further behavior.

The weak side can read the inactivity of the strong side in different ways, depending on its capabilities, objectives, available relevant information about the opposing side, and its own understanding of the context. The weak party may, following the strong party, de-escalate the conflict and try to negotiate. Also, the weaker side may see the lull as a preparation of the other side for a sharp attack and subsequent destruction. Finally, the weak side may regard the passivity of the opposite side as its internal crisis and its inability to make concentrated, effective and prompt decisions. Depending on its own assessments of what is happening and its capabilities, the weak party will make decisions and choose a model of behavior. 

Obviously, Prigozhin’s assessments, on the basis of which he made his decisions about the insurgency, contain several components from the basic options listed above. 

First, the intensification and aggravation of the conflict, which the head of Wagner went to many months ago, was dictated by the weakening of his own position in relation to the positions of the military leadership. What Prigozhin called the lack of ammunition, other supplies and disruptions in cooperation and the impossibility of normal operational coordination with the regular army was a response to the worsening conflict by the military, signaling a lack of cooperation and intensification of the conflict.

The military leadership has made it clear that the passive “underhanded” conflict on their part is reaching the level of open conflict, but not yet active. Obviously, for all their effectiveness and training, the Wagner formations can have no strategic advantage over the forces of the regular state army and other types of troops and power groups, either in numbers or in technical and material capabilities. However, the same cannot be said of Wagner’s possible tactical advantages. 

When the enemy gradually increases the pressure, you, as the weaker side, can either retreat or increase the pressure with greater intensity at the appropriate moment, that is, make the conflict more acute and force the gradualism of the opposite side. This is exactly what Prigozhin has done, pushing the rhetoric and the heat of the messages sent to the military leadership to every conceivable limit.

Secondly, apparently possessing a mass of insiders and inside information about the processes in the government and military leadership, understanding the deplorable situation in the active regular army at the front and the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, being a direct participant in military operations, Prigozhin apparently made estimates in which another component is seen: the weakness of state power and governance and, consequently, the cohesion and sustainability of the interaction of elites, including military, to win quickly and effectively in the escalating conflict Such a situation could have given Prigozhin and his mobile and well-trained formations a tactical advantage and opportunities to achieve the goals and objectives I mentioned above, the main one of which is to avoid annihilation.

Overall, Prigozhin’s assessment of the situation is quite adequate and sober. 

1 – He is outside the formal legal framework, which gives the authorities the opportunity to declare him a criminal at any time and either destroy or imprison him.

2 – Autonomy, independence, and, in this connection, the weakening support of the domain unleashes the hands of the military leadership for the gradual weakening, squeezing out and subsequent elimination of the Wagner Group and personally Prigozhin. The apotheosis of military pressure was the open support of the military by the President, who publicly voiced the need to transfer Prigozhin’s fighters into the regular army system.

3 – The weakness of power and the declining cohesion of the elites, as well as the concentration of significant forces on the military front, may provide an opportunity to play crazy, to force the current trend and try to avoid destruction by forcing the opposite side to a certain and necessary for Prigozhin compromise. This is quite a common tactic of professional terrorists.

The reaction of the authorities, and the entire state management vertical, showed that Prigozhin’s calculations were correct. By showing himself to be a madman, Prigozhin achieved exceptional consternation in the elites and the top leadership, chaos and lack of coordination in managerial decisions, and inaction on the part of security forces of all kinds. By securing passive and often significant support from the general population through persistent PR and the image of an honest patriot and fighter for truth, as well as through overt, repeated demonstrations of violence “without question or restraint” in the form of torture and executions public and distributed on social networks, Prigozhin was able to quickly, effectively, without shooting or casualties occupy the city of Rostov-on-Don with a population of one million. The show’s passage to Voronezh and then through the Lipetsk region to the border closer to Moscow was, of course, nothing more than a signal and a way to panic the authorities and force them to negotiate. 

The show had an excellent and, in fact, realized scenario. Let us break it down.

1. Obligatory loyalty to the civilian population – the image of Robin Hood, not a terrorist taking hostages, and the support of civilians are very important for success. This allows, if possible, not to smear themselves with the blood of civilians in Russia, who are quite loyal to the blood of Ukrainian civilians and consider Wagner’s fighters heroes. As could be seen from the numerous videos from Rostov-on-Don, this bet has fully justified itself: the population on the whole greeted Prigozhin in the city quite favorably, and at times enthusiastically, and saw him off with regret when the Wagner group was leaving the city.

2. Entrenching itself in a city of millions, where the population is loyal to the occupiers, is the right tactic under the threat of confrontation with the forces of the regular army and special units. 

First, it would be very difficult for the authorities to decide to strike a city full of people or to send in troops or special forces. This would have threatened prolonged fighting over many days and huge casualties among the population, mind you, under conditions of war with Ukraine! – and the evacuation would have been blocked by Prigozhin controlling the city and its surroundings. 

Second, to count on the loyalty and understanding of the population by the authorities would not be possible, not only because the numerous casualties do not add support, but also because the previous PR of Prigozhin, his current “political” statement and demands as a screen for his true intentions, as well as the “polite” behavior of the fighters definitely inclined a large part of the population to his side. Such social sentiments not only did not play into the hands of the authorities and would have made tough decisions more difficult, but also threatened inevitable local civil clashes, which could well have spread to other cities in southern Russia. 

Prolonging the authorities’ decisions and simultaneous escalation on their part gave Prigozhin tactical advantages and brought him closer to solving the tasks he had set, as I said earlier.

3. The passage of Wagner’s formations through the Voronezh and Lipetsk regions to the line, from which there were 200 km from Moscow – another option of this demonstration, which was successfully implemented. 

Small, and very important, parts of the Prigozhin group quickly drove along the roads without actually occupying large cities, unlike in Rostov-on-Don. At the same time, by indicating that Wagner was moving swiftly and swiftly toward Moscow without encountering resistance from either the police or internal troops or the population, Prigozhin achieved first a panic of the supreme authorities and elites and then forced them to negotiate with a tactically strong position.

On the one hand, he showed the effectiveness of the offensive, avoided casualties and demonstrated the passivity and often the support of the population. On the other hand, Prigozhin made it clear that he would stop at nothing, he staked everything, which means that he and his fighters would stand to the death, in case of harsh action by the authorities, in which case the blood of civilians would not be a deterrent for him.

Thus, Prigozhin achieved what he had been denied for months – he began to be talked to rather than threatened. And also, facing the threat of his own destruction, he forced the authorities to slow down and got the opportunity to reconsider this decision, at least now, in war conditions: at the front, during combat operations, or in field camps it is much more convenient and easier to destroy and neutralize the Wagner groups, both in the information and in the physical sense.

Now two words about the authorities and their reactions. The obvious dysfunction of government administration has become a commonplace, even for a significant portion of Z-patriots. The silence of officials and speakers, the inarticulate statements of governors, the address of the head of state, which, apart from obvious confusion, fear and general words about betrayal, rebellion and the usual, so loved by the domain of historical analogies, did not contain any clear comments about the goals and a specific plan of action, there were no clear and definite statements about how the authorities envision the next few days. Obviously, the more fuzzy the rhetoric and the less specific, certain, and explanatory statements by officials, the more panic, uncertainty in expectations, and negative sentiment are born and accumulate in the population.

The story was quite different, as we remember, during the preparation and the first few months of the war unleashed by Russia. Putin’s short, definite and confident addresses to the people, his lengthy and detailed ideological reports on various occasions, speeches at various forums, where the head of state spoke with figures about successes at the front and in the economy signaled to the population about the power and confidence of the authorities. 

The propaganda totally and persistently shaped the images of a holy war, a strong army, a unique leader, social cohesion and economic strength. In all of this there were details, there were numbers, there were plans. Some of these options lost their sharpness and vividness as early as the second half of 2022, the rest were losing power until June 24, 2023. Now, all of the previous tactical and strategic actions of the government do not work or look meaningless not only in the eyes of “dissenters,” but also in the eyes of “dissenters-Z,” whose number is growing, and now will obviously grow even more rapidly.

The actual inaction of state civilian and security agencies, the apparent paralysis of public administration, and the absence of articulate and definite solutions only confirmed the correctness of Prigozhin’s calculations. 

Of course, in the strategic perspective, it makes no sense to compete with the power, albeit weak, but holding control over state resources – the supreme elite and the numerous civil and security bureaucracy. Prigozhin, as the head of the most effective military entity on the territory of Russia, could not fail to understand this. 

Tactically, Prigozhin obviously had a lot of advantages, as I mentioned earlier. The difference between the strength and weakness, the effectiveness of Wagner’s actions and the ineffectiveness of the state can be seen in such a seemingly insignificant example as the road blocked by trucks to block the passage of Prigozhin’s army columns. Wagner’s convoy passed without any problems and moved on: the trucks were scattered on both sides of the road in a matter of minutes. No forceful resistance, no ambushes, no promptly created serious fortifications on the route of Wagner’s columns – nothing of the kind was done.

In the end, Prigozhin achieved negotiations and actually achieved his goal – he got out of the ring that was shrinking around him – physical or legal destruction.  At the very least, he bought himself some time. 

There is every reason to believe that Lukashenko’s participation in them was formal, in order to justify the compromise reached, part of which is that Prigozhin leaves Russian territory and moves with some of his troops to Belarus with guarantees of immunity, stops the mutiny, and withdraws Wagner units to the hospitals.  After that, some of the fighters will have to sign a contract, the other part will have to leave the front line, surrender their weapons and stop participating in hostilities, finally some of the fighters will be able to freely leave for the territory of Belarus. As with the other nodal points in this whole story, there are also a lot of questions, which I will talk about next time.

The authorities’ further sale of this compromise to the population and the outside world is the most significant failure of Putin’s domestic policy for the entire time of his existence. Moreover, it was not a tactical failure, but a strategic and fatal defeat, which, if not immediately killed the regime and the authorities, irrevocably changed the terms of the last social contract. Not only did the state fail to fulfill its obligations, but it did not offer the conditions of an extension of the social contract or conditional compensation. 

The declared military mutiny, considered as the gravest crime against the state, is no longer called a mutiny. The riot organizer, who spoke openly on social media and was the subject of a criminal case that could have resulted in a life sentence, is no longer the riot organizer, as the criminal case, according to Putin’s spokesman, will be closed. 

The rioters are no longer rioters because there was no riot – because there will be no criminal cases either against the organizers or against the participants – the Wagner fighters. 

The excavated roadways have been hastily buried. Once again, the regime is employing a tactic which is very characteristic of it: if you don’t talk about something, then it is as if it never happened, and vice versa, if you talk about something all the time, even if it never happened, then everyone may believe that it really did and is in reality.

Nevertheless, it can no longer work now. More and more people use social networks, and June 24th it showed that even those who used to get their information from TV began to read social networks too – everybody wants to know what was happening not on TV, but in reality on the territory of their own country in a situation when there was an armed uprising in the country. 

Even the pro-government and pro-war channels on the social networks showed a real picture of what was happening, and the comments there were mostly not in favor of the government. It is impossible to pretend that nothing happened, because in his address to the nation, the head of state calls everything that is happening a rebellion, revolt, and a stab in the back.

The story of “one day” has clearly shown how the regular Russian state is breaking down and turning into what is called a “fragile state,” how profound is the dysfunction of power and bureaucracy in Russia, how unstable is the position of the domain autocrat, when he tries to maneuver between the modus vivendi of dictator and arbitrator of elites, how dangerous it is to keep effective armed formations in an “outlaw” status for his personal purposes, and finally, how contingent is the social glue and loyalty of the people to power based on propaganda and the alternative reality created for the population. For as soon as the population is confronted with “real” reality, the social glue and support for the government collapse before our eyes. 


One of the main outcomes of Prigozhin’s rebellion is the exposure of the weakness of the political regime created by Putin in Russia. I and many colleagues in political science, sociology, and economics have repeatedly said that a mercantilist authoritarian regime based on information manipulation and the soft quasi-ideology of “rational nationalism,” a regime that exploits capitalism as a medium for competition for rent-seeking sources of enrichment and budgetary redistribution, and the social collectivism that characterizes Russian society are systems that are more or less workable in conditions of stability. Stability here should be understood as a situation where geopolitical, domestic political and macroeconomic decisions are not forced and extreme, and for such decisions there are neither internal nor external prerequisites. In such a paradigm, the domain that has usurped power is based on a propaganda glue of public sentiment, moderately applies repression and social restrictions, endures aggressive rhetoric against the opposition and the democratic world, but refrains from aggressive and total repression and violent social restrictions, while being the arbitrator of elites admitted to budgetary enrichment. 

The vertical of interest rights and opportunities is based on hierarchical subordination, but on a competitive basis, where the main factor of success is loyalty to the supreme domain and the superior subject. This is exactly what we could observe during the 14 years of President Putin’s rule, until 2013-14.

As soon as a regime decides to tighten its domestic policy and intensify its aggressive foreign policy rhetoric, let alone enter into an effective aggressive military conflict with another sovereign state, which is supported by most of the world community, the institutional conditions of both regime and society will inevitably change, and, importantly, the social contract will change. 

Such a metamorphosis, as a rule, arises as a result of a crisis of the state political system, unable, as a result of civilizational human and economic development, to provide material, corresponding to civilized and developed countries, welfare for its citizens and their ideological loyalty. In this case, such a regime has only one course of action: either to begin institutional, political and legal liberalization and democratization of the regime, which is fraught with high risks for regime stakeholders – or to tighten the political regime on the one hand, and try to find new drivers and tools for social passivity on the other. The latter happened in China, with the extension of Xi’s powers, the same thing happened in Russia, but in a much tougher form. 

It is impossible to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the Putin regime is still trying to legitimize itself at the expense of social loyalty, which is why it is maintaining and even expanding the set of economic freedoms and conducting a reasonable macroeconomic policy.  On the other hand, the regime is trying to scorch any alternative opinion, any otherness, and individual civic consciousness with red-hot iron, falling into direct fascism and the normalization of violence. 

On top of all this casus belli, the regime imposes a doctrine of nationalist detachment from the outside world through increased rhetoric about external threats to sovereignty and traditional values, and ultimately offers a “victorious war. Tactically, this helps the regime to gain a new batch of social approval, but even the effect of tactical solutions in this case is shortened, and the strategic utility rapidly diminishes. 

If the transition to a totalitarian dictatorship is to be effective for the regime’s interest-holders, it requires a total tightening, social, economic, and political. Otherwise, the regime gains disequilibrium, which reinforces the ineffectiveness of all regime actions.

In the case of Putin’s regime, economic liberalization in the context of political tightening, the indoctrination of violence as a norm, and the unleashed war with Ukraine are pushing it into a state of extreme instability.

Quasi-institutions, or more precisely, the rules of interaction between different social groups – from heterogeneous elites to different social strata – that worked before the shift to dictatorship, are no longer working and ensure the stability of the supreme power under conditions of war and political tightening. By maintaining a market economy and liberalizing economic freedoms, the regime inevitably comes to a standstill. 

A market economy essentially means subjectivity of agents, from which follows, one way or another, a high level of individual critical and civic awareness, and the need for more or less working legal institutions that ensure people’s positive expectations. The institutions of dictatorship, especially in the context of foreign war and political winter, cannot provide this. 

The main entrepreneurs in a mercantilist autocracy-political elites, the bureaucracy, and business groups affiliated with them-receive institutional distortions: the early balance mechanisms that worked no longer work, and civilized but facade institutions like law, independent courts, free speech, and political competition finally become a decoration and lose any significance. In order to keep the elites from potential conspiracies and the population from protesting, a total political and institutional tightening is necessary, where even the former feudal rules and regulations become worthless, and only the sentence or decision of the domain or its “Guardian” elite takes on significance. 

Putin tried to play in the mining pit with a plastic toy bucket and a paper ladle designed for a child’s sandbox. 

By keeping a gang of thugs by his side, the very existence of which contradicts all Russian laws and the Constitution, he aimed at balancing his position and maintaining political stability among the political and business elites around him, as well as his breeding power formations, with the help of such a tool.

However, as in any archaic institutional system, where institutions are rules for “their own” and law, law, and other civil norms are elastic and serve a decorative function, the position of the dictator becomes precarious as soon as successes come to an end. The dictator must always demonstrate power and uninterrupted control. The system – divide and conquer when elites compete – does not work for a real dictatorship. It does not work all the more when the elites live in the context of a market capitalist economy, where ideology is only a pretext and a screen for the continuous material enrichment of the elites and the population serving their interests at the expense of the budget.

Anyone who finds himself closer to the domain, or in a special position like Prigozhin, falls out of the system, and the elites begin to hate him and try to tear him down. The only substance to which such a favorite can appeal is the domain, since hardware, systemic struggle and participation in elite competition is impossible for him – he does not fit into the systemic political paradigm. 

As the influence of such a crony grows, the resistance of the elites grows, somehow inclining the domain to eliminate the “special power” as a threat to the domain itself and as a factor of political and social instability. From this point on, the speaker has no chance of sustainability, no good solutions. 

If he denies his oprichnina loyalty, the oprichnina will rise, which is what happened on June 24. If he goes along with the oprichnina – the elites will squeeze the ring around the domain with a knot in their hands. There is simply no other option. 

Putin has chosen to side with the political and power elites. This is understandable, the system as a logical organization of disparate components, as I mentioned earlier, reduces the human factor and risks. But inevitably, the protest activity of a non-systemic subject separated from the “body of the master” will increase. 

What Putin has done is a fatal mistake, since such a decision could have been made under a complete blockade of Prigozhin’s capabilities. However, Prigozhin, having prepared his offensive and clearly aware of the prospects I have described, decided to bet on everything, because he, who was until then in a special status and deprived of this status, has nothing more to lose. 

Evil devours itself, Frankenstein attacks his creator. Prigozhin certainly knew what he was talking about and why, when he spoke of the senselessness of starting a war and of the imaginary threat posed by Ukraine and NATO. Everything that has happened is an elementary political dialectic.

The alternative to the Prigozhin Rebellion, sooner or later, would have been a conspiracy of systemic elites, which would have meant even more turbulence: it is one thing when a gang of rebels takes over a city, another thing when the television reports on the deposition of the head of state or clashes between the army and the internal troops.

The peculiarity is that the Prigozhin rebellion showed the elites that the king is naked, that the domain is no longer the center of power and the source of rules and benefits for the elite. It is incapable of providing balance. Whatever the elites’ hatred of Prigozhin, they have a growing resentment and understanding of the futility of keeping an aging and failed tyrant in power who has failed to provide the elites with the status quo.

In all authoritarian regimes, from many autocracies to tyrannical dictatorships, elites and populations submit to the will of the dictator when he continually demonstrates unbending will, brutality and considerable power. Any more or less obvious weakness is, for the dictator, the beginning of the end. 

As for the population, as I said earlier, Prigozhin’s riot, accompanied by a prepared PR campaign, coordinated and calm demeanor of the fighters towards the civilian population only added credibility to his words about “impurity” in Moscow, about corruption and the degeneration of power. It would be far easier for Prigozhin to sell his agreement with the authorities to retreat and go to Belarus, where, incidentally, they are already building camps for Wagner fighters near the city of Mogilev with an area of 24 thousand square meters, than for Putin to sell himself as a peacemaker in the interests of calm people. 

But the main social effect of the Prigozhin campaign is the destruction of the alternative reality created by Putin’s regime and its propaganda system. It is one thing when you are threatened by a bunch of liberal fringe elements inside – you can put them in jail or chase them away.

It’s another thing to be questioned by locksmiths, carpenters, bus drivers, supermarket clerks, those who are commonly called “the deep people” in Russia, those who voted for Putin yesterday and zigged for war from their couches in front of the TV.

The war is a war, it is sacred to the deep people, as propaganda says from the TV screens (the war is sacred until it comes to the house in the form of coffins), but lunch, as they say, is scheduled. But the fact is that lunch is no longer on schedule, and it turns out that lunch does not taste good at all, which is what people believed when they were convinced that it was, for example, lamb. Only lamb turned out to be dog meat, as the Strugatsky brothers said, and now little by little people are beginning to sense: they are eating something wrong. 

I do not want to overestimate the passionate potential of the Russian deep people. But what is clear to me is that Prigozhin has opened a window of opportunity for change, both for the elites and for society. These changes are likely to be hard and possibly bloody, but it is physically impossible to avoid them: the subjectivity of all social agents – from politicians to locksmiths – will increase, of course at different rates and concentrations. I have said repeatedly that Prigozhin is a genie that Putin let out of the lamp at his will, and the genie always climbed back in at his command. This time he didn’t climb back in because he realized that if he did, the lamp would never be opened again and he would be thrown to the bottom of the ocean. And as of today, it is fair and reasonable to say that Putin has deceived himself.  

All of the above does not mean that tomorrow people will wake up in the new Russia. The process will undoubtedly take time. During this period we are likely to see increased repression, possibly new social and legal restrictions, purges in the elites, which will certainly be another shot in the foot for the Russian dictator, because, as I have noted, there is no solid institutional and procedural framework for dictatorship, and the nature of the current regime does not fit a tyrannical dictatorship and a repressive rotation of elites. We will also see absolutely absurd explanations on the part of the supreme power and its propagandists regarding past events and the current context in general, like a conspiracy of Western intelligence or some group of traitorous liberals.

Prigozhin’s fate, however, is, as always, in his hands. And so far he, as a true criminal talent, a sociopath with a rational extra egoistic mindset and simply an adventurer, can well avoid being poisoned by poisons, which the supreme power so loves to use against its political opponents, or being stabbed in the back. All the talk about how revenge from Putin’s unforgiving representations will be terrible and horrible does not seem serious to me, at least now, after June 24th. We saw with our own eyes how the myth of the terrible dictator and strong-willed leader has crumbled before our eyes. The siloviki do not like that, and neither do all the systemic elites. 

Some observers ask: how will the authorities explain what happened to the population, which suddenly received a shower of ice-cold water? What will be the personnel decisions? What will Ukraine and its Western allies do in the end? These and other procedural questions about the geopolitical and domestic political implications I will try to address and answer a little later, in subsequent essays, after a more distinct and definitive news background. 

The regularities of the past do not guarantee a similar result in the future, if one follows their logic. Putin and his regime have shown a total weakness, an inability to change the institutional framework of a mercantilist capitalist autocracy into a rigid titanic dictatorship, some components of which they have been forced to incorporate: the normalization of violence, de facto fascization and harsh repression of any alternative opinion is rapidly expanding. However, the real dictatorship did not happen, but there was a fieldstate, a fragile state, one can apply many other terms to mean, in essence, just that. 

The alternate reality and phantom images created by the Putin regime and its propaganda are crumbling like a house of cards. We are standing on the road that leads to the dead end of this regime, and this dead end is already visible on the horizon, with more and more outlined details.

Let’s thank the bandit and criminal Prigozhin for bringing us closer to that horizon. But there is a nuance – the horizon is always shifting, and what lies behind what we now see in the distance is a big question. 

One thing we can say with certainty – the Beautiful Russia of the Future is still a long way off.