MOSCOW (Reuters) - The rise of fascism is Russia’s single biggest threat and could rip the country apart unless checked, the architect of Russia’s post-Soviet economic reforms warned on Wednesday.
Anatoly Chubais, one of Russia’s leading economic reformers, said the threat from fascism dwarfed any traditional concerns about the long term stability of the political system crafted and ruled by Vladimir Putin.
“Communism and fascism are the two main political risks for Russia for the next 20 years as they have been for the past 20 years,” Chubais told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit.
“The first has been slain... but I consider fascism is a monstrous danger for the country, so all these discussions about Putin or (President Dmitry) Medvedev, Medvedev or Putin pale in comparison to this danger.”
Chubais was echoing a warning by Russia’s late reform tsar, Yegor Gaidar, who repeatedly drew a parallel between post-Soviet Russia and the post-World War One Weimar Republic in Germany which was destroyed by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
“The danger from fascism has not yet fully shown itself and I consider it is a danger that could rip Russia apart,” said Chubais, 55, who served as Kremlin chief of staff under late President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
“We are moving into a decade when this political danger will be the main one, when you take into account mass immigration and all of the consequences of that,” Chubais said.
Russia is home to more than 10 million illegal immigrants, mainly from former Soviet republics, though rights groups say immigrants are routinely and unfairly blamed for Russia’s woes.
Chubais was the target of an assassination attempt in 2005 by what he said were a group of nationalists headed by a former military intelligence colonel. The men were acquitted by a Moscow court in 2010.
Ultra-nationalists have repeatedly warned that Russia is under threat from a swiftly growing Muslim population of 20 million, about 14 percent of the country’s 142 million population, though Kremlin leaders have called for unity.
Chubais, who presided over the sell-off of state property to powerful businessmen before the dust had settled on the remains of the Soviet empire, said Russia needed a new wave of economic reforms to revitalize the $1.3 trillion economy.
But political reform would have to wait until the economic reforms were underway, he added.
“I can tell you a very nasty thing. There is for now no demand for political modernization in Russia. For there to be demand you need a social group who can demand it,” Chubais said.
“Economic modernization can and should be started without political modernization in Russia’s current conditions,” he said. “But you cannot complete economic modernization in Russia without political modernization.”
Chubais now heads Rusnano, a state corporation created by Putin and charged with building a sector with $30 billion worth of production with the use of nanotechnology by 2015.
He is blamed by many in Russia for allowing a small group of tycoons to enrich themselves hugely in the privatizations of the 1990s, while millions of Russians were left in poverty.
Additional reporting by Gleb Bryanski and Steve Gutterman, editing by Matthew Jones