Staunton, April 20 – In order to strengthen the power vertical, Russian officials at various levels are “specially cultivating aggression and anger in society,” according to participants at a roundtable at the Moscow Higher School of Economics on “The Culture of Hatred: The Principle of Mutual Assured Destruction of the People and the Strategy of the Nomenklatura.”
That does not mean there are not underlying factors behind the anger of this or that group, the participants said, but officials at different levels and in different regions are cultivating this anger at other “enemies,” foreign and domestic, in ways that suggest an administered development rather than a truly spontaneous one.
To date, however, the experts concluded, the regime has not found an enemy that will unite the entire population around it, and consequently, this playing with xenophobia is ultimately extremely dangerous not just for one or another social group but for the powers that be themselves.
Svetlana Gomzikova, a journalist with “Svobodnaya pressa” spoke to three of the participants at that meeting, all of whom agreed with these general propositions but each of whom offered a slightly different take on the nature of the problem and its future course of development (svpressa.ru/society/article/66981/
Migration problems are real, and attitudes about them are real, Salin said, but they may be more or less intense depending upon how those in power react. As far as “the image of an external enemy” is concerned, the authorities have long experience with promoting that, an experience that dates to the 1930s or even earlier.
Today, Salin continued, the authorities may try to promote anti-Western attitudes, but they “already understand” that residents of the major cities are unlikely to follow them, although the use of such an enemy will work among residents of smaller cities and rural areas where “old phobias,” including anti-Americanism,” continue to be strong as a result of “Soviet nostalgia.”
But the researcher rejected the idea that “this cultivation of hatred is the beginning of the end of the powers themselves.” In fact, “the beginning of the end” reflects the authorities proclivity to ignore real problems, something that is driving Russians toward the Internet and making them ever less susceptible to manipulation.
Finally, novelist Roman Senchin added that efforts by the authorities to cultivate anger toward selected enemies is part of a more general campaign to distract Russians from the real problems they face, “economic, political and social,” a campaign that may work for a time but that is ultimately doomed to failure.