Staunton, December 23 – The wave of populist challenges to Western elites has arisen because the population senses that the elites are not doing what they say they are doing, according to Anton Oleynik. But the Kremlin is avoiding this problem by using the media to create the illusion that it is doing exactly what it says.
The senior researcher at Moscow’s Central Economic-Mathematical Institute and professor of sociology at Canada’s Memorial University says that if the Kremlin’s control of the media were less or if Russians knew more about what is really going on, Putin and his regime could face similar or even more extreme challenges (versia.ru/yeksperty-preduprezhdayut-v-strane-nakaplivaetsya-napryazhyonnost--eshhyo-nemnogo-i-rvanyot).
“The anti-system protests in the West can be considered as a type of revenge for the ever greater divergence between words (democratic discourse) and practice (the impossibility of realizing in fact the democratic principles that have been declared,” he says.
And that in turn means, he continues, “the declarations of the establishment” on these points have the effect of alienating many in the electorate rather than inspiring them as the leaders clearly expect.
The Russian political elite defends itself against such challenges not only by presenting itself as in opposition to the “rotting” West but also by devoting its efforts not to ensure that its words and deeds correspond but rather to guarantee that its words will be supported by the imaginary images it creates through the media.
If that difference still works to the benefit of Russian elites, Oleynik says, another factor does not. In the West, the active protests of civil society may allow elites to correct their course before the situation gets out of control; in Russia, on the other hand, the absence of such protests means that the regime will continue on, possibly beyond the point of no return.
Thus there is a good chance that Western leaders will make adjustments before the system collapses, the sociologist concludes; “but in the case of the Russian establishment, such chances are significantly less.”