Staunton, September 11 – Vladimir Putin has decided that the only way to save his imperial system is to make the lives of Russians unbearable on the assumption that people who must focus on their immediate needs will not have the interest of the energy to challenge his rule, according to Igor Yakovenko.
Empires have various means of maintaining themselves, the Russian commentator says. The Soviet empire relied “on force and lies about the dawning victory of communism.” When the regime reduced repression and the lie became obvious to its residents, that empire died, he points out (afterempire.info/2017/09/11/degradation/).
During his first decade in power, Putin maintained the system by using the high prices of oil to buy off elites and to offer the population an improvement in its standard of living, leading to what became known as his contract with the population: stay out of politics and the Kremlin will ensure your consumption increases.
But in 2011-2012, declines in the price of oil and the regime’s heavy-handed falsification of elections destroyed that compact, Yakovenko says; and “in 2014, a new reality was formed in which Russians were given the conditions of a new contract between themselves and the Putin regime.
“You must be proud and happy that you live in the largest and greatest country in the present-day world,” they were told, “in a country with the most glorious history which achieved the greatest of all victories. [And now] the country is led by the greatest leader on the planet and it is a honor for each of you to support him.”
In addition, the Russians were told, “abundance and the level of consumption are values of the cursed liberal West and therefor you must not strive after them.” Summed up in a single phrase, Putin’s new deal for the Russians was that “’you will live possibly worse, but I will ensure you an influx of pride for the greatness of Russia.”
One reason that this new contract was offered, the commentator says, is that “in 2011-2012, it turned out that protest attitudes appear when people cease to struggle for their existence.” Or put more bluntly, “people go into the streets not because they have nothing to eat but because they find something offensive” despite having enough.
“Putin’s entire policy after 2011-2012,” Yakovenko suggests, “is a reaction to the post-traumatic stress syndrome” of that time. But the powers that be, frightened by the protests then, moved toward policies based on a more or less clear understanding that “’the slaves of the empire must be occupied with their own survival.”
“Then,” it follows, “they won’t have the strength for any stupidities, including political protests.” And Putin has implemented this policy in various ways in all parts of the country. Some of those who could chose emigration, “but the majority in response to a sharp change in their customary way of life shifted to a regime of individual survival.”
“Beginning in 2014,” Yakovenko continues, “there has been a growing degradation of the population of Russia as a result of the choice by the population of this strategy.” And it must seem to the kremlin that this tactic is “the only chance to preserve the empire” because the population isn’t looking beyond its immediate daily needs.
There is a problem, however, the commentator says. “The reduction in the standard of living and of human capital gives rise to a further decline of the economy which at some point inevitably will lead to the collapse of ties among the parts of the empire” as each scrambles to save itself.
Whether when that moment comes there will be some region “capable of taking on itself responsibility for the entire territory of present-day Russia” or alternatively that “its regions will shift to a regime of independent action,” is something that “it is difficult today to predict.” But that Putin’s strategy will ultimately fail is not.