Staunton, March 14 – Like most regimes but contrary to the expectations of many, Grigory Golosov says, Vladimir Putin benefitted from the sharp declines in the Russian standard of living after the fall of oil prices because people felt there was no alternative, they became more dependent on the state, and the regime used their situation to marginalize the opposition.
But if the decline in living standards continues for a prolonged period, the political scientist at St. Petersburg’s European University says, the population will become frustrated and angry and increasingly turn away from the regime (meduza.io/feature/2018/03/13/putin-schitaet-sebya-sovremennym-chelovekom-dazhe-peredovym).
Many analysts naively believed that the sharp fall in Russian standard of living as a result of the collapse of oil prices would lead the people to hate the regime, but, Golosov says, “a sharp worsening in the position of the population does not lead to the delegitimization of any political regime” and it did not in the case of Russia either.
That is particularly true in authoritarian countries like Russia where when living standards decline, “people become more vulnerable and depend on the authorities. The authorities really help in some ways, therefore they could on loyalty and they receive it” most of the time.
In fact, the Russian did “comparatively poorly” in this regard, Golosov continues. “Polls show that from the point of view of people, the authorities are insufficiently concerned about them. They do not feel the small gifts which they periodically receive are a sufficient level of concern; and if they do not feel concern, then their faith that the authorities are a good father which will always come to their help disappears.”
As a result, he continues, “a lengthy and slow fall in the standard of living like the one now taking place is a bad situation for the regime.” The authorities constantly need to provide some indication that they care lest people turn away. In Golosov’s view, the Putin regime understands this.
One indication of that understanding, he suggests, is that Putin isn’t going to make as many promises and certainly not formal ones like the May decrees lest Russians have a measure of what he and his government are not achieving. Instead, he will try to take “small situational measures” in the hopes that will be enough.