Monday, June 4, 2018

Russians Losing Faith Putin’s Kind of Strong Power Can Bring Order to the Land, Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 4 – Increasingly, Russians doubt that the kind of strong power Vladimir Putin offers, one based on personalist rule rather than strong legislative, executive and judicial institutions, can bring order to the Russian Federation, according to sociologist Sergey Belanovsky.

            But at the same time, he says, those critical of Putin’s approach have not yet developed well-structured ideas about what they would like to see in its place but rather react to what is going on less on the basis of rational thought than emotionally (

                What this means, he suggests, is that “the idea of a strong system of power, at least in the Putinist variant, has disappeared forever.” It may come back, but if it does, it almost certainly will be “on some completely different basis.”

Belanovsky draws those conclusions on the basis of 12 focus groups, ten in Moscow, one in a regional center, and one in a company town. Seventy-five percent of what he admits is “a super-small sample” say the state must in the first instance be just; only seven percent say that it must above all be strong.

Consequently, “the level of trust Putin enjoyed in the early years will never come back,” the sociologist says.   

Putin’s militarism hid this for a time, Belanovsky says; but it is now alienating people as the Kremlin seems to understand. It is increasingly showing him “not as a militarism but as a kind uncle of a social orientation. Yesterday [for example], he visited a birthing center … That is a mistake. It won’t restore his earlier ratings.”

But the decline in public trust in Putin does not mean that there will be an upsurge in support for his opponents, the sociologist says. “Opponents of state policy do not have structured ideas and a fixed ideology.” As a result, “research does not confirm the view that opponents of state policy support liberal values.”

Instead, “the psychological profile of the opponents of state policy” is such that they do not want a liberal system but rather a more effective authoritarian one, a desire that will make it almost impossible for the opposition to form a party with a winning message. That in turn gives Putin an advantage even if trust in his approach continues to fall.

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