The ongoing attacks on Open Russia are an illustration of this pattern, Solovey suggests. Significantly, they are taking place first in the regions so that some in Moscow will blame them on “’provincial idiotism,’” although in fact, “the situation in certain places is really becoming explosive.”
By such actions, the authorities are unwittingly causing many Russians to assess what is going on from the position of morality. That had been absent in Russian politics in recent years, but now it has assumed “colossal importance” and appears likely to force even those who want to avoid taking a stand to do so.
Those in the regime and in the media know that this could work against them, Solovey says; but they “hope that if the situation becomes critical, they will be able to leave the country. They show this by all their behavior” with their property and even families abroad. They will leave and “write their memoirs” while Russians who remain will suffer.
The powers that be hope to push the date of their own departure off by instilling fear in the population, the traditional manner of building power in Russia. But fear only works if people feel they have something to lose. Given the economic crisis, ever fewer of them do unless the regime plans to jail or even kill far more of them as Stalin did.
“But as soon as the powers that be encounter collective resistance, they will immediately pull back,” Solovey continues, “because those doing the frightening now are themselves very afraid.” They risk losing not only their comfortable lives but even their lives as such in the event of a popular rising.
With Russians increasingly evaluating politicians in moral terms and seeing that the powers that be are enriching themselves at the expense of the population and offering only repression in exchange, this possibility is something no one in authority is prepared to discount entirely.
It may not happen soon, but it may happen and that is increasingly defining the situation, Solovey continues, adding that there are two other reasons why repression is increasing and why ever more Russians are angry about that as well as about the inability of the powers that be to offer them anything else.
On the one hand, people can see that “Stalin modernized the country at the expense of the peasants.” But now Putin is trying to do so “at the expense of the urban population,” a larger and potentially more dangerous group. And on the other, it is becoming obvious that there is no “power vertical” in Russia. That is “an enormous invention.”
There is only the direct, authoritarian and increasingly repressive rule of a single individual who may intervene or not on any particular issue but who is not acting rationally in favor of the country but only in favor of himself.