Staunton, September 14 – Some have expressed surprise that few Russians have paid much attention to siloviki raids on Navalny staffs in more than 40 cities, Aleksandr Dolganov says; but they shouldn’t be because the Putin regime has successfully discredited politics and politicians.
The Socium Foundation director tells Olga Balyuk of the Znak news agency few Russians are interested in politics because the regime has discredited politics and politicians and made any expression of interest in them potentially dangerous (znak.com/2019-09-13/sociolog_o_tom_pochemu_lyudi_ne_podderzhali_sotrudnikov_shtaba_navalnogo_vo_vremya_obyskov).
Given that innocent participants in the Moscow protests have received real jail sentences, the analyst continues, “searches in the Navalny staffs possibly do not seem to serious to observers” at least to those not connected directly with him. And his immediate supporters aren’t that numerous, no more than a few percent.
A major reason they are so few in number, Dolganov says, is that the government-controlled media has successfully portrayed him as a CIA or Mossad “agent” and caused Russians, who lack the information sources necessary to challenge that version of events, to view Navalny “to put it mildly with suspicion.”
Navalny’s personal style has added to this: He seldom shows himself willing to enter into alliances with others but acts on his own. That means, the analyst continues, that he has not developed the kind of support network that could come to his aid or at least show support when officials attack him.
Of course, Dolganov acknowledges, there is a Russian tradition of winning by not making any compromises or alliances. It traces its origins to Stalin who “also to a great extent in his works criticized those who could be his allies much more seriously than he did the tsarist government” and nonetheless came to power.
But there is a bigger problem here than just the Moscow arrests and Navalny’s personal style, one that is shown by the difference in the reaction of Russians to the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov and that regarding official attacks on Navalny and the siloviki attacks on his staff offices.
“Politics as a sphere of activity and sphere for the application of human efforts, a profession if you will, has been strongly discredited” in Russia as a result of “a long and conscious” effort by those in power. “By definition, a politician is someone who struggles for power,” and those who have power don’t want to be challenged.
As a result, for Russians, even those opposition politicians who stay within the law are viewed as something unnatural and alien even though in a genuine democracy such people are entirely normal and even necessary, Dolganov says. When those in power make mistakes, those outside can challenge them and then replace them.
“This process itself in our country has bee discredited. Opposition politicians are considered enemies, even though they are patriots who want good for their country and simply believe that this much be achieved by other methods. Official patriotism is involved with the public deification of the existing authorities.”
If Russia were a democracy and had normal attitudes about politics, the current regime would have been replaced via elections long ago, given that “for six years, the standard of living of the main part of the population has been falling.” But instead, Russians can’t even imagine replacing those now in power and view challengers with hostility.
Russians will support a journalist like Golunov because he is not a politician but they will not support Navalny because he is. They want to stay as far from politicians as possible because they view “politics as dangerous, unnecessary and amoral.” The willingness of the powers that be to use force will only intensify these attitudes.
“In a definite sense,” Dolganov concludes, “terror is quite an effective means to frighten people and with such methods one can hold onto power quite effectively and for a long time.”