Monday, February 10, 2020

Putin Confronted by a Rising Tide of Indifference, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 3 – Sociologist Anastasiya Nikolskaya says and polls confirm that Russians are increasingly indifferent to and feel themselves apart from Vladimir Putin’s Constitutional proposals ( and

            Many Russians believe that what Putin is doing benefits himself in the first instance but aren’t opposed to his doing that, although commentators say that the share of those who feel that way is smaller than six months ago (

            In reporting this trend, US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova says that “such attitudes may be called what you like but can’t be described as the mobilization of the population” that the Kremlin leader clearly wants. Instead, he is getting support from “passive inertia” (

            “The Russian majority,” she continues, “still does not see leaders deserving of support who are capable of leading them,” but the fact that most Russians feel increasingly indifferent to Putin and even “separate” from him has encouraged some to try to exploit the situation or to help Putin overcome indifference, although there is little reason to think they will succeed.

            The most prominent example of this trend is the declaration by Zakhar Prilepin, a writer and Donbass fighter, Steve Siegel, a US actor with Russian citizenship, and Father Ivan Okhlobistin, who has been involved in scandals in the past, that they are forming a new political party, “For Truth” (

            Its militance at least in terms of its declarations – Prilepin says that Russia must be prepared to fight in all ways lest it be defeated by those who call for a “civilized” approach ( – is more likely to alienate the largely indifferent Russian population than to attract it, Kirillova suggests.

            According to the Russian journalist, Prilepin’s efforts, which although nominally those of the opposition in fact are part of the Putin regime, have two goals: to channel popular dissatisfaction which is increasingly “acquiring a radically left aspect,” and to provide a focus other than Putin for this rising tide of dissatisfaction.

            By measures like Prilepin’s, she continues, “Putin hopes at a minimum to recover the trust of ‘the patriotic electorate’ which longs for the Soviet Union and has accused the authorities of being in a conspiracy with the liberals and thus calm the conformist majority. At a maximum,” he would like this to overcome indifference and lead to the mobilization of the population.

            Kirillova suggests that “if one follows Russian propaganda, it is not difficult to see that both left and right ideologues have been thrown into the breach.” Thus, Yevgeny Fedorov, a United Russia deputy given to conspiracy thinking, has declared that the Constitutional amendments are “only the first step toward liberation from foreign occupation and the restoration of the USSR.”

            And on the other side, the extreme right Russian Popular Line has celebrated them as part of “a great January counter-revolution,” something its adepts have been saying was necessary for a long time. But however much attention these get from the commentariat, they are leaving the Russian majority where it was, indifferent and standing aside from the powers that be.

            That isn’t what Putin needs but it may be the new reality within which he must now function.

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