Friday, October 19, 2018

New Russian Leaders Adopting Populist Measures to Boost Ratings, Russian Blogger Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – A significant but under-reported development is taking place among members of the Russian elite: Instead of pursuing status among their peers by purchasing expensive goods, some of its new members are pursuing higher ratings in the population via populist measures, Frits Morgen says.

            The Russian blogger points out that the new governor of Khabarovsk has put the government yacht up for sale, the new Kursk governor has dispensed with flashing lights and a guard detail, and the new mayor of Yakutsk has ordered that televisions in government offices be sent to hospitals (, reposted at

            Such populist measures may generate smiles among other members of the elite or even be met with indifference by much of the population, Morgen concedes; but they can win those who engage in them higher marks from the voters – and in the current environment, ratings are more important than the respect of most others for those who want advancement.

            Two decades ago, Yeltsin and Nemtsov sought to do much the same thing. They called for officials to use only domestically produced cars; but at that time, the population wasn’t interested in such things.  Then, what mattered at all levels were the relationships officials had with the oligarchs.

            Now, the oligarchs have been brought down to size at least in terms of political power. And “serious people have learned not to turn particular attention to the cost of watches.”  At the same time, however, “the opinion of the electorate, the so-called ‘rating,’ suddenly has become one of the main factors influencing the career prospects of politicians and bureaucrats.”

            In many ways, “this is a change toward the better,” the Russian blogger says.  While it will lead to problems “like any populism,” it will make “the link of the authorities with the people firmer and who knows, perhaps, we for the first time half a century will learn to show a minimal respect to the country in which we live.”


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