Friday, January 18, 2019

Between ‘Who is to Blame?’ and ‘What is to Be Done? Russians Now Ask ‘What are They Hiding?’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 18 – The two eternal “cursed questions” of Russia are “who is to blame?” and “what is to be done?”  But in recent months, they have been joined by a third, “what are they hiding?” That is because with the collapse of trust in the authorities given their propensity for lying, Russians have become convinced the powers that be are “hiding” the truth.
            A headline today on the Regnum news agency is typical of such feelings: It declared that “School No. 627 in Moscow has been closed as a result of quarantine?” and then asks not who is to blame or what is to be done but rather the now almost inevitable “what are they hiding?” (

            What are they hiding is both less and more disturbing as far as Russian officials are concerned.  It is less because it does not identify anyone for Russians to target their anger about what is happening around them or even more encourage those who ask and answer it to take action in order to achieve change.

            But it is more for two reasons. On the one hand, the frequency with which Russians are asking this question shows that an increasing number of them no longer believe anything officials say and assume that officials at all levels are lying either outright or by hiding something that the Russian people should have the right to know.

            And on the other hand, asking and answering this question can lead those who do to move from this passive aggressiveness to more active moves. Indeed, the more often they feel the authorities are lying to them or hiding something, the sooner this is likely to happen, an outcome that all those in power from Vladimir Putin on down must reckon with. 

Russians may not be ready to march against the authorities, but they have already put themselves beyond being mobilized or even led by them. And having separated themselves in this way, it will take much less than many imagine for them to ask and answer the two other questions and then take action against those who have been “hiding things” from them.

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