Thursday, January 10, 2019

Even When Putin Tells the Truth, Russians Now Don’t Believe Him, Gozman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 10 – Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin shared with Russians that he had received the military rank in Soviet times of lieutenant of artillery, something that is almost certainly true given the nature of that system, Leonid Gozman says; but what is interesting is not Putin’s remark but rather how Russians have reacted to it.

            In an Ekho Moskvy commentary, the opposition politician says that “even when [the Kremlin leader] speaks the truth, [Russians] don’t believe him,” if one is to judge by the jokes made at his expense and the slighting comments on the Internet “and on all not completely censored media” about his claims (

            Putin is thus finally having to pay the bill for all the lies he has told in the past, about Russian forces not being in Crimea, about their lack of involvement in the shooting down of the Boing, and about all the other things which he has said over the last 20 years that have turned out to be not true.

            “For the thinking part of the country,” Gozman continues, “whatever he says is now white noise,” something that is always in the background but that can be ignored because it is so distant from reality. When a leader passes this Rubicon, when the people living under him assume he is lying rather than just being skeptical about his words, that is a major change.

            And that deprives him of one of the most important resources a leader needs, the ability to set the agenda in a manner that his own people will find convincing. When Putin or any other leader loses that, he has lost more than just the reputation of a truth teller: he has lost a key part of his power.

            Gozman’s observation does not mean that all Russians are this skeptical. They almost certainly are not. But enough now are that Putin is unlikely ever to be able to recover the trust of those who believe he lies on big things and small.  They are lost to him and his regime, and both he and it are all the weaker for that development. 

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