Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pandemic Consolidating People but Not Around Putin, Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – In his two speeches to the nation, Vladimir Putin spoke about “solidarity,” about the coming together of Russians in the face of the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. There is no question that this threat is consolidating Russian society but that doesn’t mean it is consolidating around him and his regime, Iskander Yasaveyev says.

            Indeed, the sociologist who also serves as a commentator for IdelReal says, consolidation of society may be working against the Kremlin leader by giving people greater confidence in themselves and their ability to act as a group especially given their sense that the government has done far less for them than they may have expected or hoped (

            What he sees, Yasaveyev says, is “solidarity in relation to one another, to citizens and people including it would seem bureaucrats and state officials” but not “solidarity to unchanging Russian powers that be.” And while many “paradoxically” have less free time than they did, they must take what time they have to reflect on what they want in the future.

            “I think that Vladimir Putin and his administration will use a decline in the number of registered cases of the coronavirus in Russia after the first peak of the illness has passed and, presenting it as their success, set a date for ‘package voting’ on the amendments to the Constitution,” he continues.

                Because of that likelihood, Yasaveyev says, those who oppose making Putin ruler for life should now be considering the development of “a common strategy of actions in the case of voting – boycotting the referendum or going to the polls and voting against the amendments.” They must not be divided.

                The recent Levada Center poll showing Russians nearly equally divided on the amendments also showed that those who oppose them are more committed to their point of view than are the supporters and that they dominate the younger and middle aged groups in the electorate, those with higher educations, and residents not only of the cities but of the villages.

            Those who oppose the amendments thus need to be ready for a vote if they hope to be able to block Putin’s march “from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.”  If he succeeds that will harm Russia more than the coronavirus. And there is no time to lose. Tomorrow may well be too late, Yasaveyev warns.

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