Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Russians Ever Less Willing to Forgive Moscow for Pandemic Policy Failures, Kuznetsov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – The second wave of the pandemic Russia is in now is different in many ways from the first. But perhaps the most important charges are the readiness of those in power to blame the population for not doing what is needed to stop the spread and the increasing unwillingness of Russians to forgive the regime for its mistakes, Gleb Kuznetsov says.

            The political scientist at the Moscow Expert Institute for Social Research tells Dmitry Komarov of the Znak news agency that Russians now are like soldiers returning from battle: they are less willing to be blamed and more ready to blame those in power (

            This shift is occurring not only in Russia, but it is especially pronounced there, Kuznetsov continues; and it appears to be especially infuriating because unlike in Western countries, the Russian government did not compensate the population for its losses nearly as much. To not have been helped more and now to be blamed is making Russians angry. 

            The Putin regime has compounded this by making promises about progress that Russians can see are not true and by not reversing course on such sensitive issues as healthcare optimization which many people in the Russian Federation now hold responsible for the rising death toll from the coronavirus.

            According to Kuznetsov, Russians “no longer view today’s situation as ‘a success.’” Instead, ideas which they were prepared to accept as possible in March “now look bankrupt.” On the one hand, that is leading to coronavirus skepticism. But on the other, it is further undermining public confidence in the regime.

            Further, there is the sense that the authorities either don’t know what is really happening or aren’t prepared to be honest about it. “Why listen to Anna Popova,” the consumer affairs head, Russians now say, “if she can say little more than ordinary people” who observe what is going on around them?

            Moreover, disputes among epidemiologists and officials over what to do is causing an increasing number of Russians to conclude that they can make up their own minds because those in positions of power have not decided on any common approach. That is subverting anti-covid measures and faith in the government too.

            Today, Russians are not protesting in the streets, but they are increasingly “protesting” by their behaviors, actions that are likely to make the situation not only worse but create conditions when real protests may take place, Kuznetsov says. For the time being, there is what can only be called “the neuroticization of society.”

            Many are now talking about some return to normalcy after the introduction of some effective vaccine, but such hopes may be dashed because the fight against the coronavirus is like a war, “and the end of world wars has always led to some political shocks.” Indeed, the real political crisis may occur precisely when people feel the epidemiological one is over.

            If Russians continue to be restricted until 2022 as many now suggest, he argues, they will upon escaping from that seek to “sweep away the institutions which quarantined them.” For Russians, the pandemic is like a war and just like a military conflict, it won’t leave them unchanged.

            That is something political leaders must recognize: the longer the restrictions remain in place, the angrier the people will be and the less tolerant they will become to those who restricted and insulted them. When the pandemic ends, Kuznetsov concludes, Russians will need bars and airlines. But they won’t need the politicians who oversaw Russia’s response to the crisis.

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