Staunton, May 20 – The level of repression the Kremlin is visiting on the Russian people, one unprecedented since Soviet times, is irrational in the sense that polls show Russians are already frightened enough to declare that they support Vladimir Putin and his regime, Sergey Shelin says.
But it does make a certain sense, the Rosbalt commentator says. It reflects the fact that the Kremlin is afraid that many Russians may turn away from it in the coming years and that Putin himself “fears the people even more than the people fear him” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/05/20/1902582.html).
Polls both by pro-Kremlin organizations like VTsIOM and independent ones like the Levada Center show that the Russian people have learned out of fear to give the answers the Kremlin wants in most cases regarding the country’s leadership and direction. But they also show that this is not a matter of conviction than of fear.
Indeed, Shelin says, “fear is now a constant of our life,” but it is also a constant in the life of Putin and his team. Russians are afraid to give the wrong answers to pollsters, but Putin et al are afraid that the support they claim is shallow and unreliable and could disappear at some point if the powers that be loosen up.
They have their reasons. There are two groups that even now are less prepared to say they are for Putin irregardless. These are the residents of Moscow, ten percent of whom despite all of the Kremlin’s efforts, say they support Aleksey Navalny against Putin; and they are the young, 20 percent of whom back Navalny.
For the time being, the fear Putin is instilling in the population is working for him. But he wants to rule for the rest of his life; and in the coming years, the current level of fear may not be enough, especially if the more educated and the younger are already turning away from him. Consequently, he will likely seek to raise the level of fear still further.
Whether that will work or will backfire, of course, very much remains to be seen.