Staunton, May 16 – During his time in office, Vladimir Putin has increasingly issued decrees giving awards of various kinds without publishing these decisions in many cases apparently fearful that the Russian people might be infuriated by his decision or read more into it than he intends them to know.
As in Soviet times, Russian presidents have issued secret decrees. Typically, these have been about security questions where classification is understandable; but ever more often Putin has expanded the practice to include government awards like Hero of Russia, TRT reports (trtrussian.com/magazine/oficialno-sekretno-pochemu-v-kremle-chasto-ne-afishiruyut-prezidentskie-ukazy-5465129).
(For background on Soviet and Russian presidential decrees and the propensity to classify them, see Thomas F. Remington’s definitive study, Presidential Decrees in Russia: A Comparative Perspective (Cambridge, 2014).)
The new TRT investigation builds on one conducted by Vedomosti in 2019. The earlier one found that the share of unpublished decrees ranged from 25 to 40 percent and that these included both security questions and other actions “society might not approve of” (vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2019/10/10/813317-nevidimaya-prezidenta and https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2019/10/10/813317-nevidimaya-prezidenta).
And the TRT study also draws on Russian media reports about the difference between the number of Hero of Russia awards Putin actually makes and the number of decrees published about this since 2014 when large numbers of Russian media personnel were given this award for their promotion of the Crimean Anschluss (opentown.org/news/269620/ and vedomosti.ru/newspaper/articles/2014/06/03/olimpijskie-geroi).
The fact that the decrees required for such easily checked cases as the awarding of a medal are not being published, TRT says raises the question as to how many more decrees, involving more serious issues, are now being hidden from the Russian people.