Staunton, July 7 – None of the strategies Vladimir Putin is accustomed to using be they military actions abroad or tightening repression at home is going to boost his ratings, according to sociologist Lev Gudkov. Instead, they are going to anger people who are tired and fearful of foreign conflicts and don’t want to be subject to repression.
The former direction of the Levada Center in the course of a wide-ranging interview says that more than four out of five Russians now believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies not only abroad but at home and support the regime’s actions in the main. But they fear war and so militarism is out; and they don’t want to lose the remaining freedoms they have.
“Putin’s entire political career,” Gudkov says, “has been built on various kinds of militarist campaigns or on events like the Chechen war, Beslan, the war with Georgia, Crimea and the Donbass” (severreal.org/a/sotsiolog-lev-gudkov-o-nastroeniyah-rossiyan/31343336.html).
But at the same time, “the militarist resource has run out,” the sociologist says polls show. “Foreign poitical crises do not inspire people but frighten them, [and] a war is not capable of raising declining ratings.” People are resentful of the West but they do not see fighting with it as something from which they will benefit.
“Tightening the screws” at home “also will not help because fear of the intensification of domestic repression also is at record high levels. Half of Russians fear it.” And fear alone won’t provide a boost for Putin even if it keeps people deferential and thus himself in power, Gudkov says.
“People have become much more fearful of persecution by the state; and although now as in Soviet times, they think or more precisely believe that all this involves not them but ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organizations … the growing aggressiveness of the state frightens them although they hope that it won’t touch them.”
Nonetheless, Gudkov says, the Putin regime will continue along the same ways it has because it has nothing else to offer and because negative selection means that there is no one near the center of power who could suggest and then implement an alternative strategy for the country.
This situation isn’t about to end in the foreseeable future, Gudkov suggests, because it is “a situation of stagnation. And stagnation, unlike a crisis, is, as Academician Abel Aganbegyan says, something that can last for a very long time.”