Thursday, August 5, 2021

Growing Apathy a Threat to Putin System, HSE’s Semyonov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 30 – Many analysts have suggested that the Putin regime wants to de-politicize Russians. That may be so, but the Kremlin’s efforts in that direction have produced a growing tide of apathy, and “apathy is always negative and anti-systemic,” Aleksandr Semyonov says.

            Consequently, it is no surprise that polls showing Russians are ever more apathetic about the political system also show that they are increasingly negative about its policies and component parts, the HSE scholar says. Indeed, such negative evaluations are the first sign of trouble (

            The situation has gone so far in recent months that most analysts discussing the upcoming Duma elections are focusing on only one issue: “will there be large-scale protests after the vote or not?”  There may not be; but even if they do not take place, the problems of what might be called “negative apathy” are growing more serious in Russia today.

            The regime may be able to compel those who rely on it for employment and prevent others from demonstrating by threatening to use force against them, the political scientist says. “But legitimacy involves trust and approval, and force cannot guarantee either of these” during or after elections.

            He cites the late US political scientist David Easton’s observation that when apathy leads to such a situation, that alone opens “a direct path to the self-liquidation” of a political system. According to Semyonov, there is clear evidence that Russia has moved in that direction given the fragility of the legitimacy of its institutions.


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