Friday, August 27, 2021

Kremlin’s Talk about Internal Enemies Directs Actions of Officials but isn’t Convincing Population, HSE Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – The Kremlin’s constant talk about internal enemies and their links to foreign governments guides the actions of officials who know their jobs dependent upon acting on the basis of that model, Ilya Budraiskis says; but this rhetoric is having ever less of an impact on the population as a whole.

            Indeed, the Higher School of Economics scholar says, the population is increasingly tired of such suggestions; and this means that the powers that be are unlikely anytime soon to try to mobilize the population to go after such people (россия-общество-вырабатывает-иммунитет-к-образу-внутреннего-врага).

            Because such efforts at mass mobilization could backfire, no regime is going to take that risk if it is less than fully confident that the population is entirely in agreement with it. And it is certainly the case, Budraiskis says, that the Kremlin can’t be nearly as confident on those grounds as it was seven years ago.

            That doesn’t mean that the Putin regime will change course, but only that it is unlikely to move along this line toward a more totalitarian arrangement in which the population as a whole will be whipped up into a frenzy as happened during the years of the Great Terror and led to a situation that risked even then getting out of control.

            Buraiskis’ comments are included in an article by the pseudonymous Russian journalist Ivan Aleksandrov who traces the history of Putin’s efforts to link internal enemies to external ones, something that continues a long Russian tradition, and poll results that show that the Kremlin leader has been much less successful than he undoubtedly hoped.

            To be sure, he has been successful in bringing charges against his opponents of being “foreign agents;” but he has not convinced large swaths of the population that such charges are more than a political tactic. To the extent that is true, the most Putin and his regime use this language, the fewer and fewer Russians seem likely to take it seriously.

            That in turn will have a corrosive effect not only on Putin’s ability to exploit such terminology through official actions but also on the way in which Russians will assess all other charges the Kremlin makes against the opposition, generating the kind of cynicism that often opens the way to anger and opposition.

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