Staunton, Mar. 26 – Most governments want their peoples to live well, and almost all operate on the assumption that other governments do as well. That assumption lies behind the sanctions policies that many of them have adopted to try to force those at odds with the international order to behave.
But some governments have demonstrated that they do not care how poorly their people live, and at least one, the Russian of Vladimir Putin, have indicated that they believe the increasing impoverishment of their own people will make those living under their control more ready to die for the regime.
New Times commentator Andrey Kolesnikov argues that the Putin regime “doesn’t like it when people live peacefully and well” because it believes that only if they live “poorly” will they be increasingly will to “give up life itself ‘for the tsar,’” an attitude that sets that regime at odds with others and calls into question the value of sanctions (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/238081).
Dmitry Medvedev laid out that argument in a recent comment where he suggested that in the 1990s, Russian society was “amorphous” because everyone was living for himself or herself and now has achieved new unity now that people are not living for themselves but living for the country.
That is real progress, the former Russian president argues, even if Russians saw their standard of living rise in the former case and fall in the latter. Indeed, Medvedev suggests, the change of heart among Russians about coming to the aid of the country may reflect that trend (tass.ru/politika/17367317).
“In other words,” Kolesnikov says, according to Medvedev, Russians 25 years ago “lived too well, focused on their private lives and forgot how to love the Motherland and ‘defend’ it in a situation where no one thought to attack it.” But now, they have changed; and Medvedev and other Putin supporters welcome that shift.
“The strategic line of the Putin regime,” the commentator says, “involves a rejection not only of generally recognized values including the value of human life … but also of those arising from normal life as it took shape in peace time for more than 30 years after the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
According to him, “from the point of view of the regime, its ideologues and talking heads, to live well, peacefully and to be concerned about ‘personal well-being’ is incorrect and contradicts the interests of ‘society.’” And what are those interests? “To die for the Motherland,” perhaps.
But Medvedev and Putin are wrong that society has now united under that banner. Any unity is “artificial,” a manifestation of how people living in an authoritarian society adapt to pressure rather than a reflection of their real values. They support what they have to rather than what they want to. And polls show the young don’t even do that.
“It turns out,” Kolesnikov continues, “that democracy, human rights and the rotation of those in power have applied pragmatic significance: without them, consumerist values suffer inflation in the broad sense of the word and the government begins to become ever more archaic and put at the center of its policy force and heroic death ‘for the tsar.’”
According to the commentator, “the corruption of brains, souls and demographics continues, with the military-police regime ready to squeeze human and financial resources out of the country. This is the policy of cannibals, the negative effects of which don’t appear immediately but over time deprive Russia of the possibility of any normal development.”