Sunday, October 29, 2023

Russia has Been At War for Two-Thirds of Its Post-Soviet Existence, Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 26 – For two-thirds of the post-Soviet period, Russia has been at war, first in Chechnya, then in Georgia and Syria and since 2014 in Ukraine, Lev Gudkov points out, a result of Russia’s failure to reform the basic institutions of society, with the exception of the economy.

            “The army, the special services, the legal system and the educational sector have remained on the whole Soviet,” he continues, and “after Putin’s coming to power, these [unreformed] institutions became the chief supports of the regime,” allowing Putin to create “an imitation totalitarianism” (

            By the end of the 1990s, Gudkov says, the democratic transformation of Russia had failed. “Since that time, the centralization of the state and society has increased as has the influence of the military and security agencies who have fed on disappointments about the results of privatization and democracy.

            And that in turn has contributed to “a nostalgia for past greatness” to compensate for “feelings of belonging to a failed country” not only among them but in the population as a whole, the sociologist says. As a result and because censorship has kept Russians from learning the truth, support for Putin’s war has been remarkably high and stable.

            Another reason, he suggests, is that the Kremlin has provided so much money to get Russian men to fight for it in Ukraine that villagers and rural residents see the war as economically beneficial despite the rising tide of inflation. As of now, few contact the war with inflation but that may change.

            Indeed, Gudkov points out, the share of those who support continuing the war to a victorious conclusion is “slowly declining and now stands at about 38 to 45 percent.” That may change as well given the Putin regime’s decision to continue the war as long as possible so as to force talks that will give it at least the appearance of a victory.

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