Sunday, June 9, 2024

Putin’s Normalization of What had Been Unthinkable Key to His Success, Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 4 – Putin has succeeded in building power not so much by using repressive measures as by normalizing their use and other practices that had been viewed as unthinkable in the past, according to research by the Horizontal Russia portal and the Collective Action Research Center.

            “Over the last 20 years,” they report, “such practices as tracking citizens, repressing activists, censoring the media, persecuting LGBT+ people, and other anti-democratic actions have become part of the Russian routine” (

            This normalization becomes possible “when people explain to themselves that what had been abnormal only yesterday is now justifiable,” something that happens through the slow movement in that direction that many do not take notice of and power of government media to set the agenda in the absence of alternative sources of evaluation.

            From the very beginning of his time in power, Putin understood that the control of the media would be key to what he wanted to achieve and he has moved consistently to geld or destroy alternative media outlets so that for many only those he controls will be readily available to the mass public.

            Whenever the Kremlin leader has acted, there has been initial horror at what he has done but then with time as his original action extends to more and more objects, Russians overwhelmingly come to accept it as normal and even as something positive as in the case of facial recognition technology.

            That was sold by the Kremlin media as something that would help stop crime, but now it is used to go after demonstrators and political opponents. Because the former idea defines how people view such technologies, they have gone along with the latter use, yet another way that normalization of the formerly unacceptable proceeds.

            According to the study, “the final goal of the normalization of repressive and anti-democratic practices is the depoliticization of citizens,” of convincing Russians that they should not “politicize” anything or take part in any but approved political rituals like voting or attending government sponsored events.

            Russians are overwhelmingly going along with this, the study says; and Horizontal Russia quotes Russian urbanist Aleksey Novikov as saying that “in Russia, the culture of conflict is completely absent” ( Since politics is about conflict, the mass of the Russian population is quite ready to stay away from it.

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