Living Beyond Putin

As the economic situation in Russia becomes more and more dire, and it does not appear that it will improve any time soon, Russians keep asking the same question (see my previous blog posts, here and here): what are Russian society’s limits? That is, what will it take to get them to go to the streets in protest?

Igor Yakovenko asked this question on his blog yesterday, and offers some unsurprising and depressing answers. He cites a recent survey conducted by the Moscow branch of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation titled “The Perception of Freedom of the Inhabitants of Russia”. You can predict what the authorities will likely do based on this study, he says.

  1. “Over 70% of citizens do not need freedom of speech. Only 24.5% said that the media should be free…. So the likelihood of the further stifling of freedom of expression is close to 100%.”
  2. “The population approves of the security forces and intelligence agencies violating her rights. Two-thirds believe that the State should collect the personal data of citizens. More than half, 53.6% are convinced that the State can break the law in an emergency. In other words, most people view with a deep sense of satisfaction an increase in the repressive nature of the Regime.”
  3.  The dream of most is the [return] of GosPlan [the Soviet-era State Planning Commission] and GosSnab [State Supplies Committee, which “coordinated the allocation of resources not handled by GosPlan”]. 95.9% were for putting prices under state control.
  4. The population is much more resistant to progress than the powers that be on moral issues and freedom of conscience. He notes that about 60% of those polled were “convinced that the policies of the country should be consistent with the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church].

Yakovenko writes:

In my opinion, there should be a few conclusions taken from the above. First, the chance that the people, under the influence of the crisis, will sweep away the Putin regime and establish democracy as a result of the liberation of revolution, is not close to zero, but equals zero.

Second, politicians who want to, no matter what changes are seen in the country, need to work with the minority that is willing to listen. They just need to work much more than before, or give way to those who are willing to work many times more.

Finally, the third and most important [point]. This is not a sprint… It is a marathon. Therefore it is necessary to be patient and not fall into the horror of what has been written [here]… and Putin still has not left. Do not panic from the fact that we participated in the elections and lost. The banal phrase that in Russia it is necessary to live for a long time, in the present circumstances acquires a new and very concrete content. Now we all need to live longer than Putin. Personally, I have this set this goal for myself.

But the problem with this is that the poll Yakovenko cited essentially says that Russian society likes what is happening and, if anything, wants more of the same. They like being led, they like being serfs. And if like is too strong, then maybe it is better to say that they don’t know any different. He acknowledges that society cannot be depended upon to change their current circumstances, and is therefore instead pinning his hopes on Putin dying in another decade (this is the round number decided upon by Khodorkovsky, and now accepted as gospel). But how does Yakovenko think that surviving Putin will change the attitudes of the people in the society he inhabits?


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