A Difficult Balance: Putin’s Regime and the Ideological Market


Like the Soviet nomenklatura, the Putin elite is dangerously isolating itself from the Russian people, setting the stage for a populist challenge against its privileges, says Yevgeny Gontmakher, the Moscow economist and commentator. (HT: Paul Goble).

The Kremlin continues to advance a diverse ideological repertoire, combining several isms and historical narratives that seem contradictory, all under a broad and blurry rubric of conservative values, writes Marlene Laruelle, co-director of PONARS-Eurasia at George Washington University.

While the presidential administration has been able to successfully manage this doctrinal diversity, it remains a difficult balancing act in some respects, especially on the issues of more or less Russian nationalism and mobilization potential for or against the political status quo, she writes in a report for the Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.

The conservative narrative is unifying, while the nationalist one is divisive. However, in the medium term, Russia’s demographics could play in favor of rising Russian ethnonationalism, Laruelle adds:

[A]s in Europe, the narrative about a white, Christian Europe having to protect its values and declining demography from migrants and Islamism could become a dominant frame of discourse for the Russian population. It will thus have to be accommodated, one way or another, by the political leadership. In case of new anti-Putin protests, Russian nationalists could play a critical role in offering the ideological glue necessary to build a coherent anti-regime discourse: they could link state corruption, ethnic criminality by minorities and migrants, and the endless thirst for public subsidies to the North Caucasus into a single story about the regime not caring enough about the Russian ethnic majority and its needs.


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