The changes of 2020–2021 have proven so sweeping and profound that the Russian regime is undergoing a renaissance. Everything is now either pro-regime or anti-regime—i.e., criminal.
The communication channels between the president and society are shrinking. Some events are apparently too important for the president to discuss seriously with the public, while others are uninteresting or unpleasant for him, so they aren’t discussed either, no matter how big those issues might be.
Putin’s willingness to resort to police batons has polarized society and radicalized those who are dissatisfied with his rule. The moral cause of those taking to the streets across Russia is undermining the foundations of the Putin regime.
Mass protests have broken out in Russia once again. Will the end result be any different this time around?
The system is consuming itself, with each part of it trying to survive separately at the expense of its neighbor. In this situation, society is a hostage of the battle for survival, and an expendable component in political experiments.
What are the challenges to Putin’s system? How stable is the Putin majority? What do the domestic protests mean? What signals do the protests in Belarus send to Russia’s elites and civil society? What impact will the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny have? A seminar held by Carnegie Moscow Center and the Embassy of Finland in Russia addressed these questions and much more.
Any internal political activity is becoming conclusively geopoliticized. Elections in Belarus or Russia, for example, are not an expression of feedback between the public and the government, but an act of defensive foreign policy.
Each new wave of Russian protests since 2011—whether political or initially depoliticized (over landfills, housing development projects and so on)—is at heart prompted by an insult to people’s dignity.
By laying the constitutional groundwork to remain president for life, Vladimir Putin is engineering a further “Francoization” of his regime. But while Francisco Franco at least had a successor in King Juan Carlos, Putin has no such thing, which could spell chaos for Russia.
To build his regime, Putin manipulated his predecessors’ crumbling institutions and the country’s economic system. Now, Putin must become his own successor—or let someone else pull his own trick on him.