To save its approval ratings, the Kremlin might be better focusing its energy elsewhere.
A generational shift will take place if young Russians decide to break with the values of an antiquated state. This process could take a very long time and include periods of regression, but it could also happen much quicker than expected.
The political messages of the opposition aren’t enough to rouse the average Russian, who still fears one thing above all: that a change in political regime might only make things worse.
Ahead of his trial for defaming a war veteran, Alexei Navalny quoted from the bible and confessed that he has become religious, pitting two ideological pillars of the Russian regime against each other: wartime victory and Christianity.
Navalny is pushing ordinary Russians out of their comfort zone. The mass conformism endemic in authoritarian regimes is working against him.
Since arresting Alexei Navalny on his return from Germany and hastily packing him off to prison, the Russian authorities have turned the country's politics into a binary affair: you are either with Navalny or with President Vladimir Putin. And that is a contest that Putin is no longer confident he can win.
The prison sentence for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny handed down by a Moscow court last week is an even more radical move than last year’s attempt to poison him. By putting Navalny behind bars for at least two and a half years, Vladimir Putin’s regime is creating far greater risks for itself than if it had managed to secretly do away with him.
Mass protests have broken out in Russia once again. Will the end result be any different this time around?
It’s hard not to be impressed by the energy and scale of Saturday’s angry protests all across Russia against the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. But it would be rather short-sighted to forget that the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin long ago mastered the art of dealing with manifestations of popular discontent. The Kremlin has barely started to tap its vast toolkit for violence and intimidation.
The Kremlin has consistently failed to define its vision of Russia’s future. But what about the Russian public?