The Russian president was a man of the common people—until the common people started making demands.
The president’s approval rating is once again in decline, and this time he doesn’t have another wildly popular trick hidden up his sleeve.
Russians have a dream for their children and their grandchildren of a different environment that is favorable for entrepreneurship and private initiatives. This is where the true interests of Russians and their perceptions about the future diverge radically from the interests and perceptions of the state in which they live.
The Kremlin must win over Russia’s youth, but it does not speak their language, as its dialogue with rappers has demonstrated. Initiated amid a controversial crackdown on rap, the Kremlin’s outreach to rappers has seen it attempt to co-opt an entire youth subculture—to no avail. In the absence of a coherent policy on cultural figures, Russia’s federal agencies, including law enforcement bodies, will continue to prefer the stick to the carrot, impeding any efforts to make peace, let alone ally, with rappers and, by extension, their fans.
The Kremlin is going after Russian rappers, but the government can't control a culture it doesn't understand.
The United Russia elite will now be caught between two voters: Vladimir Putin, on whom domestic policy managers are oriented, and ordinary people, who increasingly express their discontent through protest voting. The more efforts the Kremlin makes to turn United Russia into a corporation, the more often United Russia politicians will look to voters, who have already proved quite capable of teaching the regime a lesson.
To understand what makes Putin and his allies act the way they do, you need to look beyond the myths.
Most Russians are not ready to publicly recognize their country’s interference in other states’ affairs. But in less formal conversations, far more people allow for the possibility of such interference than polls show. This reflects Russians’ complicated relationship to their country’s political narratives and its standoff with the West.
A protest vote is growing in Russia. But this is not a pivot toward socialism; rather, it is an expression of anger that the government has torn up the Putin-era social contract.
The opposition victors in Russian regional elections were not anti-establishment liberals but traditionalists and paternalists, unhappy with the Kremlin’s modernization agenda.