The foundation of the current Kremlin ideology is a defensive narrative: that we have always been attacked and forced to defend ourselves. Another line of defense is history.
Whereas Mikhail Gorbachev granted his people freedom and suffered a crushing personal defeat, Vladimir Putin is doing exactly the opposite. But, in the end, it is Putin's legacy that will suffer, and Gorbachev who will be redeemed.
For President Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership, history—in particular, key events of World War II and the Stalin era—are increasingly a political weapon used to legitimize their rule and mobilize the Russian public. As a result, many Russians are now collectively forgetting historical events that were common knowledge two decades ago.
Western Europe’s promotion of dialogue and reconciliation between neighbors used to be the dominant approach to engagement with traumas of the past. Eastern Europe’s memory wars have now taken over the debate.
Those looking at Russia’s foreign relations would soon discover that the country is essentially a loner. It is not part of any international large family, whether Europe, the Atlantic community or the West. Asians do not recognize Russia as Asian, either.
The 2024 election will be one in which the generation of “Putin’s children,” those who have made their careers and profited from the twenty years of Putin’s presidency, face a serious challenge to keep the assets they have acquired.
The extreme sentences handed down to defendants in what is being called the “Network Case” is an ominous sign.
President Putin has embarked on a renewal of Russia’s ruling regime to make sure it weathers the political transition of 2024 and to preserve his personal power-base. The elite can be divided into five distinct groups, two of which, the “protectors” and “technocrats” may end up in a fierce ideological fight.
The Russian public’s appetite for change has increased considerably in the past two years, according to a new poll by the Carnegie Moscow Center and the Levada Center. What kind of change do people want, and what are they prepared to do about it?
If the thirst for political change continues to gain momentum in Russia, a full-scale demand for political freedoms and alternatives may emerge quite soon.