Rejecting party affiliations at regional elections is a threat to the power vertical. The disgruntled public ask global questions: Why is the retirement age being raised? Why are prices and utility bills increasing, while salaries are not? Is it worth spending so much on Syria, Venezuela, and the arms race? Independent candidates running for governor or regional legislator can answer them easily by saying, “That’s a federal issue for which I’m not responsible, but I’ll try to solve local problems.” As a result, all grievances are automatically redirected to the Kremlin.
One of the paradoxes of Putin’s Russia is that the harsher the stance of the current regime, the higher the level of Stalin’s popularity within Putin’s electoral base and the more likely these Russians are to make excuses for the Soviet dictator.
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.