Unhappy with plans to raise the retirement age, the decline in their living standards, and tax hikes, Russians can’t vote for the real opposition. Strong candidates are either not allowed to run or prefer to cooperate with the authorities by not running, while in-system parties deliberately tone down their rhetoric. Under such conditions, the protest vote becomes random: people are willing to vote for anyone but the ruling regime candidates.
Ahead of Sunday’s elections, the multifunctional Sobyanin brand was promoted like the latest washing machine.
Russia has opened its doors to thousands of foreigners for the World Cup, but the realities of Putin’s Russia are bigger than the feel-good spirit provided by the football.
Opposition forces are competing for the spotlight in Russia.
The tradition of sport acting as a kind of hybrid war has seamlessly continued in Russia into the post-Soviet period. It is victory at any cost, because victory has political significance. It’s soft power, the face of the country, the image of an invincible nation ruled by a wise leader.
There are several misperceptions about Russia that make relations with Europe worse than they need to be. Acknowledging these illusions is the first step to Russia and Europe being able to understand each other.
Alexei Navalny believes that Russia spends too much effort and money on foreign adventures. Yet he cleaves to many establishment ideas about Russia’s role in its neighborhood and is far from advocating the kind of rapprochement with the West for which many foreign observers hope.
The Kerch Bridge is the conclusion of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, both physically and politically. Any haggling over on what terms Russia might return Crimea to Ukraine is now definitively null and void.
The symbolic and real dimensions of Russian politics are in radical contradiction of each other.
It’s a cliché in the Western discussion about Russia to portray Putin as a god-like force in Russian life who demands unfailing obedience from oligarchs and little people alike. Yet recent spontaneous protests in Siberia and a small town near Moscow show how quickly average citizens can mobilize to rail against injustice and the stunning incompetence of their country’s rulers.