Ten years after Boris Yeltsin’s death, we’re only beginning to grapple with the legacy of his transformative presidency.
Millennials are becoming an important force in Russian politics, one that both the regime and the opposition are trying to harness. YouTube, VKontakte, and other social media platforms present a promising way to reach Russian youth.
The recent mass anti-corruption protests called across Russia on March 26 pose an unexpected challenge to the Kremlin. The protesters are younger and less prosperous than their counterparts in 2011–2012. If Russia is on the brink of a new kind of revolution, then all sides need to act responsibly.
Russians’ fondness for Donald Trump doesn’t mean that anti-American sentiment has suddenly disappeared in Russia. But even though Trump’s election is unlikely to reverse decades of mistrust, his statements about improving relations with Russia have already had an impact on Russians’ attitudes toward the United States.
Russia is locked in a battle between official history (the story of the state) and counter-history (the story of civil society and the memories of the people). With the centenary of the October Revolution this year, the clash will move to the center of public life.
By co-opting the masses against the elite, the President Putin has shaped Russia to echo his values and grievances. And now he’s working to secure his legacy.
“Medvedevgate” will be forgotten quickly, however, an after-effect will remain, if only because this story revealed the political and economic workings of Russia’s current elite. It provided an inside look at how money and luxury serve as the lifeblood animating Russia’s body politic.
It’s completely rational for the elites to avoid change, although it betrays their inability to look beyond the horizon. They are not frightened enough by the current stagnation to initiate changes in the system for their own sake. But what they do fear greatly is losing everything all at once by pulling some crumbling brick out of the system, causing the whole construction to come crashing down.
For most of Russian history, the country’s leaders have employed a top-down political system. When Crimea was annexed in 2014, the Kremlin temporarily allowed more decentralized patriotic activism to rally support, but they soon saw the potential risks and reverted to more centralized political control.
The president embodies the ambitions of a country that is proud of its history and means to retain its role within the international community.