Staunton, January 24 – For first time since the late 1980s, fear has come to dominate the lives of Russians, although many are unwilling to acknowledge this directly preferring instead to say that they are not afraid but that others are, a typical case of projection of their own situation, according to Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center.
This projection is especially common among those who oppose the Putin regime, he says to Ekho Moskvy interviewers Vitaly Dymarsky and Oksana Pashina; and such attitudes mean that “fear dominates society” as a whole and that it limits the willingness of people to express their opinions even among family and friends (echo.msk.ru/programs/year2016/1697126-echo/).
Because of this return of fear, Gudkov continues, people are more inclined to say they support Putin than they do. They are not lying; they are simply saying what they think they should. At the same time, they do express more negative views about Ramzan Kadyrov, giving him as much support as they do only becasuse Putin backs him.
Only a small percentage of Russians support the opposition, from eight to 12 percent, but this reflets the fact that “the entire propaganda machine works against them,” and thus Russians tend to view them as the media present them, a media that relies on repetition, short memories, fear and disorientation to achieve its goals.
Gudkov agrees that Russians suffer from what is called the Stockholm syndrome, the tendency of those who are controlled by someone to identify with him rather than oppose him. But he points out that this leads to both “apathy and aggression,” which he says are “the chronic conditions of the majority” of Russians.
Russians say they are proud of three things: the victory in the Great Fatherland war, Soviet achievements in spavce, and the size of their country. They are ashamed that despite these achievements and the size of the country they and their fellow citizens live in poverty and in complete dependence on the powers that be.
Gudkov adds that he doesn’t think Russians are ready for any “sharp changes,” especially because Russians have generally reached the conclusion that they are never going to live in a normal country, a result of their disappointments over the last two decades in what a French sociologist calls “’the utopia of normal countries.”
Gudkov concludes by noting that in his view Putinism is an extention of Yeltsinism given that both relied on the special services and that reliance explains why Yeltsin chose Putin, why Putin has relied on tightening the screws rather than reform, and why the regime is likely to be “worse” than Brezhnevism. That system was a dying totalitarianism; the one now is being born.