By Paul Goble
The decline in Vladimir Putin’s popularity does not mean that Russians have rejected his favorite messages, Abbas Gallyamov says. Instead, it means that while Russians still find those themes attractive, they view these messages as irrelevant to their lives, no longer are mobilized by them, but instead are focused on their personal live
What is going on, the Russian commentator and former Putin speechwriter says, is an increase in the sense among Russians that “the powers that be are not acting in correspondence with the ideals they have sometimes proclaimed.” And seeing no prospect for change, they are focusing on their personal needs (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=61893A32B74E1).
It is of course possible that at some point, the Russians will reject the messages along with the messenger; but that has not yet happened. And it could happen only if someone with a credible chance at gaining power speaks out in favor of the concerns they have in their daily life rather than simply criticizing Putin.
In some respects, Gallyamov argues, this attitude is very much like that of the Soviet dissidents who demanded that the leaders of the USSR “follow their own constitution” rather than that they strike out in some new direction entirely.
One might think that someone who presented a more credible defense of patriotism and the value of great power than Putin would win support, but that does not necessarily follow either, Gallyamov says. Those values haven’t been so much rejected as found irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Russians. Just repeating them then won’t achieve much for anyone.
Russians aren’t rejecting stability and patriotism or denying their value. They simply view these things as unconnected with their daily lives and they leave them to those in power. Meanwhile the Russians focus on their own narrower problems, the commentator says, and that is defining the character of discourse in Russia today.