Lev Gudkov

How can it be that, in contrast to the international community, virtually no one in Russia believed that Russian-backed separatists shot down the Malaysian Airlines plane in July? Beyond press censorship, Lev Gudkov looks to Russians themselves, who increasingly hear only what they want to. His analysis draws extensively on research conducted by the Levada Center, presented here in numerous tables and graphs.

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13 September 2007

Russia's systemic crisis

Since Putin’s takeover of power, Russia appears to be stronger than it has for a long time. However, appearances are deceptive. Russia is degenerating into a corrupt police state, society has descended into poverty, and the country is becoming increasingly isolated. The Russian public is united only in the view that common goals are “the empty rhetoric of demagogues”. The political resolve, put on just for show, merely serves to hide the state’s omnipresent incompetence.

Russland steht vor einem Personalwechsel an der Staatsspitze. Der Nachfolger Putins ist bereits auserkoren. Was als Wahlen ausgegeben wird, ist bloße Akklamation. Obwohl die Staatsmacht ihre Legitimität daraus herleitet, dass sie Russlands traditionelle Größe restauriert habe, ist das Regime keine Neuauflage der sowjetischen Ordnung. Es handelt sich vielmehr um ein neues Verfallsstadium. Nachdem die durch eine totalitäre Mobilisations- und Missionsideologie geschaffene Gesellschaft erodiert ist, steht der autoritäre Staat nun nackt wie eine Basaltsäule. Zur Technologie seiner Macht gehören die Demoralisierung der Gesellschaft und die Zerstörung der Grundlagen gemeinsamen Handelns.

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Victory in the “Great Patriotic War” is the most potent symbol of identification in present-day Russia, and the sole prop for national self-belief. Victory legitimated Soviet totalitarianism; now, the more the memory of Stalinist repression fades, the more public opinion turns in the dictator’s favour. The commemoration of the war serves above all the centralist and repressive social order that has been imposed in the post-totalitarian culture and society under Vladimir Putin. Here, Lev Gudkov desribes the taboos in Russia surrounding the underside of victory.