Putinism: Why a New Revolution Is Impossible in Russia

Various rallies took place in Moscow last month.  They are actively discussed in leading mass media around the world.  For representatives of the authorities, these demonstrations are illegal, since no special permits for their conduct have been obtained.  Inside Russia and in the international community, these events received mixed reviews.  Recent opinion polls have shown that only 3% of citizens consider rallies in the capital an important event.  This figure has consistent logic, given that the unrest occurs around the elections to the Moscow City Duma (city parliament) while the situation remains quite stable at the federal level.

Moreover, polls also show that 54% of Russians would like to see Vladimir Putin in power after 2024, when his second term after returning to office in 2012 officially ends.  This means that the majority of the population of the largest country in the world supports Putin's political course and trusts him, despite numerous social and economic problems in the state.  For many liberal elites in the West, this situation is paradoxical, because all the mainstream media — from CNN to the BBC — write about a revolution that still fails to happen.  Why don't these demonstrations turn into an all-Russian protest and into a revolution?

The basis of everything is the social mentality.  For a long period of time, Russians were in serfdom (Rus' and the Russian Empire until 1861).  Later, the Soviet regime was established that gave some social stability (the population's main request) but introduced serious restrictions on the basic principles of freedom and democracy.  Fairly speaking, it should be noted that the Soviet Union — the most affected state in the Second World War — was busy restoring key state, economic, and social infrastructure.  Meantime, the majority of the population just took care of daily needs.  Modern Russia, which arose after the USSR collapsed, began to form the necessary foundation to prepare the people for life in the new capitalist conditions.

However, the liberal period of 1991–1999 caused great disappointment in people. They rarely write about this today, but it was a miracle when liberal President Boris Yeltsin won the 1996 election, taking the victory from communist leader Gennady Zyuganov only in the second round.  In other words, a significant part of the population was ready to return to communism only five years after parting with it.

Why?  People were not ready for either freedom or capitalism: they always waited for something from the state and still considered the ruler a king, not a short-term manager, as it is usually done in the democratic system.

This public mentality with deep historical roots gave rise to the phenomenon of Vladimir Putin.  The Yeltsin-led liberal elite voluntarily resigned, realizing that their philosophy and approaches to governing Russia did not work.  It was necessary to form an elite group that would maintain a course toward the country's gradual democratization and rapprochement with the West and establish the balance of forces in a huge multinational and multiconfessional state.  That is why it is more correct to speak not about Putin as an individual, but about Putinism as an ideological course that actually kept the weakening and exhausted country from collapse — not to mention that the consequences of that collapse would be catastrophic for the whole world (the largest nuclear arsenal after the United States).  It is noteworthy that this fact was well understood by Republican President George H.W. Bush at earlier stages, in contrast to Democrat Bill Clinton at later stages.

In other words, Putinism is an evolutionary model of the new Russian state's development that is supported by the population and does not go beyond the framework of social mentality.  This means that the revolutionary path of changes does not have serious prospects.

Public mentality operates on the basis of historical memory.  Most Russians are well aware of how the revolutions ended for the country and its people.  So far, Russia has not managed to overcome many of the consequences of the February Revolution of 1917.  The generation that went through the Second World War is still alive.  Those who stood in the central squares to preserve the achievements of Gorbachev's revolution of openness and transparency are in their prime.  Many are disappointed because people received hunger, cold, chaos, and countless conflicts instead of a better life and progress.

This historical memory creates red lines that cannot be crossed.  It also forms a completely different attitude to power.  Russians may be unhappy with the government, parliament, and local municipalities, but their attitude toward Vladimir Putin will always be better.  This is due to the fact that he is perceived as the guardian of statehood and the father of the nation.  According to the Russian public mentality, fathers (no matter how bad they are) cannot be insulted.  Putinism consistently performs the necessary function, establishing a direct connection between the father and the nation through multiple direct lines when each citizen can make a call and ask his president a question.

In other words, Putin removes the entire complex bureaucracy and communicates directly with the people.  Interestingly, similar formats were practiced by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (the fireside chats); Ronald Reagan; and now President Trump, who informs the nation about his decisions independently and quickly through the social networks.

Thus, in modern Russia, where the population supports the evolutionary course of Putinism, there can be no serious prerequisites for revolution.  Moscow is the capital of the country, and it has always been distinguished by a more liberal way of thinking (as in most countries of the world).  However, the driving force of Russia is in its regions.  It is precisely the mood in these places that determines the general well-being of the country.

Areg Galstyan, Ph.D. is a regular contributor to the American Thinker and Forbes.

Various rallies took place in Moscow last month.  They are actively discussed in leading mass media around the world.  For representatives of the authorities, these demonstrations are illegal, since no special permits for their conduct have been obtained.  Inside Russia and in the international community, these events received mixed reviews.  Recent opinion polls have shown that only 3% of citizens consider rallies in the capital an important event.  This figure has consistent logic, given that the unrest occurs around the elections to the Moscow City Duma (city parliament) while the situation remains quite stable at the federal level.

Moreover, polls also show that 54% of Russians would like to see Vladimir Putin in power after 2024, when his second term after returning to office in 2012 officially ends.  This means that the majority of the population of the largest country in the world supports Putin's political course and trusts him, despite numerous social and economic problems in the state.  For many liberal elites in the West, this situation is paradoxical, because all the mainstream media — from CNN to the BBC — write about a revolution that still fails to happen.  Why don't these demonstrations turn into an all-Russian protest and into a revolution?

The basis of everything is the social mentality.  For a long period of time, Russians were in serfdom (Rus' and the Russian Empire until 1861).  Later, the Soviet regime was established that gave some social stability (the population's main request) but introduced serious restrictions on the basic principles of freedom and democracy.  Fairly speaking, it should be noted that the Soviet Union — the most affected state in the Second World War — was busy restoring key state, economic, and social infrastructure.  Meantime, the majority of the population just took care of daily needs.  Modern Russia, which arose after the USSR collapsed, began to form the necessary foundation to prepare the people for life in the new capitalist conditions.

However, the liberal period of 1991–1999 caused great disappointment in people. They rarely write about this today, but it was a miracle when liberal President Boris Yeltsin won the 1996 election, taking the victory from communist leader Gennady Zyuganov only in the second round.  In other words, a significant part of the population was ready to return to communism only five years after parting with it.

Why?  People were not ready for either freedom or capitalism: they always waited for something from the state and still considered the ruler a king, not a short-term manager, as it is usually done in the democratic system.

This public mentality with deep historical roots gave rise to the phenomenon of Vladimir Putin.  The Yeltsin-led liberal elite voluntarily resigned, realizing that their philosophy and approaches to governing Russia did not work.  It was necessary to form an elite group that would maintain a course toward the country's gradual democratization and rapprochement with the West and establish the balance of forces in a huge multinational and multiconfessional state.  That is why it is more correct to speak not about Putin as an individual, but about Putinism as an ideological course that actually kept the weakening and exhausted country from collapse — not to mention that the consequences of that collapse would be catastrophic for the whole world (the largest nuclear arsenal after the United States).  It is noteworthy that this fact was well understood by Republican President George H.W. Bush at earlier stages, in contrast to Democrat Bill Clinton at later stages.

In other words, Putinism is an evolutionary model of the new Russian state's development that is supported by the population and does not go beyond the framework of social mentality.  This means that the revolutionary path of changes does not have serious prospects.

Public mentality operates on the basis of historical memory.  Most Russians are well aware of how the revolutions ended for the country and its people.  So far, Russia has not managed to overcome many of the consequences of the February Revolution of 1917.  The generation that went through the Second World War is still alive.  Those who stood in the central squares to preserve the achievements of Gorbachev's revolution of openness and transparency are in their prime.  Many are disappointed because people received hunger, cold, chaos, and countless conflicts instead of a better life and progress.

This historical memory creates red lines that cannot be crossed.  It also forms a completely different attitude to power.  Russians may be unhappy with the government, parliament, and local municipalities, but their attitude toward Vladimir Putin will always be better.  This is due to the fact that he is perceived as the guardian of statehood and the father of the nation.  According to the Russian public mentality, fathers (no matter how bad they are) cannot be insulted.  Putinism consistently performs the necessary function, establishing a direct connection between the father and the nation through multiple direct lines when each citizen can make a call and ask his president a question.

In other words, Putin removes the entire complex bureaucracy and communicates directly with the people.  Interestingly, similar formats were practiced by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (the fireside chats); Ronald Reagan; and now President Trump, who informs the nation about his decisions independently and quickly through the social networks.

Thus, in modern Russia, where the population supports the evolutionary course of Putinism, there can be no serious prerequisites for revolution.  Moscow is the capital of the country, and it has always been distinguished by a more liberal way of thinking (as in most countries of the world).  However, the driving force of Russia is in its regions.  It is precisely the mood in these places that determines the general well-being of the country.

Areg Galstyan, Ph.D. is a regular contributor to the American Thinker and Forbes.