Why Don’t Russians Revolt?
As sanctions continue to devastate the Russian economy, some have hoped the Russian people might rise up in revolt. However, Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have remained high or even increased. Of course, it’s difficult to ascertain the genuine level of support in such a repressive environment. But plenty of anecdotal evidence has shown broad support for Putin and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. So, some will dismiss the possibility of another Russian Revolution as an impossibility under present circumstances. Nonetheless, recent months have shown cracks in the foundation of the present regime.
Let’s start with the reasons why urban civic revolutions happen. Mark Beissinger explains “such revolutions might be better understood as revolutions against repressive and abusive regimes rather than revolutions for democracy. They are more about what people are struggling against than what they are struggling for.” Since the war began, Russia has increased its repression against opposition politicians and independent sources of the media. At the same time, the repression does not affect the wider public yet. Moreover, the sanctions designed to limit the resources available to the Russian state have provided Putin a scapegoat for its economic recession.
Of course, Russian governance provides ample reasons for its people to rebel. Under Putin’s leadership, Russia is a model of kleptocratic government. So, why don’t Russians revolt? Why is regime change out of the question for so many Russian observers? Beissinger provides insights in his recent book The Revolutionary City. Here are a few things to remember. Modern revolutions are spontaneous. They do not follow any single formula. Indeed, it surprises even those most closely involved. But some factors do make them more likely, while others make them less likely. We’ll consider some of those factors and conditions over the next few days.