THE FEAR REGIME

Brian WhitmoreThis is what Brian Whitmore, host of the Power Vertical podcast, says today in his two-minute video primer The Daily Vertical (http://www.rferl.org/ ):

Russians are suffering from a collective case of Stockholm Syndrom – the tendency for hostages to identify with the captors rather than oppose them. That was the assessment of a highly respected Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov in a recent interview with Ecko Moskvy. According to Gudkov, for the first time since the 1980s fear dominates society eliminating the ability of many to express their true opinions, even to family and close friends. In this sense Gudkov is skewing the results of public opinion polls in Russia. In fact, a new study by Gudkov’s employer, the Levada Center, has confirmed what many of us have long suspected: many Russians simply don’t tell pollsters the truth. According to the survey, 26% of Russians say they themselves are afraid to express the true opinion to pollsters, and more than half say they believe others are afraid to express honest opinions.

What all this suggests (assuming, of course that these respondents are telling the truth) is that Vladimir Putin’s sky-high poll numbers are wildly inflated: they are being driven, at least, to some degree, by fear. And with that it means that Putin’s Kremlin has no reason to ease up and is promoting that fear – whether that being fear of foreigners, fear of “traitors” and “fifth columnists”, or fear of the authorities themselves. Because if the fear fades, it will mean an existential threat to the regime.

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