Staunton, April 7 — Many members of the Russian intelligentsia do not support Vladimir Putin and his repression at home and aggression abroad, but a significant and surprising number of them do, the result of a complex combination of their experiences over the last generation and Putin’s actions as well, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
In Novy region-2 today, the commentator says that her contacts in Russia suggest that “the overwhelming majority” of those usually classed as members of the intelligentsia “if they do not support Putin” cannot be classed as his opponents and are unlikely to lead resistance to him.
But because such people are normally the ones Russians and others expect to be agents of chance, Kirillova suggests, it is important to understand as precisely as possible “the nuances” of their position, even if these shadings are more anecdotal than based on the kind of survey research that could be checked by replication.
The support Putin has among the intelligentsia is hardly “unqualified,” the commentator writes. The majority “try not to evaluate” his actions lest they have to take a position, and “many honestly acknowledge that they do not know whether he is acting correctly” even if they are “convinced that there is no other figure capable of running Russian in present circumstances.”
The cause of that, she suggests, lies with their “inadequate understanding of the situation.” Most members of the intelligentsia just like most other Russians “believe that Russia is ‘encircled by enemies,’ which will instantly destroy it in the case of the slightest weakening of the central authorities.”
On the basis of this false assumption, they believe that “Putin may be mistaken but they do not see another leader suitable for work ‘under conditions of war.’” That he and Russia were the initiators of this war is something they simply do not want to consider.
Like other Russians, the commentator continues, members of the intelligentsia share “the standard list of Russian fears: revolution, destruction, and disintegration of the country,” and the standard believe that however bad things may be, anything and anyone else “’will be even worse.’”
“Even among educated people,” Kirillova continues, most back “‘the restoration by Russia of its influence’ on the territory of the former USSR” because “many sincerely suppose” that Russia needs a buffer zone around it and because “the majority who in the past belonged to the ‘perestroika’ liberal intelligentsia dream about the restoration of the Soviet Union.”
“In part,” Kirillova says, “this also is explicable: the current authorities despite all their totalitarianism and aggressive attempts to regulate all spheres of life … are not offering society a model of a desirable future. As a result,” she suggests, Russians in many cases are looking to “an idealized past.”
Many Russians “really believe” that a USSR could be restored but “do not have specific ideas on how to achieve that in reality,” Kirillova says. Many in the intelligentsia too fall victim to that. And “many in this milieu and not without basis are afraid of repression” and when they hear about bad things, are inclined to say “’Thank God, this doesn’t affect me.’”
Moreover, like other Russians, members of the Russian intelligentsia want to hope for something; but because many of the latter have concluded that liberalism has lived out its day and that “a ‘firm hand’ is better than liberal softness,” they are prepared to back moves to restore what the regime insists is Russia’s rightful place in the world.
“The single positive distinction of educated Russians from all the rest is a lower level of aggression towards others,” Kirillova says. “The intelligentsia has no desire to ‘beat the Yukes’ or anyone else. They are also more tolerant to differences of opinion within their own milieu than are other strata,” even if they accept the Kremlin’s line on the Donbas.
The picture, she says, is not encouraging. “That force which could become the basic protest group of contemporary Russian for many reasons is incapable of fulfilling this function. [Thus,] Russian society at present is still extremely far from awakening.”