What might neo-Putinism look like?
What political form this will take remains uncertain for now, and there are myriad possibilities. On the one hand, it could take the form of ressentiment-driven right-wing populism, which right-wing politicians will flirt with, talking about a strong state, saying that Russia was respected and feared, had its interests taken into account, etc.
It could be something more radical and politically even more dangerous, including some form of religious fundamentalism, where the special role of the Orthodox Church in these 25 years will be played up, with the ideality of this period making politicians want to restore “Putin’s Russia that we lost.” In other words, Vladimir Putin is now trying to restore the Soviet Union, which has vanished into historical oblivion, but perhaps in 10, 20 or 50 years someone will try to restore these 25 years of Vladimir Putin.
Up to here, we have considered the pessimistic outlook, but the vector may be different. I deliberately put aside what will happen in the next 10, 15 or 20 years, as it is such a black box, though the outcome may well be that this neo-Putinism will be a completely healthy version of Russian conservatism, perhaps even some version Christian democracy.
In my view, from this neo-Putinism, which today exists only as sentiment, militaristic elements, for example, could be rather easily taken out, meaning that theoretically a transformation of neo-Putinism into something relatively healthier is quite possible.
Putinism without militarism, basically second- or third-term Putin but without the prospect of starting a war – is this perhaps the simplest version of what the moderate part of society desires for the present?
Yes, perhaps currently – now, at the beginning of 2024 – this remains the predominant mood. Yet moods are short-lived. On a time horizon of 2-3 years, we can say that a mood is steady. But as soon as we start thinking in terms of 5, 10 or 15 years, moods can change.
Turning back the clocks looks like an even simpler and more understandable option because back then the future seemed more or less clear, especially compared to today’s uncertainty. There was some potential for economic growth; Vladimir Putin was expected to step down in the foreseeable future...
But now we can imagine the following train of thought among Russians: Russia goes ahead and stops the war in Ukraine, Putin leaves, but then what? And there is no clear option. In fact, one cannot exist under the current regime.
In your view, what is the practical implication of the discussion about whether the Putin regime has an ideology or does not have an ideology?
It is quite important: the concept of ideology supposes that it is carried by a large group of people. Ideology is not just a set of ideas, principles, beliefs that exist in the head of a private individual.