Moscow, meanwhile, remains a striking exception. The capital, with 8.9% of the country’s population, has seen 0.6% of the total losses in the war – 120 dead versus a population of more than 13 million, or one casualty per 100,000 inhabitants. In St Petersburg, it is one death per every 30,000. Russia’s two biggest cities are hardly paying Putin’s blood tax. Thus, for Muscovites and Petersburgers who do not want to notice the war, it is not so hard.
It is harder for average people from other places to pretend that life is going on as before, though generally it is also possible. After all, people they know who have been sucked into the war, especially people drafted, are still few. The main burden of the blood tax does not fall on them.
The Putin regime encourages this apathy and this widespread game of pretending things are normal. In such an atmosphere, Russia is easy to rule. However, the mental instability of the ruler has not gone anywhere. He often acts contrary to his own interests and convenience. In addition, not everything depends on him. For example, successes of the Ukrainian army could push him to take some desperate steps, to attempt a real, large-scale mobilization. And then the average Russian, for the first time since the beginning of the war, will have to face it head-on.