Without taking these points into account, the nature of mass political culture in Russia – which retains all the habits related to mass passive adaptation to the repressive state, e.g. a culture of violence, social immorality and a lack of social trust – remains inaccessible for understanding.
The only scientific paradigm that allows for both a structural analysis of the institutional system and its genesis (historical changes) is that of “totalitarianism.” It represents a set of concepts and theories for describing and studying from a comparative-typological perspective the processes of Soviet totalitarianism, its collapse and its current partial regeneration. “Totalitarianism,” as the concept originally arose in the 1920-1930s, is associated with an unprecedented expansion of the state into areas of society that were not previously the subject of state activities, as well as the emergence of fundamentally new practices in terms of regulation, control and coercion with the aim of submission.
Totalitarian regimes sought to abolish the autonomy and independence (relative to the state) of social spheres of society, including the economy, education and raising younger generations, culture, art and literature, private and everyday life, religion, civil society, science, sport, leisure, etc. Terror and repression stemmed from the philosophy and practice of total control, which seeks to dictate all areas of public life. While the scope and forms of terror vary greatly from one country to another, key is that any ideas, civic organizations, forms of solidarity or social interests outside the “interests of the state” should be considered brought in from elsewhere, foreign, the result of a conspiracy of enemies, agents or subversive forces, or representing backward, undeveloped, unconscious or perverted attitudes and beliefs. The “whole” in such social systems is set solely based on the logic of establishing a hierarchical social order, topped by a chief – a national leader, a “sovereign” (to use Carl Schmitt’s term) – who has the power to invoke a state of emergency that rescinds previous laws and norms of behavior and interaction and establish law and order as he sees fit.
In my book Recurrent Totalitarianism, I consider three sets of ideas. The first, the “Technology of Mass Conservative Mobilization”, relates to the regime’s policies prior to the annexation of Crimea and the nationalist euphoria of 2014 – the mechanisms for galvanizing the masses and the subsequent decline in support for the regime.