Russia’s opposition died with Navalny – POLITICO


But in a country with a population of 143 million, this hardly amounts to a political awakening or outpouring.

No doubt Russian opposition leaders will attribute this to fear — the fear of incurring the wrath of a Kremlin that has ramped up a vicious crackdown on dissent and dissidents, meting out steep jail terms for those rash enough to criticize or object. Shuttering independent news outlets and censoring and blocking social media platforms alongside this repression and intimidation, all of the Kremlin’s efforts have conspired to muffle critical voices and hamper the organization of protests.

Certainly, these are all likely factors. So, too, is the flight of possibly as many as 700,000 Russians, escaping Putin, his war and conscription, and subsequently diminishing the opposition — albeit weakening the economy with their absence.

But taking all this into account, the sad and disturbing truth is that even without the intimidation and dramatic jump in the number of political prisoners, the absence of any serious mass opposition to Putin inside Russia — let alone to his war on Ukraine — speaks volumes.

It’s evidence of the continuing support Putin still has from most Russians, who appear to share his chauvinistic attitude toward Ukraine, the Baltics and Central Asia. They adhere to his historical narrative that Ukraine is irrevocably part of the “Russia World.” And they’re grievance-harboring irredentists too — just look at the polls after Crimea’s annexation in 2014.

Sure, this narrative has been shaped, enforced and curated for them by czars and Soviet commissars over centuries, and it has been reinforced by Putin and his regime for the past two decades. But that isn’t an excuse or justification. And, no doubt, when Putin’s system falls apart, many will scramble to claim they never collaborated or approved of the Russian leader, and that they even offered small everyday resistances where and when they could. 

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