Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
A wave of street protests in Moscow and in many Russian regions in summer 2019 has brought back the question about stability of the ruling regime. This timely and well-written book provides a good framework for contemplating it. Some readers might frown at the claim of 'groundbreaking research' (p. 7), but the authors indeed develop an original perspective and insist confidently that 'anyone trying to understand where Russia is going must focus' (p. 229) on their findings. Many voices of ordinary Russians argue from the pages about the strength and weakness of the peculiar contract between President Vladimir Putin and the people, which is more elaborate than just him telling them what they want to hear. For nearly 20 years, Putin was able to deliver on the demands and desires of a big majority of populace across various social strata using his propaganda machine for amplifying this achievement. One striking feature of this broad consensus is the departure of the imagined reassertion of Russia’s ’greatness’ from the reality of its international disapprobation and deepening confrontation with the West. The annexation of Crimea marked the high point of this self-delusion. Predictably, the intensity of emotional commitment from the majority of Russians to this breach of international law cannot last. It is also clear that Putin can neither find another Crimea to check the erosion of public support nor rely on just police force to sustain his grasp on power. The authors argue that his regime can crumble 'extremely quickly' (p. 232) but refuse to speculate about when; perhaps sooner than we are ready for.