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Political scientist Ekaterina Shulman is part of the club, those critical voices in Russia recently dubbed “foreign agents”.
Like most of them, Schulman has left the country for the time being. But, from her position as a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, Schulman, an expert on Russian government and civil society, has continued to broadcast regularly on her YouTube channel, as a million Russian-speaking subscribers Hold on to every word about what’s really happening in the motherland and where their country is headed.
In the absence of truly free speech in Russia, Shulman noted, one would have to rely on opinion polls for at least something to gauge how people feel about the war and about their president. And the warning added, “This is not a representative sample of the population of Russia in general, but these are still the voices that are heard. Other kinds of opinions are suppressed, so we have to, whether we like it or not, take in for some kind of generalized expression of the sentiments of the country.” “.
According to Schulman, feeling in Russia seems overwhelmingly anti-Western – and that the West is to blame for a war that is destroying lives and souls. Cities in Ukrainebut also turned life in Russia, as the Russians know it, upside down.
“One explanation might be that the trauma of this conflict was so great that it collectively forced people to search for some kind of explanation that could make them comfortable. Blaming someone else, blaming an outside actor for all the horror it caused falls on their heads. , is a very natural, if not very rational, psychological strategy,” Schulman postulated. “So, it is not for us to blame, and it is not the Ukrainians who are to blame, but those evil forces from abroad, namely the United States and, to a lesser extent, Europe.”
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Schulman added that she is “sad to see such a force being built on both sides, and some actions and public statements from the other side of the border convincing them (the Russians) to assume that the world is somehow inherently hostile to Russia. … I don’t know what kind of sea-cultural change is required.” To offer a balance and then compete with that set of opinions.”
Opinion polls have shown that Russians are uniting around the government line and the elites are doubling down on their power—trying to outdo each other, which may explain things like the former President Dmitry Medvedevs last rant against the west. “I hate them,” the leader of the modernizing liberals and their hopefuls said on social media last week, an apparent reference to the West. They want to die for Russia and as long as I am alive, I will do everything to make them disappear.
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Shulman said she saw this as part of a very general competition among Russian politicians during a period of change, people who had been comfortable for so long in situations that they did not need to fight to realize that their world, too, was unstable. “That’s why there is so much public activity and potentially tough and violent competition among the elite players.”
Schulman said that although things have changed in this newly isolated Russia, President Vladimir Putin Perhaps you managed to strengthen his position. He limited the freedoms of the Russians, but under his two-decade rule there were a good 15 years of improving living standards for many, and that’s a lot of his popularity.
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Contrary to those who believe this disastrous war will lead to the end of Putin, Schulman said the numbers, although unconfirmed, tell a different story. Despite the apparently large numbers of people staunchly opposed to the war in Ukraine, many of them young, a recent survey by the Levada Center showed that more than 70% of Russians would like to see Putin as president after 2024 when his current term ends. At the time of the referendum on expanding his ability to run for president again in 2020, the country was divided over the idea.
“It’s a very exciting dynamic that we can’t help but witness,” Schulman said. “My impression has always been that the reason for this whole thing might be local rather than external.”
In other words, the war was not about fending off further NATO expansion.
“And if I am correct, the decision was not as illogical as many analysts believe. It helped unite the elites by giving them no choice. It helped unite the people by giving them no choice. It drained Russia with great success,” said Shulman. Those parts of her community that can adopt and publicize alternative opinions,” he said, adding that of course anything could change in an instant. However, “For now, that’s what the picture looks like.” And in all honesty, I think we need to look it in the face and not try to fool ourselves with fanciful explanations.”
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