La Nausée Russe

Authoritarian regimes in Russia tend to die not from external blows or domestic insurrections, but rather from a strange internal disease resembling Jean-Paul Sartre's existential nausea. Today, Vladimir Putin’s regime is atrophying from that same strange disease, despite – or because of – the seemingly impermeable wall that it spent years constructing around itself.

MOSCOW – The history of successive authoritarian regimes in Russia reveals a recurring pattern: they do not die from external blows or domestic insurgencies. Instead, they tend to collapse from a strange internal malady – a combination of the elites’ encroaching disgust with themselves and a realization that the regime is exhausted. The illness resembles a political version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential nausea, and led to both the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Soviet Union’s demise with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika.

Today, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s regime is afflicted with the same terminal disease, despite – or because of – the seemingly impermeable political wall that it spent years constructing around itself. Putin’s simulacrum of a large ideological regime simply couldn’t avoid this fate. The leader’s “heroic image” and “glorious deeds” are now blasphemed daily. And these verbal assaults are no longer limited to marginal opposition voices; they are now entering the mainstream media.

Two events have sharply accelerated the collapse of confidence in Putin’s regime, both among the “elite” and ordinary Russians.

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