Soldiers in Crimea Alexander Aksakov/Stringer

The Secret of Putin’s Survival

Two years ago, Russia’s annexation of Crimea culminated a long process of growing authoritarianism and isolationism under President Vladimir Putin. But even as much of the international community condemned the move, Russians seemed to welcome it – and still do, despite deepening national malaise.

MOSCOW – Two years ago, a long process of growing authoritarianism and isolationism under President Vladimir Putin culminated in Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But even as much of the international community condemned the move, Russians seemed to welcome it. Indeed, the peninsula’s “return” to Russian control had a profound effect on public sentiment – one that seems to have strengthened Putin’s grip on power, even as Russia faces deepening political and economic challenges.

In March 2016, 83% of Russians supported the annexation of Crimea, while only 13% opposed it. Even progressives – including some who protested against the regime in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in 2011-2013 – have found in Crimea a reason to support Putin, albeit with some reservations. Indeed, Putin now enjoys an 80% approval rating, reflecting how closely he and Crimea are linked in Russians’ minds.

The reason why the annexation has attracted such wide support is simple. For most Russians, Crimea remains part of the “empire,” both culturally and geographically. To be sure, Russia does not possess the power and resources to recreate an empire, even within the confines of the abstract “Russian world.” But by focusing on Crimea, Putin’s regime was able to create a sense of restored historical justice and revive expectations of a return to “great power” status.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/Yjk5FYL;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.