The Politics of Fear: How Russia’s Rulers Counter their Rivals

In: Russian Politics
Vladimir Gel’man European University at St Petersburg and University of Helsinki,

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This article attempts to analyze the mechanisms of political control used by the Kremlin vis-à-vis its rivals. Russian authorities had opted the politics of fear, which include overt intimidation and public discrediting of the regime’s critics, and selective persecution and open harassment of opposition activists and/or supporters. This approach to political control to some degree reproduced similar mechanisms that had enabled regime survival in the late Soviet period, and fit general trends of repressive policies in a number of contemporary authoritarian regimes. The article discusses causes and mechanisms of the politics of fear in contemporary Russia, its roots in comparative and historical contexts, and strengths and weaknesses of repressive policy in Russia from the viewpoints of the regime, the opposition, and Russian society.

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