The Art of Coercion: Repressions and Repressiveness in Putin’s Russia

In: Russian Politics

While repressions are seen to be a backbone of authoritarian rule, there is a lack of case studies of repressions and repressive policies in different kinds of authoritarian regimes and their interaction with other mechanisms of authoritarian sustainability. As Russia has demonstrated a transition from ‘soft’ electoral authoritarianism to its more ‘hard’ version during Putin’s third term in office, the role of repressions has increased. What are their scope and functions in Russia during this reverse transition? This article offers an analysis of the causes, types and mechanisms of repressions, and presents various ways of measuring their scale as well as the sources and means of their legitimation within the framework of an electoral regime. It shows that the regime prefers to demonstrate its high repressiveness—its willingness and propensity to repress—but in a limited number of cases; it also describes the role of repressive populism, namely presenting repressions as a necessary response to multiplying threats, as well as the scope and function of counter-elite repressions. The latter are seen as no less important than political repressions in the regime’s reverse transition, and as the main leverage of redistribution of power and institutional rearrangement in its course.