Putin as a Non-populist Autocrat

In: Russian Politics

This article approaches Vladimir Putinʼs authoritarian rule by adhering to populismʼs minimal definition, and argues – in contrast to vernacular perceptions of populism – that Putin is not a populist by his political identification. Whereas the lack of political plurality is an important obstacle for the emergence of any populism, this factor alone cannot explain the Kremlinʼs lack of a consistent authoritarian populist alternative. For instance, the President of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko has justified his longstanding populist rule in a country, which certainly lacks political plurality. It is argued that Russiaʼs historical distrust in ‘the people’ as a political subject and the incompatibility of populismʼs simplified antagonisms for Putinʼs neo-imperial course, are the central explanations for the absence of an authoritarian populism in Russia.