Patriotic Legitimation and Everyday Patriotism in Russia’s Constitutional Reform

In: Russian Politics
J. Paul Goode McMillan Chair of Russian Studies and Associate Professor, Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Faculty of Public Affairs, Carleton University Ottawa, ON Canada

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Russia’s 2020 Constitutional reform was notable not just for the substantial institutional changes introduced, but also for the almost complete lack of public discussion of those changes in elite debates or the public campaign for the nationwide vote. Instead, proposals to write social and patriotic issues into the Constitution absorbed the lion’s share of coverage. These issues were not superfluous, but rather reveal the dynamics of patriotic legitimation and the role of everyday patriotism in Russian politics today. Among Russia’s elite, patriotic legitimation regulates competition, determines the boundaries of acceptable public politics, and provides access to regime patronage. For the public, the avoidance of politics and the appropriation of Russians’ everyday patriotism facilitated the mobilization of an apolitical electorate in the nationwide vote. While the reform may have strengthened the institutional basis of Putin’s rule, it potentially limits the regime’s adaptability and could affect its long-term survivability.

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