Russia: between war and propaganda, public opinion on the move

Vladimir Putin’s Imperialist Speech

Vladimir Poutine carries the vision of a Russia besieged by the Occident, of a confrontation block against block as at the time of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Galia Ackerman points out that the Russia of today does not enjoy the same power nor enjoy the same support as the Soviet Union of yesterday: “Russia is trying to mobilize other countries to form such a bloc again but it has very few allies for now”. “Russia is doing much more alone and it reinforces the feeling of a beleaguered fortress”. This is an effective propaganda strategy according to Anne Le Huérou : “It is clear that this rhetoric, which makes Russia a besieged fortress, is the best propaganda weapon that Vladimir Putin has left to justify this war.

A public opinion that is difficult to discern but which remains generally favorable to the war

It is very difficult for foreign observers to perceive Russian public opinion because of the media blockade that the country is experiencing today; it is moreover impossible to speak of a monolithism of the latter. Despite these nuances, we can all the same consider that the Russians generally continue to adhere to the imperialist discourse of their leader even if their deep motivations obviously remain unknown: as underlined Anne Le Huérou,between obligation and enthusiasm, it is often extremely difficult to know”. “There is a whole section of the population that is in a kind of passive consent, which is the result of a whole bunch of previous consents, of renunciations of freedoms, of certain values, of small arrangements with their conscience, of a form of denial which today is quite massive”.

Based on her experience as a Russian citizen who lived in Russia until she was twenty-five, Galia Ackerman refers to the phenomenon of “double consciousness” that she knew herself. The propaganda, censorship of all opposition media and political repression that Russia has been experiencing since long before the war in Ukraine, lead the population either to conceal their true political opinions or to outright denial: “There are many people whom the war does not concern at all and who do not realize the gravity of the situation. (…) People are not at all sensitive to what is happening in Ukraine, and I find that really dramatic”.

The impossible crystallization of an opposition?

If we have been able to observe challenges to Vladimir Putin’s policy, the crystallization of a real opposition currently seems difficult to achieve. Anne Le Huérou highlighted “the gulf that exists between information about the war, concern for the conflict, feeling concerned and going so far as to mobilize“.”I think that the Russian population is quite far from a possible and real mobilization”. Mobilization is necessarily done “low noise“, small
actions of sabotage costing extremely expensive, and the support of anti-war mobilizations which can lead to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Galia Ackerman insists on the importance of propaganda, which heroizes the combatants of the Russian army, and of a law which practically proclaims impunity for the actions carried out by the Russian military in Ukraine.
We are in a situation where it is perhaps even morally comfortable for people to believe somewhere that yes, they are in the process of liberating Ukraine from the Nazis and in this sense repeating the exploit of the Red Army who won, by a huge sacrifice, the second world war”.

If Vladimir Putin has, since he came to power in 2000, tried to restore the image of the Soviet Union, this responds rather according to Anne Le Huérou to a desire to adorn the Russian army with a new prestige than to a real enterprise of historical rehabilitation: “Whenever there is a difficulty, recourse to history, with all the possible and imaginable convolutions and contortions, is a major factor in justification undertakings.“.

Russia: between war and propaganda, public opinion on the move