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Masha Lipman: Russia’s Apolitical Middle

Masha Lipman in today’s Washington Post on Russia’s new middle class and the reasons for their lack of interest in politics:

As the Kremlin has steadily expanded and tightened control over the public realm — stripping other institutions of authority and restricting people’s political rights — the “burgeoning middle class” has shown as little yearning for political participation as has the vast majority of the rest of the population. As with the majority overall, those in the middle-income group have accepted the paternalism of Vladimir Putin’s government and remained apolitical and apathetic. They have not taken action to reclaim the territory encroached upon by the Kremlin. …. Radical depoliticization is not the only feature that distinguishes the Russian middle class from its Western counterparts. Russia’s is not a broad-based economy. Revenue from commodities exports is greater than tax revenue from small or medium-size businesses. The government does not depend greatly on taxpayers, and taxpayers do not expect, let alone demand, accountability from the government. … … Russia’s middle class may suffer from the absence of the rule of law but is unlikely to demand it. Abiding by the law is hardly regarded as a virtue. Corruption and extralegal arrangements are seen as facts of life, and the rare attempts by civic activists’ to change things seem naive. Government bureaucrats habitually convert the authority of their offices into steady incomes.

Complete article.