Federationalism to authoritarianism to totalitarianism
An authoritarian government is one which believes in a blind rule to authority, little individual freedom, and focuses on the wills and needs of the ones in authority before the rest of the country. This can create much corruption in an authoritarian society, since the ones in control focus their decisions on how they can benefit themselves personally, which means that the opinions and needs of the society as a whole go overlooked and ignored. Totalitarianism is one more step forward, giving the state the whole power to enforce any and every aspect of life amongst its citizens. A totalitarianism government is one which cannot be questioned or stopped, leaving the citizens hopeless to obey every rule which the state decides to enforce. Russia is increasingly showing to be less and less of a federation and shows more signs exhibiting an authoritarian-style rule, which may lead to a totalitarian regime at some point in the near future.
The first and foremost reason for this hypothesis is Russia’s “State Duma”, which is the lower house of the federal assembly of the Russian Federation. The State Duma became an issue in 1993, when the Russian constitution gave the executive branches far more power than the parliament (Roski et al., 2013, p. 74). This gave the State Duma immense power against the upper house and parliament, giving it the ability to not only pass or halt basically anything that comes through its doors, but it also has extreme decision-making weight when it comes to elections. This alone is a very big problem for any society, but what makes this very scary is that of the 450 seats of the State Duma, 238 of them belong to “United Russia”, a party which is led by Vladimir Putin (Orttung 2014). This means that 49.5% of the major decision making branch of Russia is controlled by their leader, Putin.
Many believe that Putin was voted back into control by the rigged State Duma. Protestors of over 80,000 citizens walked the streets of Moscow arguing that Putin had no chance of failing if he had nearly 50% of the votes in his back pocket (Gessen, 2014). Did you ask yourself if the figure of 80,000 citizens protesting is small? That’s because it is. The imbalance and corruption bothers few Russians, most of whom would prefer a strong leader preventing anarchy and stabilizing the economy instead of pushing for more individual freedoms. This is due to the way many Russians were brought up and the way the culture is still to this day (Gessen, 2014). This causes concern when Russia is still a country outlawing many aspects of free speech and homosexuality to name a few. If the Russian people as a whole don’t see a problem with the way their society is working, and continue to blindly obey whatever Putin enforces, then they are already well on their way to a totalitarian regime.
Another force pushing Russia toward an authoritarian regime is the Kremlin, which is the executive branch of government in Russia who mainly deals with foreign affairs. Under the surface, however, the Kremlin is an almost “secret police”, who work under the radar of the law to keep the status quo of Russia in check. Television and radio remains largely controlled by Kremlin, who ban all forms of public media that put Russia in a negative light (Becker, 2014). A scary part of this is that about 90 percent of the population get their news from television and over 50 percent cite it as being the most trusted form of information (Becker, 2014). Russian citizens do not even know (or refuse to believe) that they are getting an extremely biased view of the world as well as their own country. If issues that arise are not made aware to the population, they live in darkness, and they believe that they live in a perfect little world with no issues and therefore no room to improve.
The Kremlin’s corruption doesn’t end here. The Kremlin also maintains control over the Russian internet. “A new law ostensibly aimed at internet piracy gave the state the ability to close websites without a court order if they are suspected of using copyrighted materials illegally. What they constitute as copyrighted materials is up for debate, as they contort this definition for personal gain” (Motyl, 2012). Furthermore, The Kremlin punishes anyone who speaks against the country. Journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was shot dead in Dagestan in July, and many other editors came under pressure, with several losing their positions when they spoke to the public about the potentially corrupt elections (Motyl, 2012). When the Kremlin have little room to illegally punish those who speak against them, they encourage people who don’t agree with the regime to leave the country and find a new home.
Putin and his quest for personal gain is readily apparent in Russia, through his use of the Duma, and the Kremlin, as well as decisions he has made that effect himself personally and not the Russian people. Putin released political prisoners, oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkoysky, two members of the protest group Pussy Riot, and 30 Greenpeace activists, despite a public outcry urging him against this decision (Orttung 2014). The concentration of power at the top and ignoring the wills of the Russian people show his approach to leadership. Many also argue that he put the public attention on the Olympics and other sporting events to distract the public from the major crackdowns of journalists that were occurring at the time. Putin, simply put, does not care about the Russian people. He cares about himself and his own personal gains, and the scariest part is that Russians don’t care.
As per the examples I have shown, Russia is quickly becoming an authoritarian regime and could potentially be heading toward a totalitarian rule under Putin. Are Russians hopeless to undergo whatever Putin decides to make them endure? In Gormley’s paper, she explains that identifying a danger can prod us to face up to the real monsters of this world, rather than pull the blankets over our heads, and potentially have a chance to stop them (Gormley 2014). The biggest issue with Russia is that the majority of its citizens are fine with how Russia is currently being ruled. If they do not lift the blankets from their heads, and attempt to stop the corrupt now before it gets much worse, then they will be hopeless at a point in the very near future. Russia will only become increasingly strict and the freedoms of its citizens will be lowered as time goes on. If they do not do something now, Russia will be forever hopeless to obeying the rules of a leader who only cares about himself.