Authors: Gretchen Knudson Gee
Putin’s political changes moving toward an illiberal democracy have created a system where journalists, political challengers, and those from within the “siloviki” or “connected guys” of the security and military systems who attempt to challenge his power run the risk of the most extreme punishment. Journalists are harassed, jailed, and even killed if they insist upon reporting on the truth of events in Russia. Political challengers find themselves cut off from access to media, discriminated against in their attempts to run for office, are faced with physical threats and intimidation, and can even find themselves jailed or killed if they insist upon running for office. Former allies from the security services who try to speak up find themselves imprisoned or even attacked. This dangerous path not only makes life extraordinarily difficulty for those who are trying to change Russia from within, it also harms Russia herself with respect to her future political development, stability, and creation of a strong civil society. When internal voices that are trying to speak up in their attempt to challenge Putin’s direction are silenced, then the entire system pays the price. Dissenting voices, which might help provide correction, advice, accountability, and an opportunity to express dissatisfaction, are shut down. This is unhealthy for the government, as they refuse to hear the concerns of society. It is also unhealthy for society, as they are frightened into silence and submission. In short, Putin’s political changes are putting Russia on a dangerous path toward instability and internal struggle.
Keywords: Russia; illiberal democracy; civil society