Point of View

Potemkin conservatism. An ideological tool of the Kremlin

Potemkin conservatism

Since the beginning of his third presidential term, Vladimir Putin has consistently invoked conservative ideology. Thus he legitimises the Kremlin’s new political strategy, the aim of which is to stabilise the regime and prevent any political mobilisation in Russia around a liberal agenda. This strategy is also intended to strengthen the legitimacy of the current model of government, by portraying it as ‘traditional’ for Russia; and to justify the government’s repressive and anti-Western policies. It also includes the policy of reintegrating the post-Soviet space under the auspices of Moscow, as evidenced by the annexation of Crimea and the Novorossiya project. This strategy was devised as a response to the galvanisation of adherents of liberalisation in Russia, namely the new middle class and a part of the business and administrative elites who publicly demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the regime in 2011 and 2012. However, the dissonance between the conservative slogans mouthed by the ruling elite and its actual conduct suggest that the Kremlin’s ‘conservative project’ is purely instrumental in nature, which in the longer term will undercut its effectiveness by undermining its credibility in the eyes of Russian society.