Cover Osteuropa 5-6/2023

In Osteuropa 5-6/2023

The “Leader of the Nation”
Putin and Collective Consciousness in Russia

Lev Gudkov

Deutsche Fassung


Over the past 20 years, Russia has evolved from a weak democracy to a repressive police state and now to a wartime dictatorship. The causes can be seen in a dynamic interplay between the collective mentality of an amorphous society and the institutional continuity of the Soviet Union’s repressive apparatus. Russian society’s inability to organise itself and a longing for a strong leader came together with the mechanisms of bureaucratic self-regeneration. Elections do not serve to select elites, but to confirm the leader by acclamation. Propaganda ascribes to him charisma; collective consciousness confirms this induced legitimacy. The state’s production of conceived enemies plays a central role. Such propaganda legitimises the 20 years of internal war waged against those who think differently and the external war against Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014.

(Osteuropa 5-6/2023, pp. 23–71)