Why Do Russians Want Authoritarian Leaders?

A Soviet era joke reveals the surrealism of the Russian people. In the joke, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khruschev, and Leonid Brezhnev are riding in a train when the engine suddenly halts. Stalin has the engineer shot. The train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev posthumously rehabilitates the engineer, but the train still doesn’t move. Brezhnev then draws the curtains and says: “Good. We’re moving.” In an interesting article in the Moscow times, Alex Bayer raises questions about his fellow Russians and why they go along with the Putin charade that the nation is adhering to democratic procedures. Putin has portrayed himself as a man of action and people go along with that imagery despite the growing disrespect he displays for principles of democracy. “In fact,” says Bayer, “there is little reason to doubt that he will leave office in the same way as the overwhelming majority of his predecessors — in a casket.” Putin has destroyed all opposition parties and leaders by his heavy handed leadership style. Russians apparently seek his promise of stability, continuity, preservation of their property and wealth and protection from unknown outside forces that threaten the security of Russia.

Bayer points out that today there are millions of Russians enjoying the good life, but still they want a strong leader at their head. Children are being educated with access to western democratic ideas, but a majority of the Russian people prefers the order of security to the volatile world of democracy. Is that feeling part of Russian character?

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