Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, democracy and the independent media continue to decline in Russia. We have witnessed the transition from a post-totalitarian regime to rigged elections, diverse forms of authoritarianism and the reinstitution of practices from the Soviet era. Draconian laws, the blocking of websites and throttling of the internet, and the smothering of leading news outlets has put steadily growing pressure on the independent media. These developments have been accompanied by intense propaganda campaigns claiming that the West has hostile intentions towards Russia.
The regime’s authoritarian nature is also reflected in its foreign policy. For example, Russia’s assertion that the three core Slavic nations are ‘one people’ is used to legitimise its intervention in the affairs of Ukraine and Belarus. But this idea dismisses the authenticity of these countries’ identities, the uniqueness of their historic cultures, and the right of their people to democratic self-determination, making it harder for them to pursue greater integration with Europe.
Independent and investigative journalists, alongside the remains of Russia’s free civil society, can play a role in highlighting to the public evidence of the Kremlin’s true objectives. But how, and by whom, should Russia’s aggressive political course be countered?