“The President is the symbol of power, and the Prime Minister is only a manager.”

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Kommersant has an interview with Elena Shestopal, the deputy chair of the Political Psychology Department at MGU, on how Russian society views the inevitable election of Dmitri Medvedev. I think the title of the interview, “Thus far Medvedev’s character remains unclear in the consciousness of the masses” says it all. Here is an excerpt.

Almost 3/4 of Russians are prepared to vote for Dmitri Medvedev. Do the people trust the authorities so strongly?

They trust Vladimir Putin personally. Around his person we are seeing the complete consolidation of society in Post-Soviet times. Thus far Medvedev’s character remains unclear in the consciousness of the masses. When we ask people who they will vote for, we hear Medvedev’s name on rare occasions. Usually they answer: “It’s clear for who. Why do you ask?” or “What is to become of us?” Such answers signify the fatality of society and at the same time are angry that “they’ve decided for us.” We’ve monitored the pre-election mood in society since the beginning of the 1990s. Before the anger was that “they betrayed us” etc. But this — “They’ve decided for us and they’ve imposed it on us,” this is the first time it’s happened.

If the people vote “as necessary,” what’s the difference if he’s angry?

Any power needs the genuine, emotional support of the population. Presently the anger means that people perfectly understand that they are manipulated. It means that the PR-industry, which has achieved the consolidation of society, has approached its limit. And if the authorities don’t back off from them, entirely different processes will begin.

What are those processes?

A society which doesn’t seriously believe in the authorities but makes the best with them are very cynical. The people could say to the leadership, “We give you the impression that we trust you, but you then create the impression that you respect us.” After this people become more demanding than they were before. And the authorities can’t give them anymore than they could before. There begins develop mutual discontent among the authorities and in society.

You said that the people still believe in Putin. And he remains as the state’s steering wheel.

Mass consciousness still has not decided how to react to the future tandem. They trust Putin, and not the authorities because in the mass consciousness the president is detached from the system of power according to the age old tradition of separating the Tsar from the Boyars. The President is the symbol of power, and the Prime Minister is only a manager. The change in Putin’s position can turn out and change his value in the eyes of society, which is accustomed to there only being one Tsar.