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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Enjoying the Frozen Chaos

The year that was did not bring the Kremlin victory in Chechnya, but it did see the government chalk up a series of victories in its ongoing battle with the free press. And that, undoubtedly, is far more important.

You can leave people without hot water and heat in their homes, but you can't cut off their propaganda. After all, a properly indoctrinated populace understands that it can do just fine without hot water, electricity and heat.

While journalists in Moscow were persuading the president to forgive their excessive show of free speech during the "Nord Ost" crisis, journalists in the provinces were under the gun. Criminal investigations were opened and searches conducted.

The Moscow journalistic elite promised Putin that they would behave themselves. You can sleep easy: Censorship will not be introduced in Russia. There's no need for it. Everything the leadership could ever want will be done voluntarily, without compulsion or terror. The journalistic elite thinks too highly of its own well-being and places too much importance in its chummy relations with power to rock the boat. When it comes to lifestyle and mentality, are these people really any different from others in high places, be they government officials or captains of industry?

There are exceptions, of course. Take satirist Viktor Shenderovich, for example. He clearly doesn't understand just how good he has it. Instead of just telling a few jokes, he comes out with a laundry list of unpleasant things and ruins his bosses' day. And I'll never understand what happened with Leonid Parfyonov's weekly show "Namedni." It's thanks to people like this that censorship was nearly introduced in this country.

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Opposition-minded journalists took advantage of the 20th anniversary of Leonid Brezhnev's death last fall to compare the restoration of "order" under Putin to the years of "stagnation" under Brezhnev. But stagnation is impossible in the Putin era. Under Brezhnev, the regime's slogan was stability; the perception of stability as stagnation came rather late in the day. The political system became more strict, and the dream of freedom left over from the 1960s was dispelled. But society itself was stable and this is why the early Brezhnev years evoke such nostalgia in many people.

The system had a firm foundation, although far-reaching processes were already under way that would in the end lead to the collapse of the Soviet order. Stability itself paradoxically gave rise to increased expectations throughout society, and these expectations brought the system down.

The strength of the Putin regime derives from society's utter lack of hope that anything will ever change for the better. Some already have it pretty good, and for everyone else things couldn't get any worse. Most people have more or less adapted to their new life. Under Brezhnev the country lived for 18 years without change, and at first life wasn't at all bad. The very lack of news was good news for people who still remembered the war and the Terror.

The Russia that entered the 21st century was a country grown weary from unresolved problems and weakened by the sense of its own impotence.

Tired of unsuccessful attempts to find a way out of the crisis, the country resigned itself to poverty, inequality, the systematic degradation of education and health care, the impossibility of winning or ending the war in Chechnya, the corruption and insolence of government officials. The chaos of the 1990s produced a desire for order. But "order" has only compounded our problems. The Kremlin, with all its repressive might and the full weight of its propaganda machine has guaranteed that our problems will never be solved. Society will no longer look for a way out of the crisis. It will live in a state of crisis and regard this as the normal state of affairs. Everything will stay just as it is. The current order is nothing more than frozen chaos.

The country needs peace and calm. The government works to ensure that this calm is not disturbed. And if unpleasant events can't be prevented, then the people must at least be spared unpleasant news. That's why promoting prosperity in the information sphere has become a basic necessity for the state.

If we can't live well, at least don't remind us constantly that we're living badly. Especially with the New Year right around the corner; and with the price of oil on the rise; and given that we have the most popular president in the world -- not counting Turkmenbashi.

It's time to kick back and enjoy the ride.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.