The experience from the last two years, since the onset of the pandemic, has shown that President Vladimir Putin stays largely detached from direct crisis management and is hesitant to take a politically controversial stand on the issue of vaccination. The German political theorist Carl Schmitt once defined sovereignty as the power to decide on the state of exception. In the meeting with the pandemic, however, the Kremlin appears to break with the pattern of Schmittian sovereign power. While the pandemic could perhaps function as a pretext for going beyond the law, the Russian regime has instead adopted a technocratic approach. Thus, the regime appears more interested in normalizing the medical emergency, even if artificially, than exceptionalizing it.

While such medical governance may seem non-political and harmless, in the longer run, COVID-19 might contribute to toughen the already existent authoritarian system of control and surveillance. However, it may also foster critical, anti-government attitudes in the Russian society.

Speaker: Andrey Makarychev, Professor, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu