Since at least 2011–12, the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly based its claims to legitimacy on support for “traditional” Russian values, values that have included religious and anti-LGBTQ+ appeals. We know very little, however, about whether this has actually worked. This reflects a larger gap in our understanding of authoritarian legitimacy: To what extent can legitimacy be shored up by illiberal “traditionalist” appeals?

In his presentation, Henry Hale explores the degree to which traditional values are in fact a source of support for Vladimir Putin. He does so by analyzing data from the 2021 LegitRuss survey, which asked a nationally representative sample of the Russian population a large number of relevant questions and included certain randomized experiments designed to help nail down what is causing what.

Hale shows that while people do tend to trust Putin as a moral authority in the abstract, there is in fact little evidence that Putin is actually gaining much when people have his statements on religion and LGBTQ+ issues in mind. In fact, in some cases he is more likely to lose than gain support. This is because Russian citizens, surprisingly, continue to see Putin as cautious or even moderate on social issues, .


Henry E. Hale is a Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.

The seminar is moderated by Helge Blakkisrud, and it will take place at NUPI from 09 - 10.30 AM (CEST). We will also live stream the event to NUPI’s YouTube channel.