The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Legitimacy of Putin’s Regime: A Biopolitical Perspective

Fri 12 Nov 2021
Time: 09:00 Location: NUPI/ Livestream on Facebook & Youtube Language: English

Russia is currently experiencing record numbers of COVID-19-related deaths. The pandemic has put medical knowledge at the very centre of politics around the world and Russia is no exception. The current debate in Russia is influenced by what appears to be a new regime of medical governance combined with ‘pandemic authoritarianism’.

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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

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Covid-19: Although many have been vaccinated, the pandemic is not over. The general infection control advice that still apply are:

  • Stay at home if you are ill
  • Test for covid-19 if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection. This applies to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated. 
  • Have good hand and cough hygiene
  • If you belong to a risk group, follow the advice to people in risk groups (fhi.no)