Parade, Plebiscite, Pandemic: Legitimation Efforts in Putin’s Fourth Term
Putin’s fourth term as president (2018–2024) has involved new challenges for Russia’s hybrid regime. COVID-19 hit the Kremlin at a sensitive time, when the old institutional forces had been demounted and new arrangements, including extensive constitutional changes, had yet to become cemented. There is an emerging gulf between state rhetoric, PR events, and patriotic performances, on the one hand, and economic chaos, social disorder and dysfunctional state capacity, on the other, which is likely to reduce system legitimacy and cause increased reliance on repressive methods. This article examines Kremlin legitimation efforts across Beetham’s three dimensions: rules, beliefs, and actions. We argue that the regime’s legitimation efforts in 2020–21 have failed to reverse emerging cleavages in public opinion since 2018. Increased reliance on repression and manipulation in this period, combined with the contrast between regime promises and observable realities on the ground, speak not of strength, but of the Kremlin’s increased weakness and embattlement.