By Hannah Flaum
On March 25th in the Davenport Common Room, Maxim Trudolyubov spoke to a group of Yale students and professors to discuss what he refers to as “Russia’s grand choice.” Trudolyubov is an International New York Times contributor as well as the editorial page editor for Vedmosti, the independent Russian business daily for which he also writes a weekly column on societal and institutional change in Russia.
Trudolyubov explained that Russia’s grand choice is whether it wants to be a strong and feared imperial power or whether it wants to focus on the wellbeing of its people. In the 1990s, Russians were generally split on the issue, but gradually shifted toward more than 60% of Russians supporting a focus on people’s wellbeing by 2007. Now the Russian population has once again reverted to a nearly even split on its grand choice. Trudolyubov noted that urban Russians are generally more partial to the people’s wellbeing while rural Russians tend to support an imperialist Russia. However, what is most critical about the divide amongst Russians is the power it gives current politicians to sway public opinion. For example, Trudolyubov asserts that Putin’s vision of Russia would not be as successful or well-received if the Russian population itself was more certain as to what it wants for its own future.
At the talk, Paul Bracken, Yale Professor of Management and Professor of Political Science, pointed out that outside of a just a few very narrow military metrics, Russia would most likely be unable to find success in redefining itself as a major world power. Trudolyubov agreed with Bracken, and stated that Russia would surely find more success on a global scale if its government had maintained the pre-Crimea levels of international trust it had. Despite Putin’s belief that abandoning these international relationships will help secure Russia’s place among world powers, Russia today is poised to most likely just remain a regional hegemon.
Nonetheless, despite the split amongst Russians as to its grand choice and the exploitation of this by Putin’s regime – which Trudolyubov notes is likely to sustain itself given Putin’s popularity – Trudolyubov is optimistic that Russia will continue to evolve in a positive way.
Hannah Flaum is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.