Russia’s hot political season of 2011-2012 has raised a set of important questions: Who can be trusted in Russian politics? Can the identities of public figures be taken for granted? To what extent are Russian politicians and influential pundits sincere in their public statements? How much can a politician vacillate on key issues and still remain credible?
In a period of political volatility, when even short-term outcomes are unclear and the political landscape evolves rapidly, being outspoken is a risky strategy that offers no guarantee of success. Clear-cut statements or commitments can backfire; consistency is not rewarded. At the same time, because of the public’s widespread disillusionment and short political memory, there is little cost, political or otherwise, associated with changing one’s position or conveying contradictory messages to different audiences. Driven by short-term goals, a politician may find deception to be the most effective tactic to address unpleasant questions or suspicions.
This policy memo analyzes the phenomenon of “fake” or “faking” politicians during the recent period of political flux in Russia. It offers a categorization of fake actors in Russian politics and explores whether faking can be effective as a tactic in the short term and sustainable as a political strategy in the longer term. [...]