Despite considerable evidence collected by Russian and Western organizations of human rights abuses in Chechnya and a roll back in civil liberties in other spheres of life in Russia, survey data suggest that there is little demand for the protection of human rights and civil liberties. The Kremlin and other federal and local authorities have considerable latitude to violate personal rights because information about abuses never makes it into the public sphere. In the words of one Kremlin pollster, “If the subject exists in the mass media, it exists in public opinion. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t exist in public opinion.” In other words, the presidential administration can do what it wants as long as it either denies or hides what it has done. This does not bode well for democracy in Russia.
In previous memos [PONARS Policy Memos 221 and 243], we detailed how Russians think about human rights and how they think about Chechnya. Here we show that there is a disjuncture between these two sets of views, which, we argue, stems from the government’s control of the media. […]
Sarah E. Mendelson