“The government is trying to create a unifying conservative base”

Anti-LGBT law, calls to “de-satanize” Ukraine, references to religion everywhere… In parallel with the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities are conducting a conservative and identity attack on their fronts. According to experts, with the aim of uniting the country around “traditional” values.

In Russia, Russian lawmakers voted on Thursday (November 24) to significantly extend an anti-LGBT law passed in 2013. Originally intended to ban “LGBT propaganda” to minors, the law now bans “promotion of non-traditional sexuality” to all audiences. in media, internet, books and movies.

Thus, in parallel with the Ukrainian war, Russia is moving towards a conservative turn that began in the 2000s and is presented by the Kremlin as a defense of “traditional” values ​​against the influence of the West, which is considered decadent.

Identity search

Viatcheslav Avioutskii, professor at the École Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers (Essca), explains: “Russian society has been experiencing a search for identity since the 2000s after the collapse of the liberal values ​​brought to the end of the USSR. Specialist Russia and Ukraine. It is today more intensively continues: Due to the lack of unanimous support for the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities have embarked on a conservative enterprise of “ideological cleansing” of the population in the face of perceived harmful Western influences.

Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin presented the new version of the law on Thursday, saying that it “will protect our children and the future of this country from the darkness spread by the United States and European countries.” “We have our own traditions, our own values,” he added.

This new attack on gay rights, a continuation of years of repression, is expressed through the promotion of the traditional family.

“The Russian regime emphasizes the traditional family, as opposed to Western values. Anti-LGBT propaganda is in children’s school books, and there is also the promotion of the traditional, nuclear family. children at a minimum,” research director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris (Iris) and live “Russia’s geopolitics” (ed. La Découverte) the last author Lucas Aubin analyzes.

On September 30, Vladimir Putin said in his speech at the Grand Kremlin Palace, the former palace of the tsars: “Do we really want to be the “number one parent” and “number two” here, in our country, in Russia? ‘, ‘third’ instead of ‘mother’ and ‘father’?”, in a transparent allusion to the debates that are raging in a number of Western countries.

Population decline

But apart from propaganda discourse, this emphasis on the traditional family is also based on pragmatic observation. Despite its pro-natalist policies, Russia did indeed experience a major demographic decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to demographers’ forecasts, the population will reach 130-140 million people by 2050, compared to 148.2 million in 1991, and it is expected to continue to decrease.

The promotion of conservative family values ​​therefore allows the Russian authorities to mock the West, but also to respond to an issue it deems important. Already in 2020, Vladimir Putin presented the demographic crisis as a “historical challenge” and confidently said: “Russia’s fate and its historical prospects depend on how many of us there will be.”

Lukas Aubin notes that “the discourse of the Russian regime may seem extremely reactionary, even delusional, but it is also concerned with practical considerations. This anti-LGBT propaganda hinges on the need for Russian society to have children. It has not yet banned abortion, but they carry a very strong incitement and pronatalist discourse.

Since its annexation by Russia, Crimea has been regularly decorated with anti-abortion posters. In the capital Simferopol, Lukas Aubin reports that Russian authorities have funded billboards depicting a baby begging its mother not to kill it.

“Ideological Subversion”

The promotion of conservative values ​​also allows the Russian authorities to rely on the Orthodox Church to justify its foreign policy. Patriarch Kirill, who is a close friend of Vladimir Putin, thus increases the references to the “holy war” in Ukraine. He is not alone. The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, also uses the term “devil” in Arabic to mobilize 10% of Russian Muslims.

“Vladimir Putin leads a country that never became a nation-state, exposes Vyacheslav Aviutsky. Russia remains an imperial state inherited from the tsars and the Soviet Union, and therefore it is, in a sense, fragmented into various regional identities. To exert strong pressure on society. and through propaganda “The Russian regime is trying to create a unifying conservative base that acts as a denominator and draws society behind it.”

Conservatism therefore, according to the researcher, serves to transcend the various religions – Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – and the 190 ethnicities that make up Russia, and unite society in a common identity and purpose. The Russian Constitution, rewritten in 2020, thus places the territory under the protection of an unspecified deity.

However, I’m not sure if the strategy is working: “These conservative and identity measures are part of an ideological subversion to try to create a consensus, Vyacheslav Aviutskii points out. But it doesn’t really work. Vladimir Putin can’t get the whole population to stand behind him and homogenize a country. to strive for, on the contrary, risks exacerbating the differences.

>> Read also: When Russia wants to dominate its view of history

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