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Values-based regime legitimation in Russia

We  examine whether Putin’s new policy of «traditional values» with support for religion and conservative moral resonates in the public or not.

Russian mother and children in Orthodox church
Photo: Vadiar,

About the project

Since 2012 Russian authorities have adopted a strongly antiliberal rhetoric with attacks on Western secularism, multiculturalism, and alleged moral decay. This rhetoric has been followed up with new laws against blasphemy, “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations among minors”, decriminalization of wife battery, etc.

There has been a certain mobilization against these policies in Russian society and media, but also in support of them.

Like most European countries Russia is an industrialized country with modern economies and has a largely urban population, and it is an open question how many people will sympathize with a neotraditionalist policy.

This question we want to find answers to in this project, in other words, whether it will increase or decrease regime legitimacy.


In our project we will trace the politics of neo-traditionalism in Russia on three levels:

  1. The political – which plays out both nationally and in the regions.
  2. By examining political speeches and legislation; in civil society by interviewing activists on both sides of the barricades
  3. Last but not least: by measuring attitudes towards neotraditionalist policies in the populace.

We will carry out large-scale surveys both nationwide and in six regions with different demographics, to see whether there are any significant differences in support for neotraditionalism, regionally, and between the sexes, different age groups, and people with a high vs low education.

We will use experimental survey techniques to tease out attitudes which respondents may be embarrassed to reveal to pollsters.


The Research Council of Norway



"The protest potential in today's Russia: The gap between intent and action"

9 May 2022: Regina Smyth, Indiana University

"The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Legitimacy of Putin’s Regime: A Biopolitical Perspective"

12 November 2021: Andrey Makarychev, University of Tartu

"The 2021 Parliamentary Elections as a Window into Russian Politics" (NUPI)

22 September 2021: Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, King's College London.

"Mixed Signals: What Putin Says about Gender Equality" (NUPI)

28 May 2021: Valerie Sperling, Clark University.


Marlene Laruelle (2022) A grassroots conservatism? Taking a finegrained view of conservative attitudes among Russians, East European Politics

Olga Malinova (2022) Legitimizing Putin’s Regime: The Transformations of the Narrative of Russia’s Post-Soviet Transition, Communist and Post-Communist Studies

Janet Elise Johnson, Alexandra Novitskaya, Valerie Sperling & Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom (2022) Is Putin lining up with ultraconservatives? We’re not so sure. ( Washington Post, Monkey Cage

Bojidar Kolov (2021) Main Cathedral of Mutual Legitimation: The Church of the Russian Armed Forces as a Site of Making Power Meaningful, Religions 

Pål Kolstø & Helge Blakkisrud (2021) Not So Traditional After All? The Russian Orthodox Church's Failure as a "Moral Norm Entrepreneur" (, PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo

Janet Elise Johnson, Alexandra Novitskaya, Valerie Sperling & Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom (2021)  Mixed signals: what Putin says about gender equality (, Post-Soviet Affairs


"Putin and Covid-19"
25 November 2021: Andrey Makarychev & Tora Berge Naterstad (host) in NUPI Podcast/Utenrikshospitalet

"Putin legitimerer politisk undertrykkelse med tradisjonelle russiske verdier"
12 October 2021: Pål Kolstø, Lene Wetteland & Mari Lilleslåtten (host) in Universitetsplassen (Norwegian language)

"Et styrt valg i Russland" 
20 September 2021: Helge Blakkisrud & Ane Teksum Isbrekken (host) in NUPI-podden (Norwegian language)

Published Mar. 13, 2020 11:23 AM - Last modified Aug. 4, 2022 9:12 AM