The current situation in Russia could be described as such: the country has not yet reached boiling point, but steam is rising. However, it is still impossible to say if and when the anger, which has built up, will boil over, said communication expert Raul Rebane on Vikerraadio's daily comment.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, believe in a miracle! That was the overall message of a long interview with Moscow University professor Natalia Zubarevich, which was published in Forbes magazine last week. It describes the state of mind in Russia and is an amusing but also rather grim guide. Why is it this way?
Finding out what's going on in Russia right now, and what's on people's minds, isn't so easy. The state (media) channels lie, and an iron curtain has been put up in front of the information sphere. What is left are social media channels, through which it is possible to follow the trends and make some deductions.
In recent weeks, however, something has changed. There has been an increase in substantial opposition to the top propagandists on Russian state channels. Last week, for example, on (Russian state-controlled television channel) RTR, (presenter) Vladimir Solovyov threatened to bomb Kyiv and Kharkiv to smithereens. Unexpectedly, he was confronted by (Israel former politician and diplomat) Jaakov Kedmi.
Kedmi is a regular on the show and, despite being an Israeli citizen, a pure Russian chauvinist. (On this week's show however), he called the bombing of cities a war crime and said that the kind of talk Solovyov was spouting should never come out of his mouth. It was left up to the viewers to decide whether Kedmi had suddenly become a humanist or was simply preparing to flee a sinking ship. It seems to have been the latter.
The subsequent backlash against Solovyov by Andrei Sidorov, Dean of the School of World Politics at Moscow State University, and Member of the State Duma Konstantin Zatulin, was also unexpected. Both disagreed with Solovyov's once again utterly insane argument, that since Ukraine had attacked Russia, it was legally entitled to use nuclear weapons. Solovyov's argument was based on the idea that Luhansk and the Donbas, which were recently staged as being part of Russia, actually were part of Russia. It was a heated debate. Some of Putin's other mouthpieces including (radio and TV presenter) Andrey Norkin of NTV, Olga Skabaeeva and her husband Yevgeny Popov of RTR - also voiced dissent.
What this all means, is too early to say. This unrest will probably be suppressed, but, they are an important sign. Incidentally, on Solovyov's Sunday show, these dissenters did not appear and the broadcast was, as usual, very pro-imperialist.
Natalia Zubarevich is one of the few people on social media who does numbers-based analyses of the Russian economy. She argues that the real impact of the sanctions started to be felt in the summer, but the major fallout will only come in 2023. Currently, the recession is not as steep as had been expected, but is rather a steady descent.
Russia is currently adapting to the worst, but having lived through crisis after crisis, it has experience. It is looking for new markets in the East and fighting for its live. But there are limits. For the time being Western technology (in Russia) is still working, but it's becoming worn out and the sanctions mean that there are no spare parts or new items available.
Editor: Michael Cole