Why they voted yes We asked ‘Meduza’ readers who voted for the constitutional amendments extending Putin’s reign, banning same-sex marriage, and more to explain their reasoning

Sergey Ilnitsky / EPA / Scanpix / LETA

Of the Russians who went out to the polls to decide whether Vladimir Putin could stay in power until 2036, whether to ban same-sex marriage in the Constitution, whether ethnic Russians are uniquely integral to the Russian state, and more, almost 80 percent allegedly voted “yes.” Turnout for the nationwide plebiscite was reported at 65 percent. Independent experts believe the actual turnout among Russian citizens between June 25 and July 1 was significantly lower, as was the actual number of people who voted in favor of the constitutional amendments on the table. Still, those “yes” votes represent a significant portion of the Russian population. We asked some of that group who also read Meduza why they supported the amendments. Here are a few of the most representative or intriguing responses we received, with minimal edits for style and concision.

Fyodor

Because I’m for presidential turnover and for “zeroing out” term counts at the same time. If you’d ask me why, I’d be happy to tell you. The turnover part is simple: it’s enshrined in the new Constitution. It clearly says “two terms” (not “two consecutive terms”), which, in my view, would get rid of that stupid loophole VVP [Vladimir Putin] used [to return to power following an interim presidency by Dmitry Medvedev]. It’s the president who took advantage of that word, “consecutive,” but I’m the one who’s ashamed for whatever reason.

The zeroing out part [i.e. allowing Putin to serve 16 more years] is a little more complicated. I’m 35 right now. I live abroad, work in IT, and make pretty good money. I’ve reached success alongside VVP — in the course of his presidency, my personal capital, if we go by the dollar, has multiplied by 31. Again: thirty-one times bigger. That process was a kind of triumphal path from a mechanic’s apprenticeship at a factory to this gig as IT team leader in a promising new firm outside Russia.

You can say whatever you want about oil prices, other politicians, and so on, but one thing’s obvious to me: during Putin’s presidency, I’ve been able to develop myself and move forward. When other people were in power — I don’t know because I haven’t tried. So I didn’t consider it very expedient to change a business model that has given me guaranteed, constant growth.

Putin as an individual didn’t help me, but the climate he created allowed me to move from a factory to a store, from a store into the tech world, and so on all the way up to where I am now. I got my education, my degree, my growth, I bought property… A lot has gone right and is going right, and a lot is still ahead for me.

The second reason is that in the next 12 years, I’ll be between 35 and 47 years old, and I think that’s the most productive age to be. This is the age when I’m coming to my peak in terms of a lot of personal projects, self-realization, things I’ve been building toward for decades: real estate, putting things together for my kid, building a nest egg for when I’m 47+. Now is the time for me to bring everything I’ve been learning all these years into practice, starting when I graduated from high school. I’m finally turning from “Russia’s future” into “Russia’s present.” I know for sure that when a deeply embedded leader steps away in any country — and I’m sure Russia is no exception — there are always at least 5 – 7 years of sad times, political crises, and instability at all levels. It’s important for me for these next few years to go by in a politically stable atmosphere (yep, I’m for stability). I absolutely don’t want to change horses right at the height of a river crossing. By river crossing, I mean the transition from youth into maturity.

I want to wrap up by unpacking the word “stability.” For me, stability is when everything’s predictable, understandable, and at least somewhat unambiguous. At the same time, I don’t even care that much what direction we’re moving in as long as the movements aren’t sudden. The Russian government has given me rules of the game that I understand. You can’t say the words PUTIN or N****NY, post stuff online about the state or the government’s integrity, or go out into the streets with a bunch of demands. Not allowed. That’s it. If you follow those basic rules, they don’t touch you. I can’t say that I really want to do any of those things — I really, deeply don’t want to, actually.

In conclusion: for me, the stability of Putinism is a set of easy to follow, easy to understand rules of the game, and it’s predictability in the economic market. Constant personal growth over 20 years. I kept getting richer during all the crises and the wars. I don’t want to exchange the success I have now for a riskier model. I voted YES on the amendments, and I believe I made the right choice.

Artyom

I went to vote for “zeroing out” the presidential term count specifically because right now, I can only see Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] in the president’s chair. There aren’t any other candidates for the presidency who are up to snuff. They have to be “developed” in the near future and trained to defend our country’s intended trajectory in the geopolitical arena. If the next term comes around and Putin’s not up for election, then who will be in the president’s chair? Who will VVP’s former electorate vote for? [Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir] Zhirinovsky? [Communist Party leader Gennady] Zyuganov? No, if you’ll for give me, they won’t, and I don’t think I have to explain why. I think the main problem in today’s government is disorganization and recklessness on a local level. It’s the narrow-mindedness of our local legislators and mayors that is stopping us from developing. They’re the ones who have to be replaced with contemporary, young, energetic technocrats.

Larisa

I’d be scared to live under a different regime. Historical shifts frighten me a lot.

Akhmad

It’s obvious that the amendments were made to zero out the term count for our current president, Vladimir Putin. The rest of the amendments are pure and simple populism, just flirtation with various patriotic talking points. So why zero out the term counts? So that the problem of [the next presidential election in] 2024 can fall away on its own and, as he’s implied, so that the elites and society itself can stop thinking about that problem and start working on substantive problems. No matter what opinion you or I might have of his presidency, two things are obvious:

1. If the term count hadn’t been zeroed out, the next four years would have been spent on solving the problem of 2024, not on solving problems of domestic and foreign affairs. Internal conflicts among the elites about Russia post-2024 would have intensified, which would have made overall conditions worse nationwide.

2. There are no leaders in the opposition that even 25 percent of the population would be okay with, and that’s despite the fact that almost half of the Russian population is online and has easy access to opposition media resources (what’s Alexey Navalny’s trust rating again?).

That’s why I voted for the amendments.

Vladimir

Good day, dear editors! First of all, I’m very glad that you’re giving people who voted yes a chance to express their views in addition to those who have criticized the amendments and especially the term count reset. I can only speak for myself. I work in the private sector, and nobody forced me to vote. I just see it as my duty as a citizen of this country. As far as the amendments go, as someone who was raised in a rather conservative manner, I approve of them overall, though I took a quiz on Meduza that told me I wouldn’t like absolutely all of them. In terms of zeroing out the term count — on one hand, I don’t like that some government officials mobilized state employees to vote in favor. I don’t think that’s the best decision, but even without that, I think most people would have voted in favor because today, in our country, there really aren’t people you could call an opposition. Again, that’s purely my opinion. Thank you!

Kirill

I voted for the amendments for selfish reasons. The current regime doesn’t affect my life or my behavior at all — I go about my life and work and make money just fine.

I have serious doubts that somewhere around the Kremlin and the [Russian] White House, there’s a crowd of talented young politicians and leaders walking around who are ready to turn our country into a blooming oasis as soon as the heavy boot of the state is lifted from their chests. The government is us — it’s the people we’ve got, and there isn’t anyone else. If we want to change something, we have to do it ourselves. Go into the system and change it from the inside if you have the strength and motivation.

Any shocks to the system if the opposition bloggers were in power would just set us back one or two generations with no chance to grow or develop. History has shown us that multiple times, and I don’t exactly have a burning desire to see it happen myself. So, yeah, I’m for stability.

Anna

My son has a rare disease, and he has to get regular injections of an expensive medication that our family can’t afford, but he needs it to grow up comfortably. Right now, our government gives us the injections for free, and I’m afraid that if another president came to power, they would cancel that.

Gleb

I basically liked all of the amendments except for the homophobic one. I support zeroing out the term count because, obviously, that means Putin will be president again, and I don’t support democracy.

Marat

Because I support banning legislators from holding foreign citizenship, and I don’t see anything wrong with the idea of Putin going on for two more terms.

Yelizaveta

I read all of the amendments. I voted yes because it’d be better for Putin to be president through 2036 than for it to be [opposition figures Alexey] Navalny, [Lyubov] Sobol, [Ksenia] Sobchak, and so on and so forth. The constitution really did have to change because it wasn’t exactly written at a great time (I won’t delve into the history).

Masha

I wouldn’t call Putin a national hero — people don’t like him in this country, and I don’t consider him a hero either, though he does have some initiatives that I can get behind. Still, he’s not an overtly stupid person either. I voted yes for one simple reason: Putin didn’t cause any harm to anyone close to me — my family, my friends, my boyfriend, or me personally.

I’m 19, and that means I’ve lived basically my whole life under his presidency, but I haven’t noticed anything all that scary. For normal people, politics is far away, and it doesn’t affect everyday society at all (which might be relevant for a lot of other countries, too, not just Russia). Politics is a game for a particular circle of people that someone off the street can’t just go in and join. It’s like a sandbox in an elite gated community — kids can play there, but not any kid, just certain ones. So there’s no point in trying to get into it and change something. That’s like trying to pull someone who’s drowning out of a lake if you don’t know how to swim yourself. So the thing to do here is just live it up and take joy in every day that goes by.

I ended up with this completely logical question in my head: why shouldn’t this person stay in power for a while if I haven’t noticed his influence on my life so far? Yes, ideally, there should be turnover in the presidency and all that, but nothing is ideal anywhere in the world, especially in Russia. Some of the amendments are important to me, too — the ones about banning same-sex marriage and defending pets. I’ve personally had negative experiences on both counts. I also like having God mentioned in the Constitution — I don’t personally believe in a higher power, but I have a lot of friends who believe, and it’s worth acknowledging that 70 percent of the country is like them. Our people are religious people for the most part. At the same time, for atheists like me, [including God in the constitution] doesn’t put an end to Russia’s development as a secular state. To me, that idea would be as absurd as saying all of our country’s cathedrals and churches should be taken down because they bother atheists.

In conclusion, I voted for stability and for somebody I feel certain about and know a lot about. There’s no guarantee that the person who would replace him wouldn’t say, for example, that everybody has to give him their salary now and go live in a shack in the street. If you take Estonia as an example, a lot of people who live there, including friends of mine, say that the Constitution hasn’t changed since 1919, and there’s a lot of stuff in it that doesn’t have anything to do with our reality anymore. Meanwhile, there are a lot of current topics that go unaddressed. Same goes for us — this document is already almost 30 years old. We have to amend it and adapt it to our contemporary reality.

Sergey Bobylev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Artyom

Personally, I supported the amendments. Not everything’s good here in Russia, but there are a lot of things I’m all right with. I look at everything in our country critically, but it’s a solid kind of critical, not armchair criticism that’s just looking for something to criticize… The amendment to zero out presidential term counts, which was the one the media promoted most, also isn’t completely to my liking. But for whatever reason, I think (though I’m scared of being wrong!) that when the next term comes around, they’ll find somebody to replace VV [Putin], and they’ll give that person power carefully, as a successor or someone similar. (Other countries do the same thing, one way or another. Let’s be honest — there aren’t many places where the elections really are elections.) I hope they’re just throwing some dirt in our eyes, like some “pro-Putin” politicians have implied. I hope they’re only starting the term count over for show, so that nobody tries to take the throne early, so someone can be chosen.

I think it’ll be best both for the country (as long as he’s still alive and healthy) and for Putin personally if he hands over power and stops running for office. We’ll see… And as for the other amendments, are they really that bad? Taking care of children, pensions, medicine, strengthening our borders. I think everybody likes them. Really, absolutely everybody! On paper, it’s all looks right and pretty. We’ll see how it plays out in reality. The human factor is always going to be there even if the intentions are good. But I gave it a chance and voted yes.

Mark

I try not to say important things on social media. I always prefer talking about them when you can look the person in the eye. But this is a historic moment for my Homeland, so I’m making an exception. I’m not trying to provoke anyone into anything. I’m writing to remember whose side I was on.

Now then, the constitutional amendments of 2020. So much dirt and so many lies have already been paid for and spread around on this question that even 10 social media posts couldn’t analyze those lies in detail. It wouldn’t take any fewer posts to talk in detail about how deeply important these amendments are to Russia. A lot has already been said on this question by people far more talented than myself, so I’ll just say what’s most important to me.

Those who are voting no or calling for a boycott, the people furiously demonstrating their active political positions on all the social networks — most of them just haven’t read the entire primary source — that is, the amendments themselves. They decided not to form their own impressions about this document, and instead, they’ve decided to buy whatever their favorite bloggers, opposition figures, cultural figures, or discontented friends/relatives say or just to buy into their own habit of cursing out the government at every opportunity and not trusting it without doing their research because they think that’s what every cultured person should sound like. But they’d do well not to just look over somebody else’s summary where they’ve already taken the time to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, but rather to form their own opinion of the amendments. With all due respect, pull up the material itself and read through it thoughtfully before you throw yourself into writing your social media rants.

You can always find some people who will say, “I read everything in detail, and I’m still against it because Putin.” Unfortunately, those people just haven’t been able to get over their own egoism, their little wish list, their habit of genuinely and selflessly disliking Putin himself and everything to do with him. Their beloved dislike has stopped them from seeing the most important thing. Regardless of how you feel about the president and whether or not he should have another chance to run or not, even if you’re absolutely against that, you can’t let your emotions distort the essence of the document at hand.

Putins come and go, but the amendments are here to stay. First and foremost, this isn’t about Putin and the election— it’s about what we didn’t have in our 1993 Constitution that our friends from the US wrote for us. It’s about the supremacy of our law over foreign [international] law, which cuts down on possibilities for external control over our country; it’s about stopping our government officials from having dual citizenship; it’s about banning people from distorting the history of our Great Victory [in the Second World War]; it’s about how a family is a man and a woman, not a pair of perverts; it’s about the integral role of the Russian language in the Russian state and — this is the most important point for me — about God, who is Love. In a word, it’s the primordial, basic ideology of Russia that so many people have longed for all this time and which, by the way, the Americans banned us from having in the 1993 Constitution.

Without ideals, any country is just a territory with people on it. In other countries, people understand that very well, and they hold clear values and principles. It’s another matter that those values are maximally alien to our understanding of good and evil. Despite all its hardships, problems, and flaws, today Russia remains the Ark of Truth, Hope, and Common Sense sailing amid Western self-destruction. That is our foundation, the salt of our earth. Anyone who carefully reads the amendments with an understanding of all the fundamental importance and vital necessity of the values embedded in them and still does not share those values, does not understand them and feel close to them—that person simply isn’t Russky (and I’m not talking about ethnicity). Any such person has long driven every drop of Russkost’ [Russianness] out of themselves or just never had any inside him to begin with. Sooner or later, each of us will answer for our choice, so make it wisely, and don’t end up ashamed before your children and grandchildren who will inherit our beloved Russia.

Igor

This newest version includes clauses that allow Putin to leave his post without concerns for his personal safety. I also welcome the amendment about the supremacy of domestic law over international law. The amendment zeroing out term counts isn’t important to me. In fact, I’m against presidential term limits.

Vera

It’s a yes even for one single clause — “marriage is a union between A MAN AND A WOMAN.” For me, that’s the most important amendment. I support zeroing out the term count. I believe Putin is an admirable president. I voted for him in the election and I will continue to do so in the future if he runs for office.

Galina

I support the amendments. I don’t see anything wrong with the idea of Putin VV being president for another term — much health and my gratitude to him. Yes, not everything in our country is completely smooth, but when I think back to 1988 or 2003, my kids were born, and there were no stockings for them and no sugar for their porridge. It was horrible. They didn’t give us our pensions, and my husband in the police force didn’t get his salary. Today, my grandson has all the clothes and shoes he needs, and loads of toys, and I like this life better.

Sergey Bobylev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Oksana

Because I read the text of the amendments and the “before” and “after” comparison table, and I see that the amendments bolster the president’s role and the prime minister’s responsibility in enforcing our laws; because the amendments put a stronger ban on government officials and the president from having dual citizenship or foreign bank accounts.

The amendments are also about defending sovereignty and making sure international legal decisions can’t be interpreted in contradiction to the Constitution. They’re against interference in our government’s internal affairs, and they mention marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

I support zeroing out the term counts, among other things. I’m also voting yes because in my life, VVP has been the strongest leader who’s been in power and who I’ve trusted personally.

Nikita

The most important parts of the amendments are mentioning God, defining marriage and the family, and banning dual citizenship and foreign bank accounts for bureaucrats. Russia has always been a monarchical countryAll this territory, all our achievements were obtained by authoritarian leaders. In my view, we should just stop playing at this system of democratic values. Those values have exhausted themselves — you can see that in our current world order. There’s more and more stratification in the world, people have less to eat, and so on and so forth. At the very least, we have to bring back thoughtful democracy, where only heads of families can vote. Once you’ve calmed down your internal chaos a little bit, then you have the right to affect the fate of society. It’s the demos, not the ochlos, that should vote, just like in the original Greek sources. We exist, we’re the majority, and we aren’t offended if we get less than they do in Europe. I get less, but I don’t live by bread alone, Mr. Ripping-Out-Throats-For-Justice. Put together your little life without pretense, and then the most important things will come together on their own. Start with your own backyard — don’t worry your head over Russia’s fate. Russia’s doing wonderfully, and nobody, thank God, has the power to change the deep, subterranean essence of our people.

Sergey

I made my voice heard and voted yes to spite the people who think their opinion is the best and everybody else is stupid and confused. I’m against the mainstream. I’m tired of everyone buzzing all over social media about Putin being bad, the amendments being bad, and how nobody reads the amendments. And then people say we don’t have democracy or freedom of speech.

Personally, I don’t care what’s in the Constitution or who’s in power. If you’re an expert in your field, if you have valuable skills, then you can easily make enough money and live in peace without putting the responsibility for all your problems on the government.

The people in power aren’t fools. If they (or, more precisely, he) decided to increase the president’s powers, and that’s why all this is going on, then that means there’s a reason for it. You can’t say that they want what’s worse for the country even if they make contradictory decisions.

Alexander

I’m tired of hearing about how government officials spend their money on real estate, bank accounts, investments, and businesses abroad and write it all off under their relatives and everybody they know. That’s one of Russia’s biggest economic problems. If the money stops going abroad, then that’ll close up the holes in our budget pretty well, and we’ll know for sure that the money will be in our country.

The amendments about term limits, territory, traditional family values, children, language, succession from the USSR, “the historical truth,” the minimum wage, and the ban on residency permits and bank accounts for bureaucrats in foreign countries — all of those amendments are in direct reference to federal law that has existed for a long time, but its enforcement power was weak. There’s the term reset, too, but I doubt that Vladimir Putin will have another go.

(c)MEDUZA 2020

2 comments

  • “It’s about the supremacy of our law over foreign [international] law, which cuts down on possibilities for external control over our country; it’s about stopping our government officials from having dual citizenship; it’s about banning people from distorting the history of our Great Victory [in the Second World War]; it’s about how a family is a man and a woman, not a pair of perverts; it’s about the integral role of the Russian language in the Russian state and — this is the most important point for me — about God, who is Love. In a word, it’s the primordial, basic ideology of Russia that so many people have longed for all this time and which, by the way, the Americans banned us from having in the 1993 Constitution.”

    Totally fucking brainwashed. The Kremlin could have written this for him.

    Liked by 3 people

  • Not one Russian in favor of democracy, they don’t now the word.

    Liked by 2 people

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