‘Want Putin gone? Vote for the Constitution!’ How Kremlin talking points on Putin’s constitutional changes are reportedly targeting Russians across the political spectrum
The Dossier Center, an investigative journalism project by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has reportedly discovered a guide prepared by the Putin administration for local agitators and media sources to use when discussing the Russian president’s proposed constitutional changes. MBK Media, which is also associated with Khodorkovsky, published excerpts from the talking points. Other sources have not yet verified the authenticity of the document.
If the guidelines are authentic, it appears that the Kremlin has divided the Russian populace into six groups for the purpose of promoting Putin’s reforms. The document offers talking points and suggestions for approaching each group, including examples of rhetoric that can be used for canvassing or adapted for media headlines.
Group 1: Elderly voters
The purported guidelines encourage constitutional reform agitators to win over pensioners and other older Russian citizens by bringing up topics like patriotism, the family, and the futures of their children and grandchildren. The talking points also encourage comparisons between the present day and the economically chaotic 1990s, which allow advocates to “play on fears of instability.” The slogans devised for this group include:
- “Putin will go, but justice and stability will stay!”
- “Let’s vote for a Russia without poverty and with respectable pensions!”
Group 2: Patriots
The Kremlin reportedly suggests approaching this group using, well, “patriotic motifs” such as defending national sovereignty and establishing the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over international law. Associated slogans include:
- “Russians get stronger under pressure.”
- “We’re not giving away a single square foot of land! Russia never gives up — that’s what we’re putting on the record!”
Group 3: Loyalists
The reported administration talking points for this group understandably focus on the president himself, using his accomplishments as president to ask for trust in his choices. Slogans include:
- “Don’t you remember the 90s, when separatism tore the country apart and people were given cookware for their salaries?”
- “Putin values your vote!”
Group 4: Young voters
According to the Dossier Center, strategies for promoting Putin’s constitutional changes to youth make up the largest section of the Kremlin’s guidelines. The gist of those suggestions is that young people should be told the current vote is a historic one — the reforms represent a new era of change when Russians must “move forward and change the country for the better.” Some of the slogans involved employ contemporary slang:
- “Level up the Constitution!”
- “Your voice, your Constitution!”
Group 5: Low-income voters
In this case, the Kremlin has reportedly chosen to lean into the argument that the proposed constitutional changes will provide social welfare guarantees and improve everyday life in Russia, including for the country’s most disadvantaged classes. Slogans include:
- “Vote for a Russia without poverty and with respectable pensions for the old!”
- “If the Constitution is rejected, Putin will leave, and everything will be like the 90s again.”
Group 6: Putin’s critics
The administration guidelines recommend confronting voters critical of the Putin government by arguing that the new constitutional amendments would guarantee regular regime change, protect the government from the errors that accompany individual autocratic rule, and reinforce the separation of powers, enabling various branches of government to support one another. Some of the slogans for this group are actually directed against Vladimir Putin:
- “A new Constitution without authoritarianism or unchanging regimes!”
- “Want Putin gone? Vote for the Constitution!”
The slogans included in the guidelines reported by the Dossier Center align with an earlier leak of government agitation strategies reported by Kommersant. Those strategies allegedly focused on three themes devised by specially hired political strategists: respect for popular opinion, participation in a historically significant event, social justice, government turnover, and the protection of territorial sovereignty.
As Meduza previously revealed, the Putin administration is aiming for a turnout rate of more than 50 percent in the nationwide constitutional vote that is set to take place April 22. To achieve that turnout, the Kremlin is leaning hardest on the social welfare component of the proposed reforms, such as measures indexing pensions to inflation and tying minimum wages to living wages over time. The decision to concentrate on those proposals was based on polling that showed many Russians are nostalgic for the social guarantees of the Soviet era.
Translation by Hilah Kohen