Opposition to QR Codes in Russia far broader and more political than to vaccines, Kagarlitsky says

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign held by two women says: "QR code: Under illusion of security, people are deprived of their rights and dignity!" (Photo: Znak.com)

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign held by two women says: "QR code: Under illusion of security, people are deprived of their rights and dignity!" (Photo: Znak.com) 

Opinion, Russia

Edited by: A. N.

Russian opposition to the recent introduction of personal QR codes to identify individuals, control their movement and check their vaccination status during the COVID pandemic is far broader than opposition to vaccinations because even many who like himself have been vaccinated realize that the powers that be are using the QR codes not to fight the pandemic but rather to achieve “total control” over the people, Boris Kagarlitsky says.

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign says: "We are not slaves. Slaves are not us." (Photo: Znak.com)

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign says: “We are not slaves. Slaves are not us.” (Photo: Znak.com)

Indeed, by using the QR code as a hybrid means of forcing people to get vaccinated, the Kremlin has increased opposition to itself among people who don’t like the inconveniences this system is producing and fear the consequences of such arrangements, the leftist Russian sociologist says.

Had Moscow simply ordered everyone to get the shots, there would have been some opposition; but it would have been far smaller and far less politically threatening than the opposition that has emerged to the QR codes and the political reflections this approach has provoked among the people and the elites, Kagarlitsky continues.

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This is dangerous because it calls into question the strategy of rule the Putin regime has adopted, a strategy based on tight control of the administration and the maintenance of divisions in society. But the QR code fiasco shows that the first is no longer true, and now, “the powers themselves are promoting the consolidation of society against themselves.”

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign on the left says: “Ask the [WW2] veterans what the personal ID numbers lead to.” The one on the right says: “Citizen has a password. Slave has a QR code.” (Photo: Znak.com) ~

An anti-QR code protest in Yekaterinburg, Russia on November 13, 2021. The sign on the left says: “Ask the [WW2] veterans what the personal ID numbers lead to.” The one on the right says: “Citizen has a password. Slave has a QR code.” (Photo: Znak.com)

As long as society existed in a Hobbesian war of all against all, the state could get away with this approach. But the society is now consolidating on the basis of demands for the defense not of democracy but of their right to be left alone. Despite nostalgia, that makes any return to the Soviet past “impossible.” And the QR code controversy is intensifying that feeling.

Kagarlitsky says that this desire to be left alone is not the same thing as support for democracy. Rather it is a demand for autonomy. And when the state violates this desire for autonomy, people react and become more unified, particularly as the state itself demonstrates that its ranks are more divided and incapable.

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Edited by: A. N.
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