In 2011-12, Russian economy was doing great, the middle class was growing, people were improving their economic well-being. But Putin’s approval ratings were lower than ever. People were protesting in the streets, ridiculing Putin online, and it was fashionable among the cultural elites to despise Putin.
Then, the oil prices started to drop, and the economy entered into a deep recession. In response, Putin invaded Ukraine and attached the narrative of “We are defending our fellow Russian-speakers and sticking it to Americans” to the invasion. The economy collapsed, the middle-class is in the toilet, everybody became poorer. But Putin’s approval ratings are sky-high, and the very people who used to mock him are now sincere and active Putinoids.
Moral of the story: people value a sense of purpose and of being part of something grand a lot more than they value their economic well-being.