Staunton, August 22 – Vladimir Putin’s “new people,” the lumpen who are prepared to take the law into their own hands in the name of advancing the goals of the Kremlin leader that they think are being undermined by the bureaucracy and oligarchs, are the exact equivalent of the Black Hundreds that carried out pogroms a century ago, according to Aleksandr Golts.
In “Yezhednevny zhurnal” yesterday, he writes that despite all the media coverage given to Putin’s visit to Crimea and his archaeological discoveries there and the increasing repression of government opponents, the most important development of the past week was “the desire of certain citizens to support the powers in their wild initiatives” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=28442).
“The pogrom of the exhibit at the Manezh by ‘Orthodox’ fundamentalists was a completely logical continuation of official church obscurantism,” he writes. And the way in which both the authorities reacted by releasing those who carried it out and the pogromshchiki who said they should remain unpunished because they were “defending the feelings of believers – shows which side the regime is on.
Equally indicative of the direction things are going, Golts says, was the action of the St. Petersburg Cossacks who declared that they would search the stores of the northern capital for any prohibited food imports that somehow had gotten past the government structures with their “mobile crematoria.”
Both the one and the other, the Moscow commentator continues, represent the appearance of “contemporary analogues of ‘the Black Hundreds,’ volunteers who want to do any dirty work for the powers that be.”
Finally, there was a third development, one that should not pass unnoticed: “Izvestiya” last Monday carried an article by Andrey Chadayev, a pro-Kremlin analyst, who argued that “the movement of the Putin regime toward ever greater authoritarianism [is] the natural development of feudalism” with its divided powers “toward absolutism” (izvestia.ru/news/590146).
That notion, Golts says, isn’t new, but another comment of Chadayev is: In his article, he talked about “’the new people’ who came in place of the disintegrating aristocracy,” lumpen peasants and workers who Chadayev says are “close to the simple people and know how to organize work of dying enterprises and bring water and gas to distant villages.”
History and life itself have hardly confirmed “this theory,” Golts says. Such “new people” are capable of prohibiting, destroying and “cleansing.” But they have little or no ability to do anything constructive. Indeed, he writes, they are little different from bandits except that they enjoy support from one high.
(It is indicative, Golts says, that St. Petersburg’s Cossacks say they are working for the regime and have issued their own money with Putin’s picture on it. See “As Ruble Collapses, Russia’s Cossacks Issue Their Own Currency – with Putin’s Picture on It,” August 12, 2015, at http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/as-ruble-collapses-russias-cossacks.html.)
Golts concludes: Putin’s “’new people’ can exist only in conditions of pogroms and prohibitions, when the population is forcibly condemned to local cheese and the reading of ‘Izvestiya.’” But those conditions are emerging, and they do not bode well for the intelligent, educated, or dissenting, as the Black Hundreds showed in the last years of stardom.