Staunton, May 112 – People have made fun of Vladimir Zhirinovsky for so long that they have failed to see both his personal strengths and the way in which he opened the way for Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian system, contributions that film maker Nikita Mikhalkov suggests mean that “if Zhirinovsky didn’t exist, he would have had to be created.”
In a critical appreciation of the flamboyant and outrageous leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), commentator Mikhail Globachev not only cites Mikhalkov’s observation on Zhirinovsky on the occasion of the latter’s 70th birthday and argues that it is absolutely true (rufabula.com/articles/2016/05/12/what-was-little-putin-made-of).
For most of his career, most Russians and others considered the LDPR leader to be “a clown whose only interest was to win popularity in a cheap way by insulting the more respectable public,” thus failing to see what he was actually doing by adopting that strategy and by willing to appear the fool.
One of the earliest to recognize what Zhirinovsky is about was historian Aleksandr Yanov who argued that the LDPR leader was consistently focused on his natural base, the ethnic Russian lower classes who felt abused and excluded by elites, and was not afraid to say and do things that others weren’t precisely because he recognized that base wanted just what he offered.
Zhirinovsky, Globachev continues, is “the only one of the current generation of Russian politicians who acts not in a blind fashion. He precisely knows what his mass political base consists of and consciously builds his strategy by taking that into account.” And his strategy is not driven by any dogma but by what he thinks that population wants to hear.
Of course, the Rufabula commentator says, it is “no secret” and hasn’t ben for a long time that Zhirinovsky and his LDPR are “creatures of the Lubyanka.” But while most people recognize this, they don’t reflect on what his role has been not only in the 1990s but also in helping to open the way for Putinism, “non-communist authoritarianism in post-modern dress.”
That Yanov understands all this, Globachev says, is indicated by the fact that the historian suggests there are only two ways for what he calls “Russian nationalists” to seize power from above and both of those “’revolutions from above’” have been promoted by the kind of things Zhirinovsky has said and done.
And thus it is perfectly logical, the Rufabula commentator says, that Putin should decorate the LDPR leader on his 70th birthday and that a statue should be erected to him in Moscow even while he is still very much alive.