Staunton, March 26 – A new novel, entitled Ultra-Normalcy, that posits the overthrow of Vladimir Putin in a ruined Russia of 2024, is being ascribed, despite his denials, to Vladislav Surkov, the gray cardinal of the Kremlin, and consequently is being discussed not just as a work of fiction but as an indication of how those in the Putin regime see things developing.
The book, released this month, is nominally authored by Natan Dubovitsky, who many believe, as Valery Bereznev points out in a review essay for Kazan’s Business-Gazeta, is simply a nom de plum of Surkov, despite Surkov’s denial and even, albeit without any public appearance, Dubotsky’s (business-gazeta.ru/article/340964).
Told in the form of recovered memory by someone who has suffered a fever, the novel is set in Moscow in 2025. The year before that “was rich in events,” its narrator says. “We took second place in the summer Olympics in New Orleans, the first manned mission to the moon was sent off, the earth’s population reached eight billion, and Kazakhstan prepared to shift to the Latin script.”
As for Russia, “we were already preparing to choose a president. Together with the old leader, an entire era of achievements, failures, and unachieved new horizons passed from the scene. Already no one remembered his coming to power … the situation the country was in then and with what he had to struggle.”
“The presidential campaign had still not begun, but broadsides and banners, which formed public opinion were on display everywhere. It seemed that if they hadn’t been printed and the money that went for them had been put into the economy, there could have been a doubling of GDP.”
“Gradually,” the narrator comes ot understand that a conspiracy has been formed by “a group of people who want to create ‘an alternative language’ in order that by means of this … they will be able to seize power in the country. And then [the narrator, Fedor Streltsov] decides [in his dream memory] to unmask this conspiracy.”
The entire country, he says, is in terrible shape, whether from sanctions or some national decision is unclear. Its landscrape in 2024 “recalls ruins with rats living among them. People are burning fires directly on the streets” to heat their food, and “youthful bands are passing through Moscow attacking passers by.”
And Russia’s government also looks to be in disarray. The president, here called “the Dragon” is “’a short man of unimposing visage.’ The result which the state had achieved over the 24 years of his rule was the collapse of the economy, a rise in banditry” and an angry and hostile population.
“For this situation, of course, not only Dragon but also his ruling Conservative Party of the Center,” a group most readers will equate to United Russia just as they will see the Dragon being a standin name for Putin. The opposition leader, Nikita Vorotilov, looks suspicious like Aleksey Navalny, who supposedly welcomes “the disappearance of the state.”
“If the author of the novel is now working as an aide to the president,” Bereznev says, “this means only one thing: Russia from the windows of the Kremlin looks exactly that way.” And the future is troubled: the Dragon is forced out, “giving way to a conspiracy of the elites and the anger of the streeets.” But his departure doesn’t make “’tomorrow’” better.
“The matrix of the Kyivan ‘Euromaidan’ works also in Russia,” Bereznev continues, “but the energy of collapse and the dehumanization of the country are a thousand times more powerful than was the case in Ukraine in 2014.” But the primary message of the novel, regardless of who wrote it, is that “the Dragon can leave!”
Because that is the case, the Business-Gazeta journalist says, “even though the book is finished and published, its history is only beginning to be written. And who knows what they will write about it in the literary encyclopedia of the future: a mystification or a prophecy” of where Russia is really heading?