Staunton, September 6 – Vladimir Putin this year has sprinkled his public remarks with observations that have an erotic and sexual subtext, something that has prompted Moscow’s New Times magazine to ask Aleksandr Kantor, a Russian psycho-analyst, for his interpretation of what Putin’s comments mean (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/119158).
According to Kantor, “Putin is speaking above all with his electorate, with Russia as he understands it,” a Russia only recently urbanized whose rural roots mean that sexual potency is taken as a measure of power more generally and a Russia where “tens of millions” have had experience with the camps and prisons where issues are often discussed in sexual terms.
By making remarks with an erotic subtext, the psychoanalyst continues, Putin is “appealing to the fundamental motives of human existence,” in this case to what many call “the crocodile complex” in which the individual involved is concerned only about controlling his own territory and ensuring that no one can challenge him for food.
Translated into the political realm, Kantor says, this means “control over territory and over human resources.” He adds that “sexual references in general are characteristic of struggle and competition,” and they thus reflect Putin’s own early life about which he says he had to struggle in the streets of St. Petersburg and even his aspirations to power in politics.
Thus, Putin’s remarks of this kind both reflect his personal experience and character, his role in the political realm, and his view that Russia is increasingly archaic in its values. After all, the psychiatrist says, “sexuality is political and politics is sexual. Sexual in the sense that it is directed at certain fundamental motives of power and subordination.”
Sexual references in this case not only do not embarrass anyone “but on the contrary, they inspire … because they confirm those qualities which people expect from a Savior and an Ideal Man – force of will, potency, brvery and so one, that is, qualities which really can save someone.”
A cultural anthropologist, Kantor continues, “could compare our president with a shaman, capable of travelling in three worlds: the heavenly, the earthly, and the underground.” A savior “can only be a mythological person,” someone who like Putin “calmly deals with strong beasts, tigers, and leopards” thus underscoring his potency.
For the Russian people, he says, no explanations are necessary: Putin shows by doing, and “in this by the way is the key distinction of mythology from myth: mythology is an explanation and an interpretation but myth is always an action, a living example which doesn’t have to operate according to logic.”
In this case, Kantor explains, “the accent is not on the verbal but on the visual, on a certain action it which his force and power must be seen … The father of the people msut show his magic strength.” If he does and he succeeds, then people will make him a leader; if he does and fails, “they will kill him.”
Of course, Putin in reality “works in all possible registers of power, charismatic, rational and traditional (given his having been in office a long time after being appointed to it). That last is critical because it suggests that what already was will continue or at least will not be worse than it was before.
Kantor concludes his comments with the following observation: One Putin “innovation,” he says, is that “while preserving the customary [for Russia] style of an authoritarian leader, he in particular has avoided the anti-Semitic rhetoric that is so popular among the people and is characteristic for many leaders” in Russia.