Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Real Question for Putin: Who and Where are Russia’s Heroes of Today?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – Anyone who visited the Soviet Union will recall that Intourist guides always talked about the wonders of the communist system and its glorious future but invariably spent most of the time showing off architectural wonders that had been erected long before the Bolshevik revolution. 

            Something similar is happening inside Russia today: Vladimir Putin and the media he controls keeps talking about the glorious present and the still more glorious future of Russia, but they choose to identify as heroes not anyone in the present but only those whose glorious actions occurred in the past with World War II being about the most recent event to produce any.

            That has prompted Russian writer Platon Besedin to ask how Russia is to live “without heroes” and “why instead of them” does the media show us only “degenerates”? (

                “I’ve never had a desire to ask Vladimir Putin a question. Not on ‘Direct Line’ or anywhere else,” the writer says.  But now after watching this show, I have one, Besedin continues: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, who are the heroes of present-day Russia? Do they exist? And if they do, why are we given degenerates as role models?”

            There really are Russian heroes “not from the past but from the present” in all walks of life, be they hockey player Aleksandr Ovechkin and writer Yury Bondaryev or pilot Roman Filopov or church warden Georgy Velikanov who died while trying to rescue a man who had fallen on railroad tracks.

            Russians can be proud of these people and look up to them, Besedin says; but on primetime television, all that they see are one degenerate after another. They even see them on shows like Putin’s Direct Line.  Putin called on and answered such people, undoubtedly carefully selected for their impact on the audience.

            Apparently, the organizers assumed that is what the Russian people want because of what they watch on television every night. But if Russians want it, they do because they have been groomed to want it by what is offered to them again and again, the writer continues. As a result, “the intellectual level of the population is catastrophic.”

            When anyone is confronted with such programming, the first response is resistance; but then you decide that what you had been horrified by is somehow something good. That’s how people get used to fast food. It is also the way it is with “intellectual food” on offer by the Moscow media.

            This isn’t just the result of some elite conspiracy, Besedin says. “It appeared later and by itself. This is a conspiracy when everyone around becomes a participant” and is affected by what it wants to affect others.  The shepherds “leading their flock to a bright future,” then, “are just as blind as their flock.”  And the future is thus bleak indeed.

            “Today, Poklonskaya or Yarovaya in the Duma infuriate many, but you can depend on it that a time will come when instead of them will be sitting Buzovs and silicon bloggers, adopting laws in the intervals between reflections about condoms. This is the future which we are putting in place right now,” Besedin says.

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right: “Stupidity is more horrible than malevolence.”  And today in Russia it is, as Rozanov would have had it, dripping down from the top to the bottom.  That needs to be countered, or Russia’s future is lost.

                “I am certain,” Besedin continues, “that a country deserves its heroes but also that heroes form the country. They set the tone and attitudes and form the nation. These are in general banalities. But because they are true, in any country, the cult of heroes is so important” both in the long term and in the short.”

            “A hero is not only a legend from an epic but an example which we daily watch on television. The generation raised on Gagarin rose into the cosmos; the generation educated on degenerates will only want hype and nothing more.” Unfortunately, it appears, that Russia has fallen into the second case.

            Besedin concludes: “It is possible that the president wants that he will remain the only hero in Russia. But if he really wants a breakthrough, as he constantly says, then the country needs to be given true heroes and not doubtful personages who in better times wouldn’t even be allowed into a pigsty.”

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