Friday, March 1, 2019

Moscow Promotes Putin Cult of Personality but Technology Undermines It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has directed museums to devote more attention to the Putin period in Russian history, something Leonid Nevzlin says is part of the burgeoning cult of personality around the current incumbent of the Kremlin.

            But another commentator, Aleksey Chadayev, argues that technology, including television and I-phones, are undermining the possibility of having a single cult of personality as was the case under Stalin and making it ever more likely that Russians will have numerous more restricted cults of their own.

            Medynsky, Nezvlin says, has dispatched a directive to all Russian museums calling on them to devote greater attention in their exhibits to the Putin era, the latest indication that official promotion of a Putin cult of personality is going at full tilt (  reposted at

                The commentator says that the possibilities for exhibits about the last 20 years are “endless.” Among those he suggests but that few museums are likely to display are ones about the occupation of Crimea, Russian mercenaries in Syria and the Donbass, the holdings of the Ozero cooperative, and the musical instruments of cellist Roddugin.

            As Nevzlin puts it, “the entire history of Russia of the last 20 years is the history f the establishment of a mafia state. One could make films, write books, and organize exhibits about that,” and this would be more honest and more patriotic than what Medynsky is certainly proposing.   

            Instead, the museums will do what Moscow wants and create analogies for Putin displays to “the red corners” in which Lenin and Stalin were celebrated, thus promoting one cult of personality in place of another that has not been fully condemned.

            But Chadayev says that reproducing a cult of personality like the one the Soviets had under Stalin will likely prove impossible.  That cult emerged when there were far fewer kinds of media and where the ones that did exist could and did promote a single message (

                Now, by turning to cable television, social media, blogs or selfies, every Russian is in a position to create “a cult of personality ‘at home by means at hand,” the commentator continues. As a result, “that which earlier was accessible only to the tsars, is now available to any for a modest price,” thus undercutting any message however much the powers that be want to send it.

            To a certain respect, all this recalls what happened in Rome when officials continued to offer devotion to the cults of Jupiter and Minerva but ordinary people erected their own “’household gods’ and prayed t them instead of the common official ones.” That led to the demise of the former even before Christianity became dominant.

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