Staunton, May 17 – Many have suggested that the self-isolation millions of Russians have undergone because of the pandemic has disposed them to accepting as true one or another notion regardless of the facts. There is growing evidence that one Russian in self-isolation in particular, Vladimir Putin in his bunker, is not immune from such extravagances.
Anatoly Nemiyan, a Russian commentator who blogs under the screen name El Murid, refers to what he calls Putin’s “bunker syndrome” and the Kremlin leader’s increasing proclivity to come up with solutions to problems that have no relationship to Russian law or the Russian constitution (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5EC0D23CE5838).
New Times commentator Andrey Kolesnikov sees the same thing in Putin’s reaction to Western challenges to Russian statistics on morality rates from the coronavirus and suggests that the leader’s isolation not only from others but from reality likely presages major misfortunes for the Russian people in the future (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/194281?fcc).
As he suggests, good information does not guarantee good policy, but policies chosen without an eye to good information or at least some familiarity with reality are almost certain to be disaster. But for the time being at least, Putin isn’t worried about “solving problems.” He and his government only want to “hide” them.
In his bunker, his press secretary says, Putin is continuing to write his promised article on World War II, an article that from all the signals he has been sending will stress Russia’s need to keep up its guard against the outside world and not ever forget who is enemies were and are (graniru.org/Politics/Russia/President/m.278935.html).
And the Kremlin leader has decided to release an interview he gave Moscow television last fall in which he stressed t hat Russia is “not simply a country but a genuinely separate civilization in the broadest sense of this word” that can only be preserved by developing high technologies (gordonua.com/news/worldnews/putin-reshil-chto-rossiya-otdelnaya-civilizaciya-1500231.html).
But perhaps the most intriguing of Putin’s emerging bunker mentality comes from Ukrainian commentator Ivan Yakovina who points to the combination of the Kremlin leader’s long time in office, increasing isolation and obvious fear of his own approaching death (nv.ua/opinion/putin-shaman-i-koronavirus-o-sekretnom-proekte-glavy-kremlya-novosti-rossii-50088679.html).
Putin’s bunker behavior is typical of aging dictators, the commentator says. Isolated after years in power and facing his own demise, he has come to feel – and is encouraged in this by those around him -- that he is “not simply a hired manager” but someone “capable of foreseeing the future and making heroic moves” to shape it.
Anyone in power too long will begin to think that way, “but this is not the most horrific thing. The older the self-called leaders becomes, the more in him grows fear of physical death. Of course, no normal person wants to die. But in general, we consider this a natural course of events.”
But for a powerful ruler, who feels himself “almost a god,” the situation is more difficult. And “therefore, for him, fear of death becomes a painful form of paranoia, filling all his internal space.” Some past dictators have built religious monuments, some have turned to magic and witchcraft, and some to science in the hopes of prolonging their time on earth and in office.
What is striking, Yakovina says, is that Putin has done all of these things at once.
He has played with immortalizing himself in Moscow’s defense ministry cathedral, although he had to back down after that move sparked anger and derisive laughter. He is widely rumored to consult those immersed in magic, as his inordinate and otherwise inexplicable fear of the Sakha shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev shows.
According to some sources, “the Kremlin now is bubbling with astrologers, soothsayers, and witches,” people who have been with rulers since antiquity. And Putin’s own interest in this has been played to by Sergey Shoygu, who had Buryat shamans sacrifice camels on the Kremlin leader’s behalf.
“But occultism and mysticism is not the end of history,” Yakovina says. Since at least 2018, Putin has been involved in promoting genetic research which among other things is about the extension of human life. His daughter is playing a big role in this, and everything is kept very secret.
However, enough has leaked out for one to conclude, the commentator says, that the task of this genetic research is to find a way to keep some now alive alive a lot longer. “Like all dictators, Putin hopes find a way to extend his earthly existence as long as possible or even make it infinite.” With time on his hands in the bunker, he is no doubt thinking ever more about that.