Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Poshlost’ is Defining Characteristic of Putin’s Russia, Shiropayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 20 – “Poshlost’” a virtually untranslatable Russian word connoting self-satisfied vulgarity has become the defining characteristic of Russia under Vladimir Putin, according to commentator Aleksey Shiropayev, something that unites and infects all those living under his regime. Indeed, Putin’s country should now be called “Poshlandia.”

            Despite what some think, the Russian commentator says, “it isn’t corruption or authoritarianism, or imperial deliriums that forms the chief content; it is poshlost’,” the kind of self-satisfied and offensive vulgarity of thought and action that defines the approved form of more and more parts of Russian life (rufabula.com/author/alexey-shiropaev/796).

            Sometimes, he writes, it takes the form of “the reanimation of an imperial style,” sometimes the cult of the leader, and sometimes “the all-peoples love for Putin.” Indeed, “the 86 percent is one hundred percent, pure as spirit, self-satisfied vulgarity” of a kind that will be very difficult to root out.

             “Patriotism is today not simply a synonym of poshlost’; it is poshlost’ itself,” Shiropayev suggests. Indicative of that was the firing of cruise missiles from the Caspian on Putin’s birthday and the triumphal reporting about everything on state-controlled television. Russia “smells of poshlost’ the way a morgue smells of death.”

            “What will come after poshlost’?” he asks. “What will post-poshlost’ be like?”

Shiropayev’s list of examples of this phenomenon can be extended at will, but one especially egregious example occurred yesterday. On a visit to Mordvinia, Patriarch Kirill said “when we speak about loving one’s enemies, we do not have in mind enemies of the Fatherland” (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2015/10/19/kogda_my_govorim_o_lyubvi_k_vragam_my_ne_imeem_v_vidu_vragov_otechestva/).

That may reflect the views of Soviet agitprop writers like Ilya Ehrenburg, but it is very far from the ideas of the founder of the religion Kirill is supposed to be a part of.  As such, his words are “poshlost’” of the purest kind, a self-confident assertion of a vulgar position that tragically all too many will accept.


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