Sunday, July 10, 2016

Putin No Conservative Revolutionary But Rather Defender of Russian ‘Adat,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – Vladimir Putin’s regime is often compared with fascism, Igor Eidman says; but there is a significant difference between what fascist leaders did and what Putin is about. And it is this, the Kremlin leader is no conservative revolutionary but instead simply a defender of the traditional customary rules or “adat” of Russian society.

            “Unlike Mussolini, Hitler or Ayatollah Khomeini, Putin was never a revolutionary, a radical or a leader of the popular masses,” the Russian commentator say. Instead, he was “a minor spy and then a corrupt official” and thus is “incapable of heading any revolution even a conservative one” (

            His goal, Eidman says, is “not a conservative revolution but the support of the archaic qualities which have never ceased to be part of the life of Russian society.” That is a source of his strength because as long as this system of values is alive – and he takes from Eduard Limonov the Muslim term “adat” for it, “nothing serious will be changed in the country.”

            Adat refers, as Keat Gin Ooi has pointed out, the customary norms, rules, interdictions, and injunctions that guide individual's conduct as a member of the community and the sanctions and forms of address by which these norms and rules, are upheld”   (Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, 2004), p. 124).

            This term is typically used to describe traditional arrangements in Muslim societies outside of the Arab world and especially in the North Caucasus, arrangements that often conflict with formal Islamic law or shariat.  But it has been used in the case of other cultures to explain the vitality of archaic forms.

            In 2003, Russian nationalist Eduard Limonov said “Russia lives according to ‘adat,’ according to understandings developed out of the habits of its ancestors … [It] only tried to give the appearance but in fact never in essence lived according to socialism and now does not live according to capitalism let alone democracy” (

            Eidman agrees and says that he would only add that this Russian adat has been aided and abetted by “false and hypocritical priests,” “thieving merchants,” sadistic teachers, “pathological provocateurs from the security agencies,” and others like “the self-satisfied rich who routinely shock Europe” by their attitudes and actions.

            “Putin,” he argues, “is preserving precisely these customs and expressing the views of representatives of precisely these social types. They don’t need any conservative revolution. But they are accustomed according to the same Russian adat to feel themselves ‘subjects of a great power which everyone fears.’” And thanks to Putin, that is how they feel now.

            Many liberal commentators have been horrified by the views of many Russians and of the Russian Orthodox Church that the government must not take away from parents the traditional Russian right to beat their children, Eidman says. But they shouldn’t be because this attitude is very much part of Russian adat.

            But that does not exhaust what Russian adat includes, he continues, among its many other features is “external expansion, the rule of the police within the country, and the struggle with ‘external and internal enemies.  Crimea was annexed according to this very same ancient evil habit,” one based on the principle that if your neighbor is weak, you should take from him.

            That is how “tsarist, Soviet, and Putin powers that be have always calculated.” One need not point to a conservative revolution to explain it; Russian adat is enough.

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