Monday, November 7, 2016

Putin Now Compared to Trotsky as well as to Solzhenitsyn’s Hope for a New Russian Leader

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 6 – Whenever individuals or groups are confronted with someone or something that at first blush appears totally new, their first reaction is to deny that what they see is anything new and to insist that it can be understood by using the templates or paradigms they are familiar with.

            Their second reaction is to compare the individual or group with some past case in hopes of gaining insights into what they are dealing with; and only the third is to be empirical, to consider the new not simply in terms of the old and familiar but as something that may be fundamentally different.

            For many observers in Russia and the West, the phenomenon known as Vladimir Putin remains trapped in the second stage. The Kremlin leader for understandable reasons is regularly compared with Stalin and Hitler or even with Ivan the Terrible or the pope in Rome. (See

            Each of those captures something important about Putin.  But his protean character is such that the comparisons keep on coming. In the last few days, he has been compared with, of all people, Stalin’s archenemy Lev Trotsky and the national hero that the enemy of both, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, hoped would lead Russia back to an archaic authoritarianism.

            Given that these latest comparisons, added to the earlier ones, may finally help people move toward a fuller appreciation of just what they are up against in the person of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, they deserve notice if, as has been the case with all the others, not complete acceptance.

            The comparison of Putin to Trotsky comes from Igor Strelkov, the Russian nationalist militant who took part in the Kremlin leader’s Anschluss of Crimea and his failed drive to create a Novorossiya in the Donbass and who now positions himself as a nationalist opponent of Putin’s regime (

            Strelkov says that Putin has rejected everything, Russia, history and the people by his call for the creation of a civic Russian nation. According to the Russian nationalist, this represents “the final and unqualified recognition that ‘the Russian Federation’ was born in 1991 ‘from nothing’ and is not the historical successor of the USSR, the Russian empire or simply Russia.”

            That “complete rejection of the basing of the state ideology on history and the historical sense of the Russian people,”  he continues, is “in essence a purely Trotskyite-Bolshevik act of ignoring the national-state component’ of the country and an attempt to create a faceless, nationless, “’multi-cultural’ community, the dream of Masons from the 18th century to our day.”

            “In general and in essence,” he argues, “Putin has decided to buy Russia and the Rsusian people finally and irrevocably – and already not at the level of ordinary socio-economic ‘quiet genocide’ but on an ideological one as well.”  And that has horrific consequences not only within Russia but beyond its borders as well.

            Rejecting Russian history in this way, Strelkov says, “means the complete rejection of any plans for the defense and support of the Russian people beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. If the RF is a state for ‘the new civic Russian nation’ (formed in 1991), then what does this state have to do with any Russians who are not its citizens?”

            Fortunately, the Russian nationalist argues, Putin won’t be able to achieve his goals. There are too many people opposed to what he is about. But it is clear, Strelkov says, that Putin is seeking to curry favor with his “’respected Western partners’” by showing that in this way he is just like them.

            On the basis of these assumptions, Strelkov gives an original reading of Putin’s involvement in the erection of a statue of Prince Vladimir in Moscow.  He says that in some ways this is entirely appropriate given that “Prince Vladimir did not belong to ‘the civic Russian nation’ as he was born beyond the borders of the current Russian Federation.”

            Moreover, the prince was ‘never its citizen – he wasn’t ‘a Rossiyanin’ but a Russian prince, and in general is a representative of ‘the Ukrainian nation.’”  If Putin had been honest, Strelkov suggests, he would have put up a statue not to a Russian prince but to the betrayer of Russians, Boris Yeltsin, and would have made it even taller than that of Prince Vladimir.

            Russian commentator Igor Eidman also picks up on the erection of the statue of the Kyivan prince in Moscow to suggest that Putin in fact resembles exactly the kind of Russian leader that Solzhenitsyn hoped would emerge to lead Russia back to a pre-Soviet past (

            No one should have been surprised that Solzhenitsyn’s widow took part in the celebration, he suggests, because “Putin has in fact realized the idea of Solzhenitsyn about the replacement of communism totalitarianism with archaic authoritarianism, an idea which he laid out in his famous ‘Letter to the [Soviet] Leaders.’”

            Putinism, Eidman says, “is Soviet ‘socialism’ minus Marxist ideology and a planned economy plus state Orthodoxy and private property.” In short, exactly the sort of leader Solzhenitsyn himself often suggested he wanted to see re-emerge in Russia.

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