Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Revolution Looming in Russia will be More like 1917 than like 1991, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Twenty years before the Great French Revolution broke out in 1789, Lord Chesterston wrote to his son that he had found during his visit to France “all the signs which [he] had sometime encountered in history and which usually precede a overthrow of the state and a revolution.”

            Vladimir Pastukhov, a Russian historian at St. Antony’s College, cites this when he says that “all the signs which [he] ever encountered in culture and which usually precede the overthrow of the state and a revolution exist now in Russia and are increasing with each passing day” (

            He draws that conclusion on the basis of the reaction of Russian commentators and politicians to a rap battle which took place last week between two Russians whose vocabulary and attitudes reflect the following four trends among young people and their elders who are chasing after them:

·         “The universal denial of any rules and conditions, the lifting of every and all taboos, the rejection not only of past culture but of the challenges of culture as such, the cult of wildness and force;”

·         “The poetization of cruelty, the voluptuous relishing of evil, the mockery of victims, the passionate denigration of weakness’;”

·         “The aggressive decades, the pursuit of form at the expense of content, and the exaltation of the symbolic;” and

·         “Moral relativism where there is neither good nor bad but rather cynicism raised to an absolute.”

“All this,” the historian continues, “very much recalls the times of Russian futurism and constructivism with only this difference that futurism and constructivism were all the same to a remarkable degree original Russian formats while rap and other similar trends are deeply derivative.”   

“The so-called ‘battle’” between two young rappers, Fedorov and Mashnov, was far less interesting than the reaction of Russian observers.  Their reaction showed that the television is declining in importance to YouTube for Russian young people and that those born in the last 20 years have become the focus of elite attention.

According to Pastukhov, “the combination of subject and format is generating a chain reaction,” one that clearly suggests that “the fuel of all future revolutions and regime overthrows” can rely on “a renewable source of protest energy” and that this will lead to the outbreak of “a real war.”

Today, “the slogan for Russia is what is good for the young is good for politicians,” all of whom have suddenly begun to display a hitherto hidden love for rap music. “Everyone from Putin to Navalny is ready to sing ‘pioneer songs,’” but the words of the new songs are very different than those of Soviet times.

The message of this new rap is that “your culture is hateful to us, your laws are hateful to us … and we in general hate all of you. Somewhere we have already heard all of this,” in the years leading up not to 1991 but to 1917, Pastukhov says. 

“A revolution matures over the course of decades … but creative people have a surprising nose for revolution. They feel the shifting of the social foundations much earlier than the institutions begin to fall.” And that is clearly what is happening in Moscow now.

“If one judges by the tendencies of the development of Russian culture and the tempos of its evolution into ‘an anti-culture,’ then the end of Putin’s ‘beautiful era’ will occur more according to the scenario of the beginning of the 20th century than according to the scenario of its end, however much one might prefer otherwise.”

And “if ‘the battle’ of Fedorov and Mashnov is really mainstream,” Pastukhov continues, “then I know how the future Russia will be called – ‘a Greater Donbass.’”  A revolution is inevitable, he says, but it will not be a “velvet” one but rather a bloody one carried out by “the real Russian political hardcore.” 

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