Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Dangerous ‘Homo Putinus’ Now Replacing ‘Homo Post-Sovieticus,’ Gubin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – The changes in regimes Russians have experienced over the last 40 years have transformed the basic social type from homo sovieticus to homo post-Sovieticus and nowt to homo Putinus, an evolution that is “extremely interesting to observe but not always something to be happy about,” Dmitry Gubin says.

            In a Rosbalt commentary, the Russian journalist, writer, and television host says that these three types represent different “social types, although they are closely related” with some elements of the earlier ones playing a role in defining the features of their successors (

            Viewed from this distance, Gubin says, homo sovieticus looks “even sympathetic.” Yes, he knew when to shout hurrah, drank too much and “knew that the USSR was better than America because in America, they lynch Negroes.”  But he didn’t really believe in Marxism-Leninism or want to see the country go to war.

            Homo post-Sovieticus,” he continues, set aside his “idealism and hypocrisy as soon as he acquired money.” This new man, which had its apogee in the period between 1996 and 2012, the commentator says, “the era of triumphant glamour wanted not so much things as status,” something he believed he could acquire by buying foreign goods.

            “Having gotten rich, post-Sovieticus didn’t set up a society of equals. On the contrary, he cut himself off from his neighbors,” erecting walls reaching “to the moon.” And he “began to relate to the world as to a store, having [almost entirely] forgotten that the world is a school class.”

                According to Gubin, “the ideological emptiness of post-Sovieticus was filled by everyday racism: Europe in his eyes was a place for shopping and rest but where unhappily Negroes and Arabs walked about on the streets when in his opinion they should have been kept” out of sight so as not to disturb people like himself.

            There have been many articles and even books about homo sovieticus and homo post-sovieticus, the commentator says; but so far, because homo putinus is so new, “nothing has been written.” Indeed, the type emerged in its full horror only “after Crimea when “glamour was replaced by patriotism.”

            This new man is significantly different than his predecessors. “For example, in his passionate rejection of the personal and individual in favor of the general and collective. And this isn’t the Soviet ‘think first about the Motherland and then about yourself.’” Instead, it has defined its motherland in a new and disturbing way.

            “If homo post-sovieticus defined himself by his profession or income … homo putinus has begun to define himself by the expression ‘I am a Russian,’ without noticing that the individuality in this is defined by the denial of the individual,” Gubin says. 

            Another characteristic of this human type, he continues, is its hypocrisy and a syncretic and mechanical combination of the mutually exclusive. Homo putinus sees nothing problematic in a scene “where a monument to Lenin faces a new Orthodox church and Nicholas II and Stalin stand alongside one another as two heroes.”

            Similarly, “homo putinus at one and the same time curses ‘Gayeurope,’ drives a German car, and signs that there will never be roads in Russia like those in Europe although of course we are the greatest country in the world.” He knows that the Orthodox Church “was born in the CPSU but calls a priest to bless his office. He hasn’t read ten pages of the New Testament but is nonetheless certain that a Russian must be Orthodox.”

            “It is possible,” Gubin suggests, “that this syncretism is connected with a third aspect of homo putinus,” an apparent desire to remain ignorant of the way of the world. Of course, homo sovieticus didn’t know many things, but he was “ashamed of his ignorance and respected knowledge.” Homo putinus is proud of his ignorance and has no respect for learning. 

            Indeed, the latest new man has no respect for culture and views “complicated, intellectual things as something funny.” He doesn’t listen to classical music, he doesn’t read serious books, he doesn’t support paying intellectual workers a living wage, and he can’t get a serious newspaper because there aren’t any.

            What homo putinus does to, again “as a result of syncretism,” is to invest his money in the education of his children abroad if possible or at the very most prestigious places in Moscow if necessary. “Children [for him] have become not so much the meaning of life as a defense against it.”

            In this way, homo putinus is “sharply limiting his life prospects to just two: either learn a foreign language and emigrate or remain living in a country with a stagnating economy and the possibility of landing in prison for an incautious post on a social network.” Not surprisingly, such people are angry at just about everything – “yet another typical aspect” of the type.

            For homo putinus, Gubin says, “anger is justified by his view that he lives in a besieged fortress,” although he become furious if someone suggests Russia is becoming like North Korea, although he is acceptant of the idea that a nuclear war is “almost inevitable: if you don’t want to take us into consideration, then you can die together with us.”

            And that too is a basic characteristic of homo putinus, something that makes him far more dangerous than either of his predecessors.   

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