Friday, December 14, 2018

For Russians Now, Putin’s Remark about Self-Reliance Makes Him a Social Darwinist, Polubota Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 14 –Vladimir Putin’s suggestion this week that Russians should rely on themselves rather than look to the state for help would likely have been accepted as little more than a banality; but coming on the heels of remarks by officials that the state doesn’t owe them anything, his words are being viewed by many as an indication Putin is one of them.

            Svobodnaya pressa commentator Aleksey Polubota points to recent remarks by Olga Glatskikh, a Sverdlov official, to the effect that the state doesn’t owe young people anything, by Saratov’s Nikolay Ostrovsky that the people “owes” the state, and by Anatoly Chubais that the people should say thank you to the oligarchs (

            And then quotes Putin’s comments to the effect that Russians should not expect anything from the powers that be to suggest that he is saying much the same thing. Dmitry Zhuravlyev of the Moscow Institute of Regional Problems agrees, arguing that Putin’s words take on a new meaning given the recent expressions of contempt for the population by members of the elite.

            That elite thinks that its status is forever, and it members have not lost the sense that “the people will swallow anything.  If the elite continues to be cut off from reality, what happened at the end of perestroika will happen again: the powers that be will lose the support of society.”  And when that happens, they will lose everything.

            Leonty Byzov of the Moscow Institute of Sociology says that this is a particular risk for Putin because he began his presidency by opposing social Darwinist ideas.  In fact, he continues, “the entire phenomenon of Vladimir Putin was based on the idea” that he was conducting his policies to defeat this “humanity-hating ideology.”

            Putin told the country that the strong might do very well under him but that he would never forget the weak, Byzov says.  And that is what he did in the first part of his rule.  But now that social contract has been torn up; and the Kremlin leader appears to be taking the side of the strong at the expense of the weak.

            In these conditions, the sociologist continues, accusing society of passivity and calling on it to take responsibility for itself is an attack on “good sense.”  People are “angry” because “it is one thing when there is a common misfortune: all then are ready to be patient. That is part of the Russian character.”

            “But when some are drowning in luxury while others are living in poverty, this is something we in Russia have never accepted and do not want to accept.”  Suggesting that we should, the scholar says, destroys the foundations of social peace, especially if the signal that Russians have to comes from the man now on top.

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