Staunton, May 24 – For almost two decades, Igor Eidman says, Moscow has promoted three interrelated “cults” as Russia’s “civic religion, “the cult of Stalin, the cult of Victory and the cult of Putin.” But if earlier they were reinforcing, now there is evidence that they are coming apart with ever more Russians expressing support for Stalin and ever fewer for Putin.
The reason for this trend, the Russian sociologist and commentator argues, resides in the social structure of the overwhelming majority of Russians who are not part of the richest one percent or the 12 percent who want to be part of the Western world and reject both Stalin and Putin (openmedia.io/exclusive/pochemu-stalina-lyubyat-vse-bolshe-a-putina-vse-menshe).
These people, which Eidman called “Russia-3,” are the “unprivileged and un-Europeanized ‘deep people’ and ‘the Crimean majority’ (86 percent supported the annexation of Crimea).” They still live in the main by traditional values which divide the world into “us” and “them” and have a particular view of what those in charge should be like.
For them, “a good correct master – the husband in a family, the landowner, the officer in the army, or the tsar in the state must be strict to the point of cruelty,” Eidman says. “His task is not only to defend against ‘the others’ but to punish his ‘own,’ including his immediate entourage, to keep them in line.”
This “deep people,” he suggests, view as their “main enemy not the liberals and opposition figures but the overreaching bosses” who oppress them by their arbitrariness, cruelty and corruption. For them, Stalin is “the model” of such a leader. But Putin “obvious is not inclined to ‘beat his own’” and thus maintain order.
Polls show that significant majorities of Russians believe that harsh punishment of all corrupt figures is the most important means of “strengthening legality.” They are pleased by the arrest of some of these but do not believe that what has happened so far marks “the beginning of a serious struggle with corruption.”
For most of his rule, Putin has been able to distract ordinary Russians from his failure to impose order in this way by his attacks on Chechens, Georgians, Ukrainians and Islamists. But now that tactic, which worked well, is becoming ever less effective. Russians want him to go after the corrupt figures around him.
The one percent, which Eidman calls Russia-1, want the system to remain stable. Russia-2 wants a transition to European political and legal standards. “But Russia-3 above all is concerned with the problem of social justice” which in their minds means coming down hard on the corrupt elite.
“Seeing that the current president cannot or does not want to bring to heel the thieving bosses, ‘the deep people’ is turning its affections toward the most evil figure of Stalin.” That is underlying reason why Stalin’s approval rating is going up, and Putin’s is going down, the sociologist says.
Eidman says that it is worth recalling that “on the eve of Gorbachev’s perestroika, when the need for change was already obvious, in ‘the deep Russia’ also arose a renaissance of the cult of Stalin … [reflecting] the demand of simple people angry at the privileges of the nomenklatura for justice.”
The exposure of Stalin’s crimes during perestroika, he continues, undermined that cult but clearly “only for a time.” And the reason “the deep people” looked to Stalin 30 years ago is behind his recovery. History “now is repeating itself,” Eidman concludes.
According to the commentator, “European and ‘deep’ Russia are natural allies in opposition to ‘the country of the bosses.’ They in equal degree are not interested in the continuation of what is in essence its colonial rule” over them. For that reason if no other, Aleksey Navalny is on to something.
The leader who will prove successful in the future, Eidman concludes, will be “one who while retaining the support of the Russian Europeans is able to convince ‘the deep Russia’ that he will become a severe judge of the thieving oligarchy now in power.”