Saturday, February 22, 2020

Putin’s Core Belief is that ‘Everyone is a Bastard and So We Can be Bastards Too,’ Lurye Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 16 – In the course of an interview about what he sees as the wave of idiotism sweeping Russia during its commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, historian Lev Lurye observes that Vladimir Putin’s basic idea is that he is entitled to do anything other leaders have done no matter how bad.

            Lurye, who has organized commemorations of the victims of the Leningrad blockade for many years, says this is horrific but argues that the best way to respond to it and other outrages is “not with anger and despair but with laughter and irony” (

            Victory Day, the historian says, “is really the only historic date which unifies us.” But it means different things to different people and the effort by the Putin regime to impose a single overriding meaning and to exclude all others is ultimately self-defeating as are plans to include a reference to it in the constitution.

            When he met with the constitutional amendment commission, one of its members, Senator Pushkov, who is obviously interested in currying favor with Putin, proposed doing that. Putin responded that this was “a good idea,” but, Lurye argues, in this case, his words mean absolutely nothing.

            An even more perverse aspect of official celebrations is the insistence by some like SVR chief Sergey Naryshkin that Poland was to blame for the start of World War II. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but when officials spout such nonsense, one can only laugh at the inexhaustible stupidity of the human race.

            Lurye notes that he is the same age as Putin and Naryshkin and even from the same region. Consequently, he says he understands where such nonsense comes from.  When these men were much more junior in the 1970s, they read books by people like Valentin Pikul, books that can only be described as “absolutely Black Hundreds literature.”

            From such works, they learned “certain secrets” about Rasputin, “the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy,” and so on.  And all this “exerted on them a very strong influence. I think that the ideology of Patrushev, Ivanov, Naryshkin and in part Putin was formed in their years as lieutenants and captains.”

            Asked why the Kremlin’s “75.Victory” website doesn’t have a reference to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the historian points out that these people “can’t build a space center! Why should they be able to come up with a portal?” Russians have taken notice, turned away, and the authorities have become more bombastic in response.

            He notes that Duma deputy Yampolsky has called for introducing a legal prohition on comparing the USSR and the Third Reich. Such a law may be passed. But “our motherland is significant in that its laws are strict but they aren’t fulfilled.” When Putin and Naryshkin were reading Pikul, Lurye says, he was reading the banned GULAG Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn.

            Lurye says that the more formal the regime makes the commemoration of victory day, the less popular in both senses of the word it will be. Indeed, that is already happening.  What is striking is that those doing it are ensuring that “we are living through for a second time one and the same historic period,” that of late Brezhnevism.

            But the reason that talk about victory still plays so well is that it gives Russians the sense that they are “better than others” because they won the war.  Each of them “can with pride look into the eyes of a Norwegian, a Pole, a Frenchman, an Englishman, or a German as say ‘they are worse than me.’”

            This is a means of distracting from his own shortcomings and the acquisition of a certain false model” which only causes more trouble.

            In conclusion, Lurye speaks of the term introduced by Father Georgy Mitrofanov in 2005, pobedobesiye, best translated as excessive and hyperbolic commemorations of the 1945 victory. (For a discussion, see Unfortunately, the historian says, few use that term outside of Petersburg where it was invented.

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