Saturday, March 21, 2020

Putin’s Being Asked to Rule Only Latest Example of Russia’s New Slide toward Medievalism, Luzin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – Valentina Tereshkova’s proposal that would allow Vladimir Putin to remain in office until 2036 is a modernized version of a medieval Russian practice of someone being asked to assume the position of ruler. Indeed, it is only one of many such revivals in Russia today, Pavel Luzin says.

            But it is important to understand that this is happening, the Perm political analyst says, not because of any particular attachment to the tsarist or even pre-tsarist past but rather because certain patterns of Russian rule to this day predispose those near the throne or even in the bureaucracy to back such arrangements (

            The reasons lie elsewhere, first and foremost in the fact that “our political class is not simply cowardly: it is moved by a vital fear of the future.” It is this fear rather than attachment to “’monarchical traditions’” or tradition as such.  And with regard to this, the political class is much larger than usually defined.

            It includes those “many millions of Russian citizens who now work in the state sector in the broadest sense.” According to Luzin, this sector in Russia is “overfilled with hidden unemployment,” with people who fill control functions but do not perform anything of real value and could not find employment if they lost their positions.

            Such people “may not like Putin; they may recognize that our state isn’t working in the interests of the citizens; but in the depth of their souls, they understand that in the case of political changes, decentralization, deregulation and market reform, many of them if not the majority would be on the streets.”

            Many of them do not receive high pay, but it is regular and it is higher than they could otherwise earn; and “for many of them the experiences of the 1980s and 1990s, of uncertainty and fears” spread among them because of change all come together to make them deeply opposed to any threat of any change.

            Moreover, many of them and others besides continue to have complexes associated with the sense of having been “victims of rape” under the Soviets; and that contributes to “an animal fear” which periodically rises to the surface and leads to “perfectly archaic” attitudes and actions, the Perm analyst says.

            And not unimportantly in all this, there has been “the rebirth of the principle of collective responsibility,” something the Putin regime has worked to encourage in order to ensure that those who are part of the regime have come to believe that they have no choice but to support it no matter what it does.

            Just now, for example, “everyone, including regional elites, have become complicitous” in the state coup Putin has organized via the constitutional amendment process. By being forced to vote for it, officials and ordinary Russians come to feel that they are trapped and thus tell themselves to support the new monarch.

            The Putin regime “wants that we all bear responsibility for corruption and crime and do not assign it to Putin, Patrushev, Sechin, the Rotenberg brothers and so on.” In this too, Putin is behaving as Ivan Grozny and Boris Godunov did, dividing responsibility for stealing the country blind in the first case and for usurping power in the second.

            This “attempt at the rebirth of autocracy in present-day Russia zeroes out Russia itself, not only institutionally … but also in a social and cultural sense as well.” Russians are going to have to start over if they are to recover, and that may happen either through some kind of “positive transformation” or by “liberation through insubordination.”

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