Saturday, January 2, 2021

Putinism Lacks the Origin in Controversy that Might have Allowed It to Become an Ideology, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – The great ideologies of modernity such as socialism or Zionism emerged not full blown from the mind of one author but were hammered out in the course of disputes and controversies among their followers, Abbas Gallyamov says. Putinism lacks that experience and thus likely lacks the possibility of becoming an ideology.

            The former Putin speechwriter and current Moscow commentator points to the ways in which such controversies led to the formulation and spread of such ideologies as Marxism and Zionism, whose followers debated among themselves for years before a more or less canonical version emerged (

            These controversies at some points appeared to threaten the emergence of these ideologies, Gallyamov says; but in fact, they had the effect of strengthening it by providing a kind of stress test of the basic ideas of their founders and ensuring that more people would be drawn into the ranks of their followers.

            This pattern stands in stark contrast to the efforts of authoritarian rulers to create an ideology on their own and then impose it without debate, efforts like Qadafi with his ‘third world theory,’ Nassert with his “Nasserism,” Chavez with his ‘Chavezism,’ and Mobuto with his “Mobutoism.”

            In all of these cases, the founder demanded acceptance and blocked discussion and debate; and after quite a short time, they passed from the scene never really taking shape or surviving for long their originators. Putinism, despite all the power he now has and the backing he has orchestrated for his approach, shares far more in common with them.

            That makes it highly unlikely that his system of ideas will survive him, Gallyamov says.

            Under Putin, “discussion was quickly replaced by administrative pressure and propaganda,” he continues. “Putinism can only be approved: Those with doubts are declared American spies and marginalized as extra-systemic. What possible discussion can there ever be with them?”

            To be sure, Vladislav Surkov tried to introduce a kind of discussion; but it went nowhere. And that failure indicated that if Putinism ever had a chance to become a self-standing ideology, it no longer does.

            If it had emerged, what might Putinism have contained? “On the one hand,” Gallyamov says, “Putin has not put forward any new and original ideas. But on the other, in order to gain the right to have his name expanded to include the suffix -ism, that isn’t necessarily required.” But if originality isn’t, discussion is; and that hasn’t occurred.

            According to Gallyamov, historians of the future will evaluate Putinism as a stillborn phenomenon which emerged because the need for such a system of ideas led to its creation but not to discussion and debate. Russians wanted a ruler who appeared to care about them and a set of ideas that ensured he and his successors would always do so.

            They got the first half of their desire at least initially, but they haven’t received the ideology that might have institutionalized what they hoped for.

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