Staunton, February 27 – The Kremlin launched the debate on which statue should go up in front of the FSB headquarters on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square in order to distract attention from Aleksey Navalny and stories about Putin’s palace in Gelendzhik, Roman Popkov says; but things didn’t work out as planned (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/vopros-o-pamyatnike/).
The debate, although hyped by state media in all possible ways, did little to distract Russians from Navalny and the palace, the MBK commentator says. Instead, it highlighted a fundamental ideological division within the Putin regime and had to be ended by calling attention to the ideological emptiness of the regime: a decision not to put up any statue at all.
From its beginning, the Putin regime has simultaneously appealed to “’right-conservative’ and ‘white-patriotic’ emotions and to nostalgia for the Stalinist-Brezhnevite USSR,” Popkov says. In this debate there was little room for the Leninist origins of the Soviet state with the exception of the Cheka, the forefather of today’s security agencies.
This “eclectic ‘monarchist-soviet’ worldview began to take shape in the Kremlin already under Stalin. It existed during stagnation. And in the 1990s, “hybrid ideas about ‘white’ and ‘red’ Russia became the internal content of the national-patriotic opposition. But under Putin, all this became a core principle of the state.
That in turn called attention to “the absurdity and Kafkaesque quality of Putin’s Russian Federation,” Popkov says, a place where “the portrait of a professional revolutionary and inmate of tsarist prisons, a political émigré and organizer of the red terror hang in the officers of FSB officers who consider themselves ‘the new nobility.’”
“The Chekists of the 21st century,” the commentator continues, “hate any revolution past or future. They love money and luxury. Vulgar imperialism is much close to them aesthetically than the asceticism of leather jackets of the chekists of a hundred years ago. They are the descendants of Benkendorf rather than Dzerzhinsky, even though they have pictures of the latter.
That does not reflect their nostalgia for the times of Brezhnev and Andropov. Instead, it is all about their memory of defeat in August 1991 when the statue of the founder of the Cheka was toppled. They want revenge for that, and an important part of that revenge in their view should involve putting Dzerzhinsky’s statue back where it was.
“But Dzerzhinsky is a figure who divides the cobbled together ‘imperial-patriotic’ consensus,” Popkov argues. And what the Kremlin saw what was happening with the debate about his statue, it proposed as an alternative the more unifying figure of Aleksandr Nevsky, something “the new nobility” in the FSB isn’t at all happy about.
The FSB officers “do not want to understand that the Kremlin and mayor’s office simply organized the latest event so that people would forget about Navalny and the Gelendzhik palace. They and many veteran organizations aren’t that clever or flexible. And so they lost this round, but they won’t forget that either.
And that makes what the Kremlin has done in this case something that not only reveals the division within the loyalist elements of the regime but also exacerbates the divide between the reds and the whites that Putin apparently had little idea he was deepening by this action. Deciding not to put any statue up only shows how vulnerable this division leaves the regime.