Staunton, July 19 – Many who seek to explain the origins of Vladimir Putin’s “hyper-imperialist and expansionist agenda” are looking back at Russian nationalist thinkers of the recent and distant past, Roman Popkov says. But that is the wrong place to look: These groups don’t affect the Kremlin leader. Instead, he is driven by an updated version of Komsomol values.
“The other day,” the Moscow commentator writes, he heard the expression “fish-eyed millennial Komsomols” in reference to young Russians today who are enamored of the same self-centered mindset that drove the members of the Young Communist League to support Soviet imperialism (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=60F508BA31F06§ion_id=50A6C962A3D7C).
It is they and not some nationalist writers or activists of the past who are behind Putinist ideas. All he has done is change the objects of their imperial aspirations. But he has changed neither the reasons they support Kremlin aggressiveness or the notion that they have the right to ignore the rights of everyone else.
None of the former people whom many are pointing to as sources of Putin’s values plays a role, not the writers of Nash Sovremennik of the 1990s, Popkov says. “They are extinct.” No “reactionary officers.” We don’t have any of them. Not “the notorious old men on the Security Council. No, they are much more pragmatic.”
Not “ardent national revolutionary romantics. No, I knew them all,” the commentator says. “I knew them all. I was with them at one time, but they either died off or became supporters of normal values” or failed to find anything reasonable to animate themselves and their actions at all.
Today, he continues, those who dream most of a new empire are “the fish-eyed Komsomols among the millennial generation,” those who read Komsomolskaya pravda or are “a flexible post-Nashist scoundrels, ‘political strategists’ with the faces of mice.” They are the ones Putin is drawing upon, no one else.
These people were never part of nationalist rallies before. They are a new generation that has easily slipped into the mentality of their parents and grandparents who joined the Komsomol to advance in Soviet times. One can only wonder “what they were doing” in Yeltsin’s time “when the mainstream” of Russian politics was different.
“Now,” Popkov says, these people “are talking about Russian expansion into Africa.” With regard to that, they say that Moscow “should raise the issue of protecting Christians” there because that will help Russia advance across the continent.
“I’m not kidding: they are really enamored of this idea.” And that shows just how Komsomol-like they remain: they only change the term “’oppressed masses’” for Christians but not the logic for helping them. That is the logic of developed Putinism in a nutshell.