Saturday, October 16, 2021

Putin Cult of Personality Not an Explanation but Something that Must Be Explained, Vanin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 10 – Polls show that one Russian in four now believes that Vladimir Putin has erected a cult of personality about himself and more say the preconditions for such a cult are being put in place (

            Most use the term “cult of personality” on the basis of their understanding of Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of the ideological arrangements that existed under Stalin, and they forget that any cult of personality is not so much an explanation but something that must be explained, Nakanune commentator Grigory Vanin says (

            A cult of personality, he says, is “not created by the leader of the state.” Rather it is formed by his political entourage and the population itself which strengthens the powers under conditions of radical changes and experience.” That is what happened under Stalin; and it is what is happening under Putin.

            Stalin’s entourage, Vanin continues, “created a cult of the leader in order to protect its social status as the de facto ruling class.”  The cult had the effect of displacing all responsibility from the population or elites onto a single individual, something that not only freed others from a sense of responsibility but allowed the ruler to present himself as the only source of decisions.

            In Putin’s case, the Nakanune commentator says, “we see how his supporters ascribe to him all economic and political successes,” the flip side of which is that “the opposition accuses him” rather than anyone who works for him in the Russian political system “of all political shortcomings.”

            Indeed, Putin’s own conversations with the Russian people create the impression that he is the only one capable of controlling his subordinates, an impression that builds his power over them. And that sense, encouraged by a cult of personality, that there is only one rule and the masses with nothing significant in between has been increased by the recent Duma elections.

            That vote, Vanin says, “showed voters that it isn’t worth hoping for any change in the country.” That kept participation down and strengthened the view that the only thing that matters is what Putin says. Everything else is irrelevant to their lives. That too contributes to the cult; but it also puts the ruler at risk if things do in fact go terribly wrong.

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