Monday, September 12, 2022

For 23 of Its 30 Years of Existence, Post-Soviet Russia has Been at War, Gudkov Points Out

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 14 – The Putin regime and the rise of homo Putinus, Lev Gudkov says, is first and foremost a reaction by both the state and the population to “the failure to build a democratic legal society and a normal country. From that,” he says, “arise the malignity, aggression and appeal to a great past as a compensating myth.”

            But exacerbating that sense of failure, the Levada Center scholar says, is the fact that “for the just over 30 years of the existence of post-Soviet Russia, it has been in a state of war with someone for 23 years – the two Chechen wars, the war in Syria, the covert war in the Donbass, not to mention the war of words with the West” (

            The resulting militarization of the state and “the slowly growing militarization of consciousness” began approximately in 2003-2004, Gudkov says. “And if one adds to this the advertisement of the special services” via television serials, the rehabilitation of their work in the past and under Stalin, it isn’t surprising that homo Putinus sees war as a natural state of being.

            In a certain sense, he continues, this militaristic consciousness combined with a cult of the past rather than of one directed at the future “can be called fascism.” But rather than get tied up in fights over the use of that term, Gudkov says, it is better to speak simply about “the return of totalitarianism.”

            Russia and Russians aren’t going to escape from this anytime soon, he argues. New moral and intellectual elites will have to emerge, and greater social differentiation will have to take place, something that will reduce the hyper-centralization of state and society and allow diversity to emerge.

            “It is very complicated to pull an individual out of war,” the sociologist concludes; “but it is still more difficult to pull war out of individuals.” Doing so may require both radical tectonic shifts brought on by a defeat in war or some other development and long-term shifts in public attitudes as well.

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