Saturday, June 24, 2023

Putin Says Prigozhin Revolt ‘Stab in Back’ like in 1917 But Others are Drawing Different Historical Parallels

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – As Vladimir Putin has done so often when discussing the present or future, the Kremlin leader is describing the actions of Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin first and foremost as resembling what Putin sees as “the stab in the back” that revolutionaries inflicted on Russia in 1917 and “stole” from that country a victory in World War I.

            “This is a stab in the back of our country and our people,” Putin says, just like “the blow that was dealt to Russia in 1917” that set Russians against Russians in a vicious civil war, destroyed the army, led to the collapse of the state and resulted in “the loss of vast territories” (

            “We won’t let this happen again,” he continues. “We will protect our people and our statehood from any threats, including internal betrayal … and what we are faced with is precisely betrayal, as exorbitant ambitions and personal interests have led to treason.” Everyone must remember that “any internal turmoil is a threat to our statehood, to us as a nation.”

            And everyone must recognize as well that “all those who have deliberately embarked on the path of betrayal, who have prepared an armed rebellion, used blackmail and terrorist methods, will inevitably suffer punishment and will answer both before the law and before our people,” Putin continued.

            In the still murky situation surrounding the actions of Prigozhin and the Wagner PMC, it is perhaps not surprising that Putin has cast about for an historical analogy to try to make sense of what is going on. But he is far from the only Russian who is doing so – and the analogies other Russians are doing point in very different directions that his favored analogy sggests.

            Among the many that have been offered in the last 24 hours, five are especially intriguing for what they say about where things may be heading in Russia – or at the very least how different many Russians see the situation and its likely outcome very differently than does Putin:

·       A source in the Kremlin says that Prigozhin may be either a Father Gapon, the priest who led the Russian people to the Winter Palace and triggered the 1905 revolution, or he may be the manifestation of the reaching of critical mass of popular unhappiness about the war and Putin’s rule (

·       London-based Russian analyst Vladimir Pastukhov says that Putin forgets in his discussion of Prigozhin that the Kremlin leader is in fact “the main inspirer and organizer of this revolt” given his role in starting the war and then allowing PMCs to play such a large role (

·       Writer Boris Akunin says that what Prigozhin is doing recalls the revolts of General Kornilov in 1917 and the revolts of other generals in 1918 and 1919, events that weakened the state but did not in and of themselves lead to regime change (

·       Residents in Russian cities far from Moscow feel that what is going on is a recapitulation of the events of October 1993 in which Yeltsin fired on the Supreme Soviet but that this time around things will be even worse (

·       And Ivan Zhdanov, a Moscow lawyer, says that people should see that both sides in this fight are horrific and that “the most correct thing military personnel can do now is to stop fighting, go home and defend that both from Putin and from the bandits” and short of that stop doing anything that supports either (


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