Staunton, October 27 – Putinism, Yevgeny Ikhlov says, “is not neo-Sovietism but rather its complete opposite as in a camera obscura in which right is left and the top is the bottom” most obviously in its lack of any project for the future and in its playing at actions that may resemble Soviet ones but that lack their specific content.
Soviet society, the Moscow commentator says, was always about achieving goals. “Everyone participated and recognized themselves as a participant in the pursuit of historical super-tasks which gave specific meaning to their existence.” There is none of that now however much Vladimir Putin talks about goals (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=58119E4C14539).
In Soviet times, “society was both ascetic and focused on opposing the rest of the world.” Sacrifices were justified, Ikhlov continues, because there was no other way to oppose the outside world and promote the Soviet Union and its goals. Putinism might like people to feel the same way, but it has provided no reason for them to do so.
“Putinism in principle is not about ‘projects.’ It is not utopian” but rather a pathetic playing at appearing to have them. Indeed, Ikhlov argues, it is best described as a country not pursuing a utopia but rather one pursuing exactly the reverse: exactly what already exists or that can be achieved with great speed and ease.
Thus, “it simply plays at being the USSR with its anti-cosmopolitan campaign, straining at being a great power, and Brezhnev-style parades.” That can be seen in the case of “the only ‘all-national idea’ of Putinism – Crimea is ours, but it, in a record for all human history, was achieved in a couple of weeks.” Before it happened, no one talked about it.
The rapid increases in Russia’s military spending under Putin have not contributed to the sense of participation and solidarity that similar boosts in spending did in Soviet times, Ikhlov says, because while the masses believe what television tells them about Putin’s triumphs over the West, the elite (or more precisely pseudo-elite) groups have a more adequate understanding.”
And that divide, he suggests, “very much interferes with any all-national consolidation on the basis of state greatness.”
There is a precedent for what Putin is doing, but it is unlikely to be one he would be happy to cite, Ikhlov continues. During World War II, “Stalin played at tsarism having killed the monarchist ideal at the basis of which was aristocratic honor and not just an animal fear before a despot-tyrant.” But even Stalin, it appears, recognized the dangerous limitations of that.