Friday, April 07, 2023

7: Putin

Putin’s Second Front The War in Ukraine Has Become a Battle for the Russian Psyche .......... Conforming to the regime and showing support for the “special operation” have now become almost essential to good citizenship. ....... a significant stratum of society—teachers, for example—are forced to participate in public acts of support, such as the patriotic lessons that are now mandatory in schools on Mondays. ........ the infamous case of the teacher who denounced a 13-year-old girl for drawing an antiwar picture: the girl’s father was arrested, and she was placed in an orphanage ........ the Kremlin has been fighting a second war in Russia itself, and this war is unlikely to go away even if the conflict in Ukraine becomes frozen. ....... The regime understands that by creating an atmosphere of hatred and mutual distrust, it can make part of society itself more intolerant of those who oppose Putin and the war. Whereas former Soviet heroes were people like Yuri Gagarin, who was the first to conquer space, now the examples of “heroic” behavior are by members of separatist formations or pro-war bloggers with a criminal past—such as the recently murdered blogger with the pseudonym Vladlen Tatarsky. The war has vaulted these people to the top and turned them into “heroes.” ........... Over the past decade, as his hyperauthoritarian model of government matured, Putin was able to awaken in the Russian public a demand for imperial greatness that had long lain dormant. ........ a qualitative leap in public sentiment came with Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. “That's it. We have become great again!” many thought. ......... An increasingly arbitrary justice system now hands down hefty prison sentences to dissenters, and a public culture of extrajudicial violence is being normalized by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, the paramilitary contractor with close ties to the Kremlin. .......... the regime has proved adept at exporting goods to the east and importing contraband through, for instance, Turkey or some Central Asian countries. .......... Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ...... when Russians are asked which politician they trust the most, Mishustin is now named more often than Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and is second only to Putin. ............. Sure, everyone understands that victory is the goal. But that goal has been pushed so far into the future that it has become as symbolic and distant as the final stage of communism was for several generations of Soviet people. ........ many feel the compulsion to stay in the social mainstream and go with the flow: this is what twentieth-century psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, writing about the social conditions that contributed to fascism, famously called “escape from freedom.” No one wants to be branded an outcast or enemy of the people. .... the ability of ordinary people to accept radically changed circumstances—as long as some elements of normal life can be maintained ........ ordinary Russians continue to show declining interest in events in Ukraine ........... 47 percent admitting that they were paying little or no attention to the war. .......... The Kremlin has conjured a pantheon of true defenders of the motherland, in which the medieval prince Alexander Nevsky, the sixteenth-century despot Ivan the Terrible, and Joseph Stalin sit side by side with the tenth-century Prince Vladimir, the seventeenth-century tsar Peter the Great, and Vladimir Putin. ..........

another path: inner emigration—opting out of the political process—is still an option for many people, as is actual exile.

.......... There appears to be no end to that status either—at least not before the end of Putinism. ........... He has mobilized a lot of people to support the war—in both the social and the military sense. No wonder he considers himself omnipotent. ........... Putin has managed to concentrate enormous power in his hands. But the more power he accumulates, the harder it will be for him to relax and hand over the reins. He cannot afford to liberalize the system or decrease his dictatorial authority. There is only one way left open to him: to cling to power until the bitter end. Putin is in the same position in which Stalin found himself at the start of the 1950s. It was in those late years that the Soviet dictator had to resort to absurd and irrational measures to shore up his power, from paranoid threats to his own closest companions to combating “rootless cosmopolitans” and supporting obscurantist theories in science. For this reason, Putin needs a permanent war with those he deems “foreign agents” and national enemies—his own “rootless cosmopolitans.” It is a war that has to be carried out at home and abroad, whether hot or cold, direct or hybrid. And Putin has to keep moving all the time: stopping is a luxury he cannot afford. ............... when a train has no brakes, it may crash into a wall. It might also simply run out of fuel and grind to a halt. For now, it is full steam ahead—to nowhere, because no one knows where it is going. That includes the driver.

No comments: