(Image: Denis Lopatin, MaximOnline.ru)
Even though the Russian Constitution prohibits a state ideology, Vladimir Putin has made the promotion of patriotism as he understands it essentially that. But despite his much-ballyhooed efforts, there is a wide divergence of views on whether Putin’s patriotism is a good or bad thing.
In the current issue of “Maxim,” Tata Oleinik observes that “a good man should be a patriot but not every patriot is a good man for loving the Motherland is more complicated than loving a woman although somehow everyone considers himself a specialist in both the one and the other.
She suggests that “it is difficult to analyze the state of mind of today’s patriots because there is a big problem as far as terminology goes.” Most patriots don’t think that other patriots in fact are – and given the diversity of their views, one can understand why.
“The real Russian patriot now can sincerely dream of getting rid of half of his fellow citizens, driving the rest into prison, unleashing a nuclear war, blowing up all existing cities, killing dogs, shooting birds, and publishing a decree to beat women and children on the streets … In a word, the extent of their fantasies can be unlimited.”
And that drives one back to the following conclusion, Oleinik says. “’A patriot’ at the present moment is no more and no less than someone who demonstrated unqualified loyalty to the current powers that be.” That of course means that what he supports today, he may have to deny tomorrow unlike more serious patriots of a century ago.
But if one examines the most typical kinds of today’s “’patriots,’” the writer continues, one becomes convinced that despite all the diversity in their views, they have something in common: “the overwhelming majority of them like money, peace and the guarantee of personal security” and don’t like having to sacrifice those for anything, although there are exceptions.
The “Maxim” writer then offers a typology of the 16 most common forms of “patriot” in Russia today:
1. The Statesman. In times like these, Oleinik says, only patriots can be in government: Otherwise, the throne would be nervous and have to send them to Zimbabwe as ambassador. Their faces are typically lined as a result of “the struggle of intellect and circumstances” and they are “forced to lie often.” The smarter they are, the harder this is. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov typifies this category.
2. The Orthodox Patriot. Such people are confident they know “what God wants” and they are ready and eager to share that with others. Their task, as they see it, is to “transform our holy Motherland into a mental-spiritual bastion” in order to protect “the truly Russian soul. Usually they are bearded or, if female, wear modest clothing. They love to be photographed in church. They seldom know much about the Bible or theology and thus are no match for “educated atheists.” Among their number are Vitaly Milonov, Elena Mizulina and Vsevolod Chaplin.
3. The Patriot Duma Deputy. Such patriots are less connected to reality than more senior officials and see their task as attracting attention by making outlandish proposals and statements. They wear expensive clothes of subdued color and always have a picture of Putin in their offices. Among this category are Maksim Shingarkin and Aleksey Didenko.
4. The Patriot on TV. The television patriot, the “main fighter” for the spread of patriotism, is “by definition lacking in any convictions except one: do what you are told today. What you were told yesterday or what you will be told tomorrow does not have the slightest importance.” Ten percent of the population avoids them by not turning on their sets; the other 90 percent is either unprincipled or stupid. “The dream of the leaders is to create an ideal hybrid of the two,” but so far, that has not been achieved. Such patriots have only three intonations: angry, optimistic and sarcastic, “and they can change them several times in the course of a single sentence. They often get drunk after work and apologize to their former colleagues. The archetype of this kind of patriot, Oleinik says, is Dmitry Kisilyev.
5. Patriot Ex Officio. Many of these people have their own opinions, but they value their jobs and their incomes more having mortgages to pay and children to take care of. They prefer not to talk with anyone about their convictions lest they get in trouble. And when they do talk, their “favorite phrase is “’Well, you of course understand…’” They know that if things change, they had best not be on record as having been too close to the ancient regime. Among their number are Aleksandr Bisersov and Aleksandr Bezborodov.
6. The Nashi Youth. There have been so many youth organizations put together by the powers that be that it is best simply to lump them together as “the Nashi youth.” “There is no stupidity to which the participants of this movement will not agree for a modest reward or even for the spectre of such a reward in the future.” Most of these people are from the provinces and are on the make. They are often disillusioned when it turns out there is no money or job for them. Among them are Sveta Kuritsyna and Maksim Pyatnitsky.
7. The Tra-La-La Patriot. These are the artists who know that their careers depend on saying the right things and they do. The problem is that some of the best aren’t willing to do so, and so some of the worst take the cake. Among them are Elena Vayenga, Oleg Gazmanov, and Vika Tsyganova.
8. The Culture Patriot. Consisting of writers, actors, and artists, this group “risks more than the others” because its members have to “think consistently” – and that can get in the way of following the shifting line of what is patriotic and what isn’t. In general, Oleinik says, the less talented people in this category do better than the more talented. Among this group are Zakhar Prilepin, Mikhail Zadornov, and Sergey Lukyanenko.
9. The Anti-Maidan Fighter. Often mounted on a motorcycle, these people are really prepared “personally and with their own hands to beat the cursed liberals so that things won’t be in Russia like they are in Ukraine.” Some of them actually do that, but many of them simply act the part, often coming off as buffoons. Oleinik includes in this camp Valentina Matvienko, Aleksandr Zaldostanov (‘the Surgeon’) and Nikolay Starikov.
10. The Eurasian. Typically older with a philosophical or historical education, given to Slavophilism and reflecting an earlier time as Marxist-Leninists, such people are “imperialists, often anti-Semites, racists, sometimes religious, sometimes communities, and usually having a weak knowledge of foreign languages but considering themselves to be serious scholars.” Such people “love to think in paradoxes and willingly use syllogisms and other demagogic weapons in their arsenal.” Their big problem is that “there are no two Eurasians who have really similar views.” That condemns most of them to “spiritual” loneliness. Aleksandr Dugin is typical.
11. The Orthodox Red Guard. Such people are ready to fight: “Save Holy Rus! Beat the ki…” at least when they are finally asked to. But they want to beat someone. Often these people were Buddhists, radical Islamists or “patients of psychiatric clinics, but then the Lord called them to him. That’s when they read the Bible.” They don’t want to discuss anything; they want to impose their views by force. Among such patriots are Dmitry Enteo and Kirill Frolov.
12. Patriot 88. These people are Russia’s Nazis. They are obsessed with “’purity of blood,’” and they take pride in killing those who have impure blood. They often have swastika tattoos, and they really regret that the powers that be have not come out to back them in all of what they want to do. They have been the most pleased with the Kremlin’s Novorossiya campaign.
13. The Back to the Land Patriot. United by anything from paganism to opposition to genetically modified foods, they are the least willing to fight the enemies of the fatherland because as they see it, the enemies are all around them. They want to live in rural simplicity but they aren’t quite willing to give up their relatives’ city apartments.
14. A Patriot Like Any Other. The most common kind: they are patriots because that is the going thing, and they will evolve as the line evolves. But that doesn’t mean they are always happy. They want Putin to save them from their problems.
15. The Mentally Unbalanced Patriot. These people are simply people who have lost any sense of balance. They will say and quite possibly do anything. The problem is that they may say and do things those trying to exploit them may not like just as often as they do those which the authorities approve of.
16. The Red-Brown Patriot. A convinced communist of one kind or another, such a patriot believes that “communism is the unique invention of a Russian and the only path which a Russian ought to follow.” Such people “are close to the Eurasians but typically more radical than the majority of them.” According to Oleinik, “the majority of national-bolshevik or Christian-communist doctrines call for the destruction of the incorrect population by the millions if not the billions” because that is both natural and required. Among these patriots are Aleksandr Prokhanov and Eduard Limonov.