Putin regime has long had an ideology – Great Power Imperialism — Pavlova says

Putin's Russia - militarized and ready for imperialist aggression all over the world (Image: TTOLK.ru)

Putin's Russia - militarized and ready for imperialist aggression all over the world (Image: TTOLK.ru) 

2016/05/31 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

Far too many people in Russia and the West are prepared to accept the notion that Moscow does not have an ideology because it has not promulgated a written doctrine, but in Russia, Irina Pavlova argues, it is actions not words that matter – and the former show that Vladimir Putin’s regime has had an ideology for a long time.

Irina Pavlova, Russian historian

Irina Pavlova, Russian historian

That ideology, the US-based Russian historian says, is best encapsulated in the Russian word “velikoderzhaviye,” which one can translate into English as “great power chauvinist imperialism” and has broad popular support among Russian elites and the Russian people.

This ideological position is “traditional Great Russian chauvinism cleansed from communism and clothed in Orthodox dress.” In this form, Pavlova says, “it unites the powers that be, the elite, including the liberal wing … the people of Russia and even a significant portion of progressive society” beyond the borders of Russia.

According to this ideology, she continues, “Russia is surrounded by enemies and must assert its status in the world as a great power.” That is a position an overwhelming portion of the Russian population supports and hence backs the regime. It is why one can say, “’scratch’ a Russian and you’ll find a great power chauvinist.”

Vladimir Putin visiting Karyes, the Orthodox enclave of Mount Athos. The above photo, of Putin standing at an ancient throne alongside Greek officials and Orthodox dignitaries, was described by various Russian news outlets, both within the country and abroad, as Putin standing at a place which had until now been reserved only for Byzantine emperors. (Image: life.ru)

Vladimir Putin visiting Karyes, the Orthodox enclave of Mount Athos. The above photo, of Putin standing at an ancient throne alongside Greek officials and Orthodox dignitaries, was described by various Russian news outlets, both within the country and abroad, as Putin standing at a place which had until now been reserved only for Byzantine emperors. (Image: life.ru)

This concept has its roots in the notion of “Moscow as the third Rome,” which was invented by the monk Philophey in the early 16th century. “Over the course of centuries, this idea was transformed into an ideology, and today it is completely justified to speak already about Russian fundamentalism.”

According to Pavlova, the idea has four main aspects:

  • The view that the Russian people is the bearer of a special morality and a special feeling of justice
  • The denial of the spiritless West as a model of social development
  • The vision of the future of Russia as an empire
  • Certainty about its special historical mission.

As in Soviet times, she points out, “the Russian authorities today are ready to carry the values of their civilization to the rest of the world. Whether the world needs these values, [of course], is another question entirely.”

And while Pavlova does not mention it, the bombastic quality in which this ideology is expressed is the flip side of a fundamental insecurity among Russians about their place in the world. One indication of that is the obsession of the Russian media with what the rest of the world is saying about Russia.

Every week “Kommersant-Vlastpublishes statistics on how many media outlets beyond the borders of Russia have mentioned Russia during the previous seven days. Last week, this figure was 1.24 percent. To gain some perspective on the insecurity this highlights, imagine the New York Times or the Washington Post doing the same on a regular basis about mentions of the US in foreign media.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • anonymous

    The ideology here is mere propaganda. The difference is that leaders with ideology are not criminals who use the ideology to propagandize populations. None of the leaders of Russian have any ideology. They are criminals who have stolen trillion plus dollars from their population Their goal is never to be punished for their crimes. The population is there victim and the ideology is an attempt at control of the population. Not one of the leaders of Russia has any belief in this ideology. They are criminals.

  • Terry Washington

    If this article is correct, then “Putinism”(if such a thing exists) is doomed to fail- the day of Empires is as outdated as the bustle, clipper ships and white primaries(in the US)!

  • Czech Mate

    To me this partly explains why the ruSSkies who fled Putin to West have never openly critised his regime in big numbers, never apologized for attacking Georgia and Ukraine.

    Their inbred complex of inferiority and craving for “respect” plays a major part here.

    • Alex George

      True. Their children will grow up normal, if they get a western education with other western kids.

  • Volker Trauth

    <> Ah, this is why the crooks reign in Russia and have everyone killed, disowned and deported and why they have a mock jurisdiction doing show processes for the leadership upon demand. And we, the West, are so ‘spiritless’ to point at it with our finger and criticise ‘mighty upper-morale Russia’. Oh we are so decadent… :)

  • Volker Trauth

    <> Many of Putin’s actions are directed at getting attention from the U.S., as he is so eager to be perceived as superpower (which he isn’t) and return to a face-to-face competition (which he undoubtedly must lose) with the U.S., while telling everyone at home by his state media the West is in agony, soon collapsing (which of course isn’t true). Putin craves for recognition like a hampered child with tons of crazy ambitions, but he will never get it. Now lesser so than ever before, after his crimes. He can play the mighty imperator as he likes, behind he will always be the Leningrad backyard thug and KGB operative with all bad socialisation necessarily coming from it. I just keep hoping someone from his entourage buries him before he goes one step too far.

    • Oknemfrod

      >…behind he will always be the Leningrad backyard thug and KGB operative<

      "Oh a Servant when He Reigneth is more than ever slave." – Kipling.

  • Alex George

    Its very similar to the end of the Ottoman empire.

    By the latter half of the 19th century, the decline was evident, yet many believed that the Ottomans would last simply because they had been there so long. Yet it was all so ramshackle that something was going to pull it down. As it happened, the Porte picked the wrong side in WWI, and the French and British gleefully carved off the bits they wanted (Iraq for its oil and Palestine/Syria to be terminals for the pipelines) and the whole system collapsed. Thus the huge Ottoman empire became just Turkey.

    In the same way, the huge Russian Federation seems destined to implode and become a much smaller rump of Russia, probably just the western bits.

  • Bryan See

    Irina, you might be missing something here about what Putin’s ideology has to do with the Earth, our species and the Solar System – renaming them under one name which rules them all, and that is Putin. Earth = Sun (Sol) = Putin. Solar System (Sol System) = Putin System.

    And don’t forget: the other “foreign” languages under Putin’s vision – the extinction of them, leaving the Russian language (also known as Putin) as the only one. Corruption, terrorism, criminality and lawlessness are the way of life. And those who born in the first half of the 1900s will consider superior to every younger generation.

    BTW, there are one last question: Why do Russia consider China and the other world other than the West as enemies?