A double-headed imperial eagle on the gates of the former main residence of the Russian tzars, the Hermitage Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia (Image: Wikipedia)
A major source confusion about Vladimir Putin and his intentions is that the Russia he has been promoting for export is very different from and even at odds with the Russia he says he favors at home, according to Russian commentator Aleksey Shiropayev.
In many ways, he argues, “Putin’s Russia is in truth a two-headed eagle”:
- As far as foreigners are concerned, it is a right-wing project, focused on traditionalism, nationalism and authoritarianism.
- But for “internal consumption,” Putin is promoting “a ‘restoration’ of the Soviet system.”
However, Shiropayev continues,
“Putin’s neo-Sovietism, unlike Brezhnev’s times, is actively being freed from a social component. Sovietism today is in a pure form a system of the retention of power by a clan, a system of total control over the population, and in practice total agitation and propaganda that play on Soviet mythologies.”
Because the foreign and domestic “Putinisms” are fundamentally at odds, he continues, occasionally they come into conflict as they did last week following the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. If the Kremlin had wanted to promote its foreign and right of center views, it would have denounced Castro as a dictator much as Donald Trump did.
But that isn’t what happened. Instead, Russian television expressed its grief “together with ‘all’ Cubans” because “the myth about Castro is part of the general Soviet mythology which as in the past has defined the mass Russian consciousness. Therefore, the authorities couldn’t and did not want to part company with this myth.”
Shiropayev expresses his conviction that this won’t be “the last instance” when “the ‘right of center’ image” Putin has carefully cultivated abroad will be sacrificed to the imperatives of maintaining the particular kind of neo-Sovietism at home that the Kremlin leader has even more carefully cultivated.
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