Does Putinism Even Exist? Experts Disagree

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 16, 2019)

Vladislav Surkov’s recent article has sparked discussions in Russia as to the nature of Putinism and even whether Putinism as an ideology and praxis even exists. Kazan’s Business-Gazeta surveyed eleven Russian and Tatar experts. Their answers capture a large part of this discussion (business-gazeta.ru/article/413672).

  • Yevgeny Minchenko of the International Institute for Political Consulting, says thatVladislav Surkov file photoPutin as a judo master has not ideology. And Surkov’s asserting that he doesn’t is “the only phrase” in his article with which one can agree. “Putin would be very surprised if he were called a Putinist.” Putin came with the desire to “save Russia” and he has tried out various means to do so, discarding those that didn’t work. He has no master plan.
  • Viktor Minin, a political technologist, agrees. Putin does not have an ideology but continually maneuvers, seeking to protect himself and his country. “He retreats like Kutuzov and wins time. But there hasn’t yet been a Borodino and therefore no decisive battle so far.”
  • Maksim Kalashnikov, a futurologist commentator, disagrees. He says Putinism consists in “the preservation of an economy based on the export of raw materials and stagnation in scientific-technical development, the shift of the economy in whatever way will support war and the enrichment of the elite, support for the security agencies as the core of the state, the destruction of courts and legislative bodies, and the promotion of feudalism which involves “first the degradation of the masses and then of the rulers.” Even the ethnic Russians, the state-forming people, have been reduced to second-class citizens. “Naturally, there is no ideology of the future.”
  • Vladislav Zhukovsky, an economist, says that Surkov has offered nothing new. He is simply trying to attract the attention and praise of his boss. Everything in his article is propaganda and political manipulation to try to suppress any protest. But whether Surkov and his bosses like it or not, the oppressed people are beginning to wake up.
  • Mikhail Veller, a writer and commentator, says that Putinism is usually associated with negative things – economic decline, increasing repression, and harsh conflict with the West. Surkov has tried to capture the term and include within it only good things – the territorial integrity of the country, the spiritual firmness of is people, and Moscow’s opposition to the decaying West. But in fact, all Surkov offers is a more sophisticated version of Vyacheslav Volodin’s suggestion that Russia exists as long as Putin does because without Putin, there will be no Russia. There is no reason to take his arguments seriously.
  • Valentin Katasonov, an economist, says that Putinism is generally used by Russia’s opponents as the functional equivalent of Hitlerism. Surkov wants to change that, but what he is talking about does not constitute an ideology.
  • Iskander Izmaylov, a Tatarstan historian, says that Surkov’s words are “a quite ordinary edition of the much-ballyhooed principle of ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.” It thus turns out “that the ideology of Putinism is a return to empire and to imperial ambitions,” something very far from the constitution or worldwide trends. Empires are not going to be the future of humanity. And Surkov is deceiving himself about the people. The Russians in 1917 began on their knees before the little father tsar but then they rose up and shot him together with his unhappy family.”
  • Viktor Yerofeyev, a writer, also says there is “nothing new in Putinism or in Surkov’s essay either. In general, this is a repetition of Alexander III and Pobedonostev with a certain addition of Stalinism.”
  • Marat Bikmullin, head of the Information Systems company, says that “Putinism is whneparliament and all organs of power become imitations, although wars remain real.” As such, “this policy has no future.” Putin was fine for a recovering state but he should have left the scene long ago. “The moor has done his work; the moor can go.”
  • Marsel Shamsutdiinov, a Tatar leader of the Parnas Party, says that Putinism is nothing more than the latest edition of feudalism.
  • And Pavel Smakov, head of the SOlNTse School, says that Putinism encompasses what Putin does. It consists of a harsh centralized rule. “I like democracy,” Smakov says; “but it doesn’t work. With us, a harsh system which rules an enormous country and which works so that all will submit does. Without popular risings, scandals and conflicts.”

[Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/02/does-putinism-even-exist-experts.html]