Just like the USSR, Russia heading towards disintegration
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The "Putinian" man is the current unhappy version of "homo sovieticus." Russians with no more hope for the future, except in the apocalyptic version of Orthodoxy. Putinian violence is the "Russian national characteristic," its true ideology.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - December 25 marked the 31st year since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, imposed by President Yeltsyn of the Russian Republic on an impotent Mikhail Gorba─Źëv, who had lost all control over the empire's structures after the summer coup attempt by the KGB.

Putin's 10-month war in Ukraine has suggested to many commentators a comparison between the end of the USSR and that of Russia, which seems destined to disintegrate in turn.

One of the most influential independent journalists still at large in Russia, Andrei Arkhangelsky, published his reflections on that anniversary on the Radio Svoboda website, speaking of the current condition of "the Putin man," a current and unhappy version of what used to be called "homo sovieticus."

He recalls that in the early 2000s public opinion was impatient with respect to the memory of 1991, "as far as we still have to talk about Soviet times and its tragedies," leaving this topic to the dissertations of historians.

"And here at last a new life has begun," the journalist writes, "only it is a non-life, as the philologist Mikhail Epstein puts it." The year that ends was "the bloodiest in all of post-Soviet history," and it makes memories of Soviet affairs relevant again: the invasion of Ukraine "is as Soviet as one can imagine." History returns to the starting point, and the "new Russia" is now over, to begin a dark phase yet to be imagined.

As Arkhangelsky recalls, in 1994 Russia's leading sociologist, Jurij Levada, observed that "the USSR no longer exists, but Soviet man continues to reproduce," and this statement "proved prophetic."

This is a lesson for all the "sovietologists and cremlinologists," who argued how the Soviet experience could be "healed by natural methods," through economics, overcoming totalitarian ideology, and advancing democratic institutions that give citizens freedom of choice.

Instead, "Soviet-ness" did not dissolve, but was transfigured into a new form of life, the Putinian one: "The first 10 years it was preserved by inertia, then Putin revived it, bringing it back out of the underground where it was surviving in a somnambulistic form," Arkhangelsky explains.

For the columnist, "Putin's regime has created nothing new, neither ideology nor narrative nor principles, it has only given a way of expression back to an inanimate being."

The Putinian man was now divorced from reality and the world, he is a "local, reclusive man, unlike the broader variants of the 'Khruschevian' and 'Brezhnevian' man, who sought the world around him."

He is a "naked Soviet man," with no more roots and no more hope for the future except in the apocalyptic version of Orthodoxy, also a remnant of the Soviet legacy.

One is reminded of the Russian proverb that Putin uttered just before the invasion of Ukraine: "You like it or you don't like it, patience my beauty!" (nravitsa, nie nravitsa - terpi, moja krasavitsa!). The phrase is incomprehensible to Westerners and its true meaning is clear "only to those who grew up in Soviet schools and backyards."

The implication is the justification of rape, indeed a paean to violence as such, which "is justified with dimensions of historical and moral order; it is the code of violence that we see at work these days."

Putinian violence is thus Russia's "national characteristic," its true ideology, which is spread by the pounding propaganda in which "rape is accomplished with words." The post-Soviet experience was traumatic because Russians had to rediscover and redefine themselves, unlike all other countries and especially Westerners, who did not undergo "telluric shocks of self-consciousness."

Instead of creating a new man in a new world, the old man has reasserted himself, rabidly trying to turn the world back to what it was before.