Like the USSR: Russia towards disintegration

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

Moscow (AsiaNews) – December 25 marks the 31st year since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, imposed by the President of the Russian Republic Yeltsyn on an impotent Mikhail Gorbachev, who after the summer coup attempt by the KGB had lost all control over empire structures. The 10 months of Putin’s war in Ukraine have suggested to many commentators a comparison between the end of the USSR and that of Russia, which seems destined to fall apart in its turn.

One of the most authoritative independent journalists still at large in Russia, Andrei Arkhangelsky, published his reflections on this anniversary on the website of Svoboda Radio, speaking of the current condition of “Putin’s man”, a current and unhappy version of what was called “homo sovieticus”. He recalls that at the beginning of the 2000s public opinion was impatient with the memory of 1991, “although we will still have to talk about the Soviet times and his tragedies”, leaving this topic to the dissertations of historians.

“And finally a new life has begun”, writes the journalist, “only it is a non-life, as philologist Mikhail Epstein affirms”. The year that ends was “the bloodiest in all post-Soviet history”, and makes the memories of Soviet events current again: the invasion of Ukraine “is the most Soviet imaginable”. History returns to its starting point, and the “new Russia” is now over, to begin a dark phase yet to be imagined.

As Arkhangelsky recalls, in 1994 the leading Russian sociologist, Jurij Levada, observed that “the USSR no longer exists, but Soviet man continues to reproduce himself”, and this affirmation “proved to be prophetic”. And this is a lesson for all the “Sovietologists and Kremlinologists”, who argued that the Soviet experience could be “healed with natural methods”, through the economy, the overcoming of totalitarian ideology and the progress of democratic institutions, which give citizens freedom of choice.

And instead “Sovietness” has not dissolved, but has been 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 out of the subsoil where it survived in sleepwalking form,” explains Arkhangelsky.

According to the reporter, “Putin’s regime has not created anything new, neither ideology nor narrative, nor principles, it has only given a way of expressing itself to an inanimate being”. Putin’s man was now detached from reality and from the world, he is a “local, recluse man, unlike the broader variants of the ‘Khrushchevian’ 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 heritage.

Remember the Russian proverb that Putin uttered immediately before the invasion of Ukraine: “You like it or you don’t like it, never mind my beauty!” (nravitsa, nie nravitsa – terpi, moja krasavitsa!). A phrase incomprehensible to Westerners, whose true meaning is clear “only to those who grew up in Soviet schools and courtyards”. The implication is the justification of rape, indeed a hymn to violence as such, which “is justified with historical and moral dimensions; it is the code of violence that we see at work these days”.

Putin’s violence is therefore the “Russian national characteristic”, its true ideology, which is spread by the hammering propaganda in which “rape is accomplished with words”. The post-Soviet experience was traumatic because the Russians had to rediscover and redefine themselves, unlike all other countries and especially Western countries, which have not suffered “earthquakes of self-awareness”. And instead of creating a new man in a new world, the old man has reasserted himself, angrily trying to make the world go back to what it was before.

Like the USSR: Russia towards disintegration