Monday, May 16, 2016

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Frontpage Magazine: Czar Putka`s Imperial Delusions

To read the entire item by Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu in the leading American publication Frontpage Magazine, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, kindly click on this link:


A new book unveils the dark world of a brutal tyrant driven by messianic delusions.



Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland (College Park) and author most recently of "The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century" (University of California Press, 2012).
From the article:
In his book "Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin" (Yale University Press, 2013), journalist Ben Judah succeeds admirably in deconstructing the origins, dynamics, and ramifications of the Putin regime, from the early days in Sankt Petersburg, when the teenager "Putka" was a street bully, through the KGB career, to the transmogrification into a supporter of Anatoly Sobchak, the flamboyant advocate of glasnost in the morose city on the river Neva. Not that Sobchak was a choir boy: he rose to prominence in association with the visible and invisible authoritarians in that city and engaged in reckless populism and shady economic deals. He relied on the former KGB lieutenant-colonel Putin and Putin found in Sobchak a man intimately associated with Boris Yeltsin's bid for power, a consistently supportive patron. Judah mentions several times that Putin is fiercely loyal to those who are faithful to him. In fact, he showed this psychological feature in his relation with Sobchak.
In addition to the Sobchak group. Putin benefited from the enthusiastic trust bestowed upon him by the Machiavellian, power-thirsty tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the driving force in the Kremlin during Yeltsin's second, agonizingly inept presidency. What Berezovsky needed, and Putin seemed to offer, was a disciplined, self-effacing, ascetic leader, able to restore a certain sense of hope among the increasingly disillusioned Russians, sick and tired with corruption, cynicism, and rampant plundering of the state. Nothing in Putin's past suggested his cupitdy, greed, even rapaciousness. His KGB past indicated admiration for such paragons of austerity as the Cheka founder, Feliks Dzerhinsky, and the orgaization's head during the persecution of the dissidents in the 1970s, Yuri Andropov. He seemed malleable and, most important, controllable. Berezovsky was terribly wrong, he misread Putin's mind and paid for this huge mistake. Putka was interested in both power and money. He saw the oligarchs as a means to achieve these two objectives. Those who accepted his iron fist continued to thrive. Those who, like Brezovsky, did not understand that Yeltsin's times of senile debauchery were over, were forced into exile. Putin's nemesis, billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, paid with years of labor camp for the reckless ambtion to challenge the new czar. Power for Putin is indivisble and unsharable.
The best chapters in the book deal with Putin's circle and his views on state, history, and Russia's role in the world. Obviously, he is not a sophisticated doctrinaire. His main ideas come from dubious sources such as the maniac of Eurasian imperialism, Aleksandr Dugin. Judah mentions Dugin, but only passingly. In fact, it has been Dugin who articulated, in most virulent terms, the doctrine of imperial conservatism that Putin adopted wholeheartedly. Add to this the bizarre fascination with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's vision of a resurrected Russian empire that would necessarily incorporate the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan. Ironically, the same Solzhenitsyn, a main voice of Soviet dissent in the 1970s, the author of "The Gulag Archipelago," chose to endorse Vladimir Putin as a genuine Russian patriot. He accepted honors from Putin that he had rejected when offered by Boris Yeltsin. The former dissident was thrilled to see the former KGB officer espouse his nationalist ideas and anti-liberal ideals.