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  Putin. Again Putin

Vadim Volovoj, Doctor in Political Sciences
2013 02 04

In Russia the end of the last year was marked by Vladimir Putin’s first (after inauguration) address to the Federal Assembly, and his press conference.

In the address Putin highlighted the nation’s passionarity, spiritual values, sense of national unity and civic engagement. A special emphasis was given to passionarity - the backbone of breakthrough: „ Our task now is to build a rich and prosperous Russia.  I would like all of us to understand clearly that the coming years will be decisive. (...) Who will take the lead and who will remain outsiders and inevitably lose their independence will depend not only on the economic potential, but primarily on the will of each nation, on its inner energy which Lev Gumilev termed “passionarity”: the ability to move forward and to embrace change“, said Putin.

Vladimir Putin quoted Lev Gumilyov, the founder of (neo) Eurasianism. According to his theory of ethnogenesis, all nations are live organisms and pass through the same stages: rise, development, climax, inertial, convolution, and memorial; or revival after a major shake-up. In Russia this shake-up was the fall of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the period of stabilisation has come to an end; Russia needs a breakthrough, but there is no idea or event (like the Great Patriotic War) in the horizon. Without a strategic goal a country could degrade.  

According to Putin, such a goal is spiritual values and geopolitical relevance. He said: „At the beginning of the 21st century, we were faced with a catastrophe of values, with a real crisis of values. (...) Today, Russian society suffers from apparent deficit of spiritual values such as charity, empathy, compassion, support and mutual assistance. A deficit of things that have always, throughout our entire history, made us stronger and more powerful; these are the things we have always been proud of.“

Putin didn‘t give too much of attention to foreign policy but he has clearly defined his position: „ It is absolutely obvious to everyone that the modern world is becoming increasingly multipolar. This creates both risks and opportunities. Risks will prevail when each player plays their own game, if they are not relieved of the illusion that it is possible to manage chaos (you know there is such a theory). (...) Russia must not only preserve its geopolitical relevance – it must multiply it, it must generate demand among our neighbours and partners. (...) We have begun to establish the Eurasian Economic Union, and naturally we will continue to work at this and achieve this goal.“

The morale is: „the bad“ create chaos, but we will become a spiritual and geopolitical reference point and we will celebrate victory.

A traditional Putin’s press conference was full of straightforward questions and funny quotes. Its main theme was the „Dima Yakovlev Bill“, whereas the verdict concerning relations with the U.S. was simple: they are knee-deep in trash and are teasing us on child adoption.  

Everybody was waiting for Putin’s explanations concerning the dismissal of the defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Putin‘s response to the question of journalist Masha (he used the informal version of an adult journalist Maria) was: „It is true that I appointed Mr Serdyukov at the time. (...) I dismissed him because the investigating authorities had reason to question the organisation of the work related to the sale of property and some other issues. (...) I can only assure you that the investigation and the trial will be absolutely objective.“ It was a real surprise to hear from Putin that in the sphere of military reform Serdyukov „took the right direction“. If the court is really objective, the swindlers should  be sentenced to prison: if not in the name of justice, then in the name of Putin‘s authority.

The third relevant theme of the press conference was stagnation and endurance of the system of governance in Russia. According to Vladimir Putin, stability is a wonderful thing, whereas the talks about stagnation are inappropriate: “I cannot call this system authoritarian. I didn‘t change the Constitution to retain the post of President. I simply sidestepped (in fact, he held (temporarily) power of prime minister). When asked about the mistakes, Vladimir Putin said that he didn‘t make any systemic mistakes. These answers demonstrate that Vova (Masha‘s response in kind) perceived himself as the almighty and became slightly inadequate. Therefore it was no surprise to hear his views (expressed with a very serious face) on Russian court system: “ I do not agree with the statement  that we completely lack an independent court system. That is something we do have.“

To sum up, today Putin and (his) Russia arouse double feelings. On the one hand, it wouldn‘t be right to say that everything is bad in Russia (e.g. demographic situation has improved; and Serdyukov would probably be sentenced to jail). On the other hand there still are no hints of passionarity - the backbone of breakthrough.  Is Putin the right person to guarantee success during the breakthrough? The sad thing is that he “makes no mistakes“. But maybe he knows what he does?

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