Putin Personality Cult Stabilizes Russia But Only As Long As He Lives – OpEd


Putin’s cult of personality, Vladimir Pastukhov says, “is not only the main but apparently the only political institution in Russia that is fully operational and that has been gradually pushing all the other mechanisms for maintaining public order there to the sidelines.”

“It is not Putin that performs this role, but the myth about him, the view of the pupation that he is the embodiment of ‘Russianness,’” the London-based Russian analyst says. And in that sense, “the attitude toward him is purely religious, for some, he is the Christ; while for others, he is the anti-Christ” (echofm.online/opinions/mif-o-putine).

 Thus, “Russia has long been a theocratic state in which the cult of Putin is the main state religion,” Pastukhov says. “In this state, faith in Putin rather than in Orthodoxy is the main spiritual bond, a heresy with obvious signs of ideology.” And “Putin’s main achievement has been the privatization and use of religious feelings.”

“It is this achievement which makes him Teflon-like and thus invulnerable to criticism.” But it also makes war especially important because for him and his regime, “war is a dual use technology: it is both a consequence of the Putin cult and the most powerful booster of that cult at one and the same time.

According to Pastukhov, “the sacredness of Putin’s figure has reached critical levels, comparable only to the idolatry of the Stalin era. The country is rule not by Put but by his image. And in this sense, legends about doubles have a certain foundation: few people care about the real Putin as long as he remains alive.”

This is a useful state for the regime, he continues, “but only for as long as the real Putin does exist. As soon as he is gone, it will immediately have the opposite effect. You cannot create a new false god in a couple of month; and without such a God, Russia, it would appear, can no longer exist.”

As a result, “the process of transferring power to an heir promises to be very turbulent,” Pastukhov predicts. “The cult o Putin has turned into a giant magic bubble, the collapse of which can lead to the formation of a black hole capable of sucking Putin’s elites into it completely and thus creating a power vacuum.”

If that happens, then expectations about ‘a third Rome’ will turn into the coming of ‘a Third Time of Troubles.’” 

And Pastukhov concludes: “The unique stability of the current political regime in Russia has a simple explanation: the religious faith of the people in Russia blocks any doubts and prevents revolts. Power thus is stable as long as this sleep of reason continues, but everyone needs to remember that out of such a sleep, monsters are ready to arise.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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