By Paul Goble
Vladimir Putin is often credited with the propaganda system that not only keeps him in power with extraordinarily high ratings but allows him to set the agenda both in Russia and in some other countries as well. But in fact, Elena Galkina points out, the idea behind it was not Putin’s but Valentin Falin’s and was first put forward in 1988.
In a small comment for Kasparov.ru last week, the Moscow commentator says that the essence of the Putin propaganda system is “to put the TOTALITARIAN propaganda machine in a commcercial basis and to create [a competitive] information and at the same time ideological product” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=56823ABE29660).
This idea was not thought up by Putin or his brain trust, Galkina points out. Instead, it was outlined in detail in a memorandum to Mikhail Gorbachev on October 11, 1988, one of whose authors was Valentin Falin, sometimes called “the Soviet Kissinger and then head of the CPSU Central Committee’s International Department.
Among other things, Falin wrote almost 30 years ago that “it is necessary to sell information. This is the chief vector of the breakthrough … considering the closed nature of our society and the monopoly on information” (e-reading.by/chapter.php/1019539/13/Falin_-_Konflikty_v_Kremle._Sumerki_bogov_po-russki.html)..”
What Moscow needed, Falin said, was “a social-government concern subordinate only to the Central Committee … a cooperative of cooperatives … [and one that should have “daughter firms in every republic and in Leningrad.”
On the one hand, this is an interesting anecdote about someone many still remember as one of the most clever ideologists of the late Soviet period. But on another, it is a reminder of something that many have failed to pay attention to: much that Putin is doing has its roots in the Soviet past.
All too often analysts write about the Kremlin leader’s restoration of Stalinism as if that were a single, clearly-defined thing and fail to consider the entire arsenal of ideas and actions that the Soviet period provided. Galkina is to be thanked for calling attention to one such source of Putin’s conduct. Analysts should be doing more to focus on all the others as well.