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For a New Russia : Putinism Part I (2000-2016)

Before beginning the important axes of reflection on the Revolution that must be accomplished, we must still define this system in which Russia lives today: Putinism. There is no doubt that Putinism today constitutes a new version of fascism in the 21st century. But what is surprising is that it is not really a faschims of conviction but more an opportunistic fascism.

To describe the evolution of Putinism, it seems important to me to first study the definition of fascism itself before studying the characteristics of Putinism over the past decades.

Definition of Fachism

There is no precise definition of what fascism is. Moreover, many different versions of fascism have existed over the past century (from Adolf Hitler's Nazism to Francisco Franco's fascism). But all versions of fascism have several points in common:

  1. Cult of the leader

  2. Confusion between the figure of the leader and the Nation itself

  3. Victimization (the fact that the present difficulties of the State and the people are not the result of complex problems but on a conspiracy coming from abroad and a “fifth column” of traitors or a group of scapegoats)

  4. Nostalgia and promise of reconstruction of a lost Greatness (and very often an illusory one because it never existed)

  5. Substitution of the truth with lies in all the official media through propaganda

  6. The idea that nationals are different from other peoples and above all that they are superior to others

  7. Political police that crushes all resistance to power

  8. Presence of an oligarchy that supports the regime (because they do not wish to lose their monopolies via the game of free competition specific to a democratic regime)

We can still find other elements but these seem to me to be the most important to remember.

Putinism (2000-2016)

When he came to power, Putin wanted to be seen as Yeltsin's logical successor on the ideological level. He wanted to be seen as a pro-democratic liberal but with an iron fist to confront the problems that beset Russia (War in Chechnya, terrorism, economic crisis, weakening of the state).

Thus one could conceive of Putinism as a transitional movement between the authoritarianism which had preceded it for centuries (tsarist imperialism and communism) towards a true liberal democracy which was to arrive by 2010. Most liberals and democrats were therefore favorable to Vladimir Putin because he embodied a compromise that was intended to be temporary. This compromise, moreover, seemed to be honored when Dmitry Medvedev (a pure liberal at the time) succeeded him as president in 2008. Moreover, everything seemed coherent because Putin had resigned from his post as colonel of the KGB shortly before the fall of the USSR and had joined one of the fathers of democracy in Russia, Anatoly Sobtchak, mayor of Saint Petersburg and a close ally to Yeltsin. Putin indeed seemed to be that strange half-Democrat, half-KGB agent creature who embodied the synthesis of the 1990s.

Moreover, when Putin began to sort out the problems facing Russia in the year 2000, he emerged as the providential man Russia needed. He brought security back to the streets, he put an end to a bloody war in Chechnya (even if in fact he turned this war into a butchery and helped to create it), he rebuilt the honor of Russia. It was difficult not to be swept away by the enthusiasm of the 2000s (driven by an economic boom linked to the price of hydrocarbons).

But in retrospect, we can already see the foundations of the authoritarianism that was to come being put in place at this time. As soon as he came to power, Putin did everything possible to ensure the sustainability of his regime by bringing the country's oligarchy into the ranks, controlling television and securing his re-election.

So what was this Putinism from the years 2000 to 2016? In a word, opportunism.

For indeed, nothing defines Vladimir Putin's politics better than opportunism. He has no real political convictions. He easily went from atheistic communism, to tolerant liberal democratic values, to religious fanatic fascism. Not because he has changed, but because for him that seems to be the position to adopt at a given point.

As the investigations carried out by Alexei Navalny and his teams have shown, the real conviction of Vladimir Putin and his acolytes is money. Since the fall of the USSR there has only been one tried and true maxim : “get rich”. Get rich by any means, including theft, including Corruption at the highest level. Worthy of a wild capitalism reminiscent of the Far West, money allows you to do what you want and to be untouchable.

So the truth is there. Putin succeeded in reaching the top of Olympus in 2000, and to guarantee his power he solved the problems facing Russia and then placed his relatives in all strategic positions, both political and economic. Thus the rampant corruption of the 1990s became the very policy of the central administration of the State and of the Presidency. Putin's goal therefore became to be the richest man in Russia (and even the world) with a view to becoming untouchable and above everything, to become a new Tsar.

The rest (i.e. politics) had to be settled so that no one would notice the deception. It was therefore necessary to take the most logical and obvious position to survive. If one had to be liberal, the discourse would be liberal, if one had to be Europeanist, the discourse would be Europeanist. It doesn't matter what idea is advocated in the political arena, as long as it allows you to stay in power and continue to steal. And the deception worked well since many Russians are convinced that Putin has put an end to the corruption of the 1990s and that he himself is above suspicion. If there is corruption in Russia today (and it is everywhere!) it's because Putin doesn't know about it (so many Russians think).

But how could it be otherwise? With billions of dollars, it is not complicated to hire exceptional communicators who will bombard the brains of the population day and night with documentaries and television reports (while information to the contrary will either be suppressed or discredited) to convince the people that they are not robbed by the power in place.

But this dynamic changed in nature after the events of 2014. Of course, there are several key events that took place between December 2013 (Euromaidan), February 2014 (return from Crimea) and March 2014 (beginning of the Donbass conflict). We can also go back further with the events of 2011 (massive demonstrations in Moscow against power) or 2012 (Putin's return to the Presidency). But the real turning point in my eyes is in 2016. Because it was in 2016, with the support for Donald Trump's candidacy in the United States, with the implementation of laws strongly inspired by the Orthodox Church and with the strengthening of the FSB means that the nature of power changes in Russia. Then began a long process that brings us to today's situation.

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