Russia’s New Ideocracy
Under Putinism, Russia is ruled by a sanctified minority that propels the country toward some goal that is fully known only to them. Whatever that goal turns out to be, neither the rule of law nor the hopes of the Russian people is likely to be any match for it.
MOSCOW – “Putinism” has long been a hot topic in the West, where the term – describing the policies and practices of Russian President Vladimir Putin – is generally met with a combination of fear and disapproval. But, among Russia’s ruling elite, Putinism is viewed as a complex and attractive ideology – one that could outlast its namesake.
Putin’s eponymous ideology is less the brainchild of the president himself than of his close aide Vladislav Surkov. As the Kremlin’s chief “ideologist,” Surkov is something of a modern incarnation of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Joseph Stalin’s closest associates and a leading proponent of replacing Leninism with the more “progressive” Stalinism as the Soviet Union’s ideological cornerstone.
Surkov recently described Putinism as a “functioning ideology of the everyday, with all its social innovations and productive contradictions.” In his view, Russians do not need Western-style democracy, because Putin has built a system that understands its people – their needs, desires, and purposes – better than they understand themselves.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one to read two commentaries for free? Log in