MOSCOW – The history of authoritarian rule in Russia displays a certain depressing regularity. Such regimes rarely perish from external shocks or оррosition pressure. As a rule, they die unexpectedly from some internal disease – from irresistible existential disgust at themselves, from their own exhaustion.
Czarist rule withstood many harsh tests during its long history: peasant revolts, conspiracies, and the alienation of the educated class. In January 1917, from his Swiss exile, Lenin noted with bitterness and hopelessness that: “We, the old, will hardly live till the decisive battles of that forthcoming revolution. But…the young maybe will be lucky not only to fight, but finally win in the approaching proletarian revolution.” By the following March, however, Czar Nicolas II was forced to abdicate.
General Secretary Yuri Andropov died in 1984, leaving behind a country cleansed of dissidents. But when in several years one of his former regional First Secretaries, Boris Yeltsin that is, signed a decree banning the Communist Party none of 18 million party members went to the streets to protest.
Today, before our very eyes, Vladimir Putin’s once seemingly impregnable regime may be fading in the same way as its predecessors. In just ten years, Putinism, which was consciously designed by its image-makers as a simulacrum of a great ideological style has run through all the classical stages of Soviet history. Indeed, Putinism now seems like a trite parody of all of them.