Vladimir Putin’s life mission has been accomplished
14:25, 10.01.2023. Leonid Gozman
Леонид Гозман, специально для «Новой газеты. Европа»
Putin himself probably thinks that his mission is to win against the US, establish a new world order, in which Russia will be the main player, etc. But he is wrong. His mission was to destroy Russia. And he succeeded. Now, he can leave in peace.
In truth, that was the only thing he managed to achieve, nothing else. A declining economy, worsening demographic situation, deepening technological backwardness, all-encompassing hypocrisy — these are the achievements of Putin’s reign. The list could go on for a long time. With war and mass murder being the pinnacle of the achievements.
But when it comes to Russia — yes, he did destroy it. The country we were born and grew up in does not exist anymore.
And the world no longer sees the country with which it cooperated and collaborated; there is only a territory that poses a threat: and the world needs to unite against it.
A country is not just a territory, it is something bigger. The territory will remain no matter what, as will most of the people: even today, it is not the majority of Russians who are fleeing. A country is the culture, way of life, self-identity, an image it represents in the world. A country is the connection of the present to the past — succession. It is the connection of the future to what is happening today and to what went on in the past.
Our country had already disappeared once before — it was destroyed by the Bolsheviks. After the 1917 October Revolution, a territory remained where madness was afoot, but it no longer had any connection to Russia, its culture, or its history, except for maybe, to its darkest moments — like the reign of Ivan the Terrible.
The territory was a rejection of both Russian culture and its history, it killed and exiled those who had symbolised the country of before, it consigned to oblivion and distorted the images of those who had died before its conception in 1917. Then, it spent decades trying to painfully revive itself — but it never was reborn entirely.
Something very similar has happened now. Up until recently, the word Russia was associated with both good and bad. Dictatorship, Stalin, prison camps, but also Russian culture, space breakthrough, Victory. But all of that is in the past. As did once the words Germany and German associate not with Goethe or great German scientists but with the SS, the mad Führer, and ovens in Auschwitz and Treblinka, so does today the adjective Russian carry in itself only death, destruction, aggression, and lies. And that will not change soon!
There is no longer a country. Not only was everything we had been building since the end of the eighties destroyed. There is no Russian culture. Yes, La Scala’s season opened with a Mussorgsky and Chekhov’s plays are being put on all over the world. But if before behind these names stood something called grand Russian culture, now Pushkin or Tchaikovsky exist as if by themselves, they are not connected to any culture. They exist, but behind them there is only emptiness.
There is no more Russian army — there is a dangerous armed group sowing death in Ukraine. An army defends its country, it does not bandit in a neighbouring one with no goal, except for realisation of ambiguous fantasies of the person number one. A modern army is united instead of composed of warring independent units. A modern army has discipline — sometimes things happen, but rapists and murderers get punished instead of rewarded with a city to loot or honorary titles to divisions of criminals. There is no army.
Behind the word Russia, starting from the times of Peter the Great, stood the image of a military power. Putin has now shown the entire world that no such power exists. That is dangerous even from the point of view of the security of the territory that up until recently used to be Russia. The Winter War (when the USSR attacked Finland), unsuccessful for Stalin, was one of the reasons Hitler decided to invade the USSR — why not attack if the Red Army is weak?
Our government, of course, invented the threat coming from NATO, but the potential threats of China or Taliban are quite real. Their divisive actions towards the cross-border territories have now become more likely. The world used to consider Russia a military power, but now, no matter how many cartoons about a miracle weapon you broadcast or how many parades you throw, there is only a territory accessible to any aggressor.
Actually, there is no president in Russia either. And I am not talking about his lack of electoral legitimacy. A president, king, or sultan — that is someone who supports order (not necessarily a constitutional one but some kind of order) and communicates with the outside world and their own country. Order, just like the Constitution, has been gone for a long time — fires, pipes with faecal matter bursting, not fulfilling any of their obligations (posting official statements made by the government a few years ago will soon be punishable by prison sentences for the discreditation of the state). And Putin refuses to communicate. He did not, for example, give an address at the G20 Summit — even though it was a great opportunity to explain to the entire world that the world is in the wrong and he, Putin, is right about everything. He does not want to communicate with his people, too — he cancelled the [annual] press conference and the constitutionally stipulated Address to the Federal Council, cancelled the New Year’s reception at the Kremlin — he does not even want to communicate with his “most trusted”.
There is someone giving orders from the Kremlin or from some bunker located in the parts unknown, but there is no president.
This has happened not only to us. I understand that comparisons between Putin and Hitler as well as our government of today and the Third Reich are too obvious, are surface level, and so, many have grown tired of them. Ilf and Petrov (Soviet prose authors who wrote together, famous for their books The Twelve Chairs and Little Golden Calf — translator’s note), in case they both came up with the same joke, did not use it. But this is not a joke! This is how things are — look at how amazingly similar the situation is, both the actions and the rhetoric. Our country currently resembles Germany of 1944 more than anything — military loss of Hitler was yet to come but Germany and German culture, what the world had understood for centuries these things to be, were already gone.
However weird it is, this is an optimistic analogy. Germany was reborn. Maybe, we could be, too. Although there are no guarantees.
Not long ago, Putin said during the Valdai Forum: “Why would we need a world with no Russia in it?” Such a world — with no Russia in it — now exists thanks to Vladimir Putin’s efforts in 2022.