Archive for December 2014
Their world is monochrome – divided into “us” and the enemies. They treat criticism as betrayal, they reject otherness as subversion. They attack in packs, but when left on their own, they are pathetic. Their span of attention is extremely short, which means their heroes can instantly turn into enemies and visa versa. When they argue, they put words into your mouth, then proceed with deconstructing the arguments they’ve invented themselves.
This is of course people who comprise the core of Putin’s regime – but many others, too. This psycho type is not endemic to Russia, so you find same people in the Ukrainian “couch battalion” – people who “fight” Russia by posting xenophobic comments in social networks, as well as among hawkish tea party right-wingers in America and terrorist-loving left-wingers in Europe.
There is no commonly used word for them, but there are two well-known Russian words that describe them best. One is Bolsheviks – “people of the majority”. The word emerged during the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. Lenin’s faction was in fact a minority, but it claimed to be the majority, so they dubbed themselves Bolsheviks and the other side – Mensheviks, people of the minority. The Bolsheviks slaughtered the Mensheviks in the Civil War and during the subsequent years of terror.
Another good term is Nashists and it was coined quite recently. The word “nashi” literally means “ours”, but it is best translated as “our guys” or simply “us” – as opposed to “them”, alien people. The main idiom, which contains that word is “nashikh byut”, which means “our guys are being attacked”. If you feel yourself like one of “nashi”, then upon hearing this battle cry you are supposed to run and join the fight, no matter whether “our guys” are right or wrong.
“Nashi” became a political term in the early 1990s, when journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov produced a film, which glorified Riga riot policemen who clamped down on the pro-independence movement and killed several unarmed civilians.
Even though Nevzorov grew into a critic of Putin, the word was later used by Kremlin spin doctors when they were creating the most potent pro-government youth movement. Nashi became Putin’s version of Hitlerjugend and the word Nashism was coined by Russian democrats instantly after the movement emerged.
This word comes very handy in a variety of political situations outside the Russian context. I find it extremely useful.
What a remarkable interview – especially since it appeared on a regional website.
The head of an organization that unites special forces veterans in Yekaterinburg openly talks about his role in sending mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. Vladimir Yefimov calls them volunteers, but admits that they get between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on their rank. “I think people should get paid. They are risking their lives after all. Payments help to attract professionals. They come back with shining eyes – the performed their duty and they are not feeling bitter”, he told E1. He says he helped six groups of 15 to 30 people to reach Donetsk. Two other groups, 30 people in each, went to Luhansk.
Most amazingly, he claims that they travel with “humanitarian convoys” and at least once the Russian Red Cross helped them with papers. “First time they traveled in the guise of Red Cross employees. They received papers from the local bureau. When [the convoy] reached the destination, people stayed. They were given weapons and issued combat orders”, Yefimov says.
It appears to be largely a grassroots initiative, but actively assisted by the state. When Yefimov approached Putin’s envoy to the Urals with a request to institutionalize it, the official refused but thanked him for patriotism.
Yefimov first surfaced during a ceremony in which several people received state awards for fighting in Ukraine. One of them, paratrooper Alexey Zasov was awarded posthumously. The family was not allowed to see the body when his coffin arrived. Relatives were told that he died “while accompanying a humanitarian convoy” in Russia, but soldiers from his unit told them that it happened in Ukraine.
As expected, Ukraine has revoked its non-aligned status, pathing way for potential NATO membership. Adopted by the Ukrainian parliament today, this decision comes right after the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan travelled to Kiev in what looked like a synchronised show of disobedience to the Kremlin.
In losing friends and spheres of influence, Putin is simply genius. Not only has he lost Ukraine, but even fellow dictators, who have joined his Customs Union. are hinting they might ditch him. None of this would have happened, had Russia not invaded Ukraine in March this year. Before the crisis, the majority of Ukrainians was against NATO membership, while both Lukashenko and Nazarbayev felt safer staying in Russia’s shade than being exposed to the Western pressure over their human rights record and treatment of the opposition.
By all means, Putin appears to be a loser. But on the other hand, it might also be the desired result – at least subcosiously. The ring of hostility permanently closing on Moscow is the regime’s raison d’être. By losing allies and territories, the regime proves to its people that they are under siege and in danger, so they should forget grievances and unite around the leader.
The Russian imperial star went through its final red giant stage under the Bolsheviks and turned into a black hole that is swallowing itself and all the matter around it, like black holes normally do. Putin is a suitable person to preside over a lump of self-destroying dark matter.