PUTIN’S AMBITION TO BE PUTLER
Absurd as it may seem, President Vladimir Putin has laid the framework he thinks will give Russians the impression that Russian nationalism, not Communism was and is the counter-balance to Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism.
During his annual New Year’s address to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin hyped the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Hitler’s Germany’ as Russia’s main event in 2020. The celebrations were supposed to finish in a triumphal National Socialist-type military extravaganza in Red Square that would coincide with the inauguration of a new Christian Orthodox cathedral dedicated to the Russian army on May 9.
Not so fast with the goosesteps. The parade and opening of the church were postponed due to the novel coronavirus. A precious opportunity to rekindle nationalist sentiment was lost. This was tough as the president’s approval rating continues to slump. It is currently at 59 percent, which is a record low.
The building of the armed forces’ cathedral took 17 months and cost around $82m. It was largely funded by the defence ministry and supported by donations.
The bell tower is 75 metres tall to mark this year’s anniversary and the main dome is 19.45 metres wide, reference to 1945. A smaller dome is 14.18 metres high, with 1418 being the number of days the USSR was at war with Germany.
The complex around the church boasts a 1418 step entrance made of Plexiglas with Reich insignia exhibited underneath so that visitors could trample on them the way the notorious Red Army did during the victory parade in 1945.
Puzzlingly, it also contains mosaics of Stalin and communist symbols despite the fact that Stalin, as did all Communist leaders, destroyed Russia’s Christian churches, virtually wiped out every priest and added 70 million martyrs to the blood-stained Soviet toll-call. The interior was supposed to feature a montage of Putin and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu but it was removed after public outcry.
It is all a part of the regime’s project to rally political support for its rule by creating nationalistic symbols to build a war cult that almost amounts to a state religion.
Giving it a spin western media would envy, the Kremlin knows what they are doing when they marry Christian orthodoxy and Russian nationalism. This dogma portrays the current Kremlin leadership as enablers of reconciliation between Russia’s imperial past and the communist era.
Putin has long held the Bolsheviks responsible for destroying the Russian empire and turning Russia into a losing side in World War I. Although Putin and his cultists publicly condemn the Red Terror and encourage its remembrance in monuments and films on TV, they credit the Soviet dictator for rapid industrialisation and especially for winning World War II.
Portraying himself as a reformer who is healing historical wounds allow Putin to frame all those who want him to go, namely the liberal pro-democracy opposition, as extremists sowing civil discord and preparing revolutionary bloodshed.
Meanwhile, the original World War II cult, infused as it was with the spirit of anti-fascism, is deftly changed into a modern nationalist approach. It is increasingly embellished with nationalistic symbolism which focuses on the ethnic Russian majority.
It is problematic for Putin and his cultists to reconcile their new nationalist sentiments given their deplorable histories as Soviet bureaucrats or KGB agents.
As the new approach Kremlin unrolled its xenophobic ideology over the past two decades, it also started embedding it in Russian law, beginning with a 2013 law which criminalises insulting believers.
Recently, Putin put forward constitutional amendments, which would allow him to stay in power beyond 2024 when his current term expires. They also contain a reference to the ethnic Russians as the nation’s founding people, affirm the duty of the state to honour the memory of the motherland’s defenders and the defence of historical truth and goes on to mention ‘our faith in God’. Lifted straight from Mein Kampf.
Ideological operatives have started airing radical far-right views that contradict the official line of Russia being as an anti-fascist hero nation.
Dmitriy Kiselev, a television ‘on message’ presenter recently suggested building a shrine to Russian imperial general Pyotr Krasnov. Yet, the general served under the Reich and hailed Hitler’s pre-emptive attack on Bolshevism as a war of liberation against the communists and the Jews. Another media propagandist Vladimir Solovyev made a movie that appears to be an apology of Italian revolutionary Benito Mussolini.
In 2016, the then culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, unveiled a memorial plaque to Finnish war-time leader Carl Gustaf Mannerheim whose troops helped maintain the Reich’s blockade on Leningrad.
MICHAEL WALSH is a worldwide journalist, broadcaster and author of 64 book titles with 36 years experience. Like other journalists of integrity, he no longer writes for corporate media, opting instead for true journalism.
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