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Ivan the Terrible Resuscitated

View from the Mount

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"Our nation doesn't have and cannot have aggressive aims or imperial ambitions.''

Vladimir Putin

Ivan the Terrible Resuscitated

How Putin will win all future elections!

"We are strengthening and modernizing the armed forces, including the strategic forces, in order to reliably defend the nation,'' Putin said at a reception on the eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day. "`We are not intending to threaten anyone.''

The most famous of all Muscovites was Ivan IV. As the head of a religious civilization, Ivan the Terrible had every aspect of domestic activity ritualized through semimonastic rules of conduct, preserved in a book called the Domostroi. The consequence of this radical monasticization of society was the virtual elimination of secular culture in the course of the sixteenth century. The legacy of Marxism lies in the deeds of Lenin and Stalin. The religion of these tyrants was the State. Vladimir Putin has demonstrated that little has changed in the harsh climate of the Kremlin.

This is Sergei Dorenko’s assessment of recent Russian history. “In his four years at the helm, Putin has neither steered Russia toward or away from democracy -- he has been operating in another dimension altogether. In the Soviet era, there arose dynasties of "caretakers" who controlled the property of the state but never owned it and could not pass it on to their heirs. In the late 1980s, these caretakers began to seize ownership of their factories and companies. They were joined by the so-called young reformers, both those, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Potanin and Boris Berezovsky, who had previously worked within the Soviet system, and the kingpins of the semi-criminal Soviet black market.”

Yes, Virginia; the old line Communist is dead and the neo-collectivist has emerged. Glasnost - openness in public discussions - demands that the world face up to the reality of Russian heritage. If  “Mother Russia” reminiscences with the Tsar dance for a Fatherland celebration, the return of Ivan the Terrible is upon us . . .  The pretext that the proletariat will emerge has long been discredited. Now the model of plutocracy has replaced the fraud of the commissar dictatorship. This money-grubber Domostroi play book has Boris Yeltsin as the poster boy for vodka commercials. The relaxation in regimentation has allowed the peasants to indulge, while the fox pillars the hen house.

The traditions of Russia produced the Soviet regime. Rule from the top is their heritage. Basic civil liberties are virtually unknown and often ridiculed, out of a distorted sense for loyalty and love of country. That “Great Patriotic War” never produced the needed counter domestic revolution. Putin is just the latest extension of the fatherly ‘Uncle Joe’ image, with an excessive appetite for personal control.

How easy it is to fool the West. When George Kennan was in charge of long-range planning for the State Department following World War II, he developed the concept of "containment" as a strategy to keep Soviet influence from expanding. Writing under the pseudonym, Mister X, the cold war was sold as the central focus for decades. Perceptive foreign policy analysis, prior to WW II, understood that the Communist despot would never be an ally. Kennan’s tactics would have been unnecessary, if the reality about communism was faced.

Today the same trance encircles attitudes about Putin. Dorenko’s attentive thesis is well worth reading: “The role of feudal lords is played by governors and big businessmen to whom the president grants the land and/or entire industries that they "feed off" or build their business empires on . . . Putin not only strengthened his hold over the feudal lords, he also strengthened their hold on power in the regions and in the economy.” Ivan eliminated rival centers of power. Now history repeats, again! Invoking "In line with article 117 of the Russian Constitution, I have decided to dismiss the government”, Putin invalidates the forthcoming election. Lord Putin assumes the mantel of imperial rule over his fiefdom.

In a country where constitutions are as rare as competitive elections, would a clear thinking observer want to place their trust in Vladimir; especially when he acts like a “Crazy Ivan”? Those sudden stops and 180 degree reverse courses can upset the equilibrium. Playing chicken with submarines makes good theater, but rejuvenating strategic forces doesn’t fit the mold of containment. Mister X - meets Dr Stranglove, is not our idea of From Russia With Love.

Remember when the President entertained Putin at the Crawford Ranch? Bush made these remarks: "I looked the man in the eye, I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy, and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul." Maybe, glasses are appropriate, since we know that Dubya isn’t a mystic!

Putin may not have committed the same atrocities of Ivan, but his KGB certainly did its best to out do that Tsar. Self containment doesn’t work, when the entire culture is embedded with a totalitarian heritage. Setting up FBI offices in Moscow doesn’t tame the despot. Nor will bribing a class of supra “commie” capitalists bring the reward of peaceful coexistence. Russia will remain a feudal serfdom as long as her people are willing to endure their ill treatment from her autocrats. How sad it is that the Russian Revolution did not end in a “White” reformation of a Christian country.

Ivan was no more repentant when he asked God: “have I the right to kill people for the great Russia?” What do you think is the level of sincerity for a non believer like Putin?

SARTRE - February 26, 2004

Russia needs a strong state power and must have it.
But I am not calling for totalitarianism.
Vladimir Putin

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