Putinism (Review)

Russia seems, to me, to be a dark, mysterious, dangerous, and forbidding place. Perhaps that is so, because I grew up in the midst of the Cold War.  The very taboo nature of the Soviet Union engaged my fascination like the proverbial moth to a flame. Through my studies of Russian history and the information gleaned from my Russian Internet friends, I really want to visit the country.  However, my instincts tell me that if I should ever visit Russia, I will either be sent to a Gulag or murdered on the streets.


This complex personal reflection was reinforced by Walter Laqueur’s new book, Putinism:  Russia and its Future with the West. Perhaps other observers of international politics will have a similar reaction.

I spotted the new book right away in the new releases stack at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library. The photo of the enigmatic leader of the Russian Republic, wearing his trademark sunglasses, seemed to dare me to bring the book home.

Most readers will probably be drawn to this book because of the recent military Putinism-01actions in Crimea and the Ukraine. Many will recall the controversies surrounding the Sochi Olympics, or the very troubling aspect of extreme homophobia across the Russian Republic.

Today’s Russia is nothing like we were led to believe was to develop when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics imploded.  Laqueur reminds us that many, in the West, believed that with the end of the Soviet Union, a freedom-loving liberal democracy would spring forth like a phoenix from the ashes.

Unfortunately, our leaders largely deluded themselves. The US and much of the rest of the West thought that Russia was only a Cold War relic.  That judgement has been not only premature, but very dangerous. Laqueur points out that our urgent mission is to figure out who we are facing, what the Russian politicians want, and why they see us as adversaries. He says we need to come to our senses before its too late.

In this book, Laqueur demonstrates that three, ages old, mindsets of the Russian people continue right now. There is a big sense of manifest destiny regarding Eurasia; a fortress mentality type of xenophobia that remains strong; and the ever present Russian Orthodox Church hold sway over Russians. While the trappings of society have changed, the attitudes of the average Russian have not changed much since the early 20th century.

Walter Laqueur

Walter Laqueur

I was disappointed that Laqueur didn’t write much beyond a few mentions of homophobia in today’s Russia. The very weak shell of the Russian gay community in the nation is a major scapegoat for the Putin regime and the Orthodox Church. Over the top homophobia is also one reason for American conservatives’ fascination with Vladimir Putin. One reason I selected Putinism: Russia and its Future with the West, is that I wanted his take regarding the exptreme oppression of the LGBT community in Russia.  Evidently, that problem was not on Laqueur’s radar screen.

Otherwise, I thought the author wrote a good historical brief as background to today’s political reality in Russia. The book is a sober portrait of what has been and what may well occur in the world’s geographically largest nation. Perhaps Russian xenophobia is well-founded. Laqueur’s assessment of Russia-China relations is eye-opening, as is the extent of ultra-conservativism in the regime.

My take away from this book is that the Russian Republic is a pre-fascist/proto theocracy in its formative phases. Even though I still have a positive interest in Russia and its culture, I’ll be watching destructive developments in that part of the world a bit more closely.  I think that people who care about international relations should read Walter Laqueur’s new book.

{ Putinism: Russia And Its Future In The West by Walter Laqueur; 320 pages; published in July, 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books: ISBN: 978-1-250-06475-2 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “Lack of originality, everywhere, all over the world, from time immemorial, has always been considered the foremost quality and the recommendation of the active, efficient, and practical man.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Controversy, History, Politics, religion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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