Sunday, July 9, 2017

Shouldn’t we worry about the president’s infatuation with Vladimir Putin?

First of two parts:

I will refrain from answering the question until the end of the second part of this entry.  Instead, I will refer the reader to a brief historic glance at Russia and Putin.  A close reading of current periodical literature is not reassuring.  And that leads to another question – why? Let me describe the many reasons.

A brief look at the current literature about Russia and Putin:

Peter Savodnik writes in an article first published in Vanity Fair that the danger Russia and Putin pose to the USA had its origin in the Westernization of Russia by Peter the Great. *  He also states that Russian history after 1725 has been a series of attempts to go back to the “old Russia,” an idealized past in which the nation was united, a large family of kindred kingdoms, Eastern in nature rather than Western.  A corollary to that process is the violence wrought by Peter’s Westernization of Russia and the attempts since to slide back into this "Eastern" past.  Savodnik leaves out the actual reason for Russian Eastern identity, the Mongolian conquest of the “Rus,”a large set of kingdoms in the 13th century.  That conquest inserted the Eastern identity, removing Russia from Western Europe at a time when the continent was leaving feudalism behind and developing into modern nation states.  Later when the Tsar’s unified Russia under one flag, Savodnik believes the stage was set for a conflict within the Russian national psyche, an equivocacy that lives on to this day.  However, to say that polysemy is the sole cause of Putin’s aggression is inaccurate because there are so many more causes for his and the Russian people’s desire to dominate Europe and possibly the world.  Among those are the following.  First, the feudal nature of the Russian system that survived well into the Twentieth Century.  Second, the angst over the lost Romanov Empire’s participation in international affairs as a dominant force, and later the Soviet Union’s - an empire of greater extant than Tsarist Russia - dominance in world affairs is a driving force within the Russian nation.  Additionally, the violence (assassinations and murder) that Peter the Great (1672-1725) used to introduce Western culture into the political structure and social order of the state maintained and accentuated a pattern of violence in Russian political history.  That pattern continued through the Bolshevik Revolution and the assassination of the Tsar’s Family and much of the Russian aristocracy, followed by Lenin’s Marxist government, the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922 and finally, Stalin’s brutal conversion of Russia from a peasant society to a modern industrial Superpower during which millions died (1929 – 1953).  Today, Vladimir’ Putin’s purported assassination of his adversaries, his aggression in Ukraine and his enabling Syrian dictator Assad in the mass murder of his own people, his cyber attack on the political process in Western democracies including our own is but a continuation of a violent history of conquest, and revolution that is built into the Russian psyche.  It is also much more than that, and I will turn in the second part of this essay to Putin himself and his role in contemporary Russian history.


* “The Secret Source of Putin’s Evil: The Brothers Karamazov,” Savodnik, Peter, Vanity Fair,  (January 10, 2017) Viewed 10:29 Am EDT, Saturday, July 8, 2017.

“How Peter the Great Modernized Russia, Cheney, Ian, in Construction,  Copyright 2017, Viewed 1:56 PM EDT, Saturday, July 8, 2017.

Anisimov, Evgenii V. (2015) The Reforms of Peter the Great: Progress Through Violence in Russia (Routledge)

“Joseph Stalin,” staff,  Published 2009, viewed  3:24 PM EDT, Saturday, July 8, 2017.