The Kremlin “ideologue” Vladislav Surkov has recently written an article for Nezavisimaya Gazeta called “Putin’s Long State.” It posits that the Putinist system’s power stems from its unique ability to “listen and understand” Russia’s “deep people” – in contradistinction to the “deep states” that control the West beneath their democratic facades. This means that the system will outlast Putin, much as France remains De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic. It is unclear if “deep people” reflects the kremlins’ genuine opinion of their role in Russia and the world, or whether it is merely a bid by the largely sidelined Surkov to sidle back into a more central position of power. Still, as the person who did more than ever to popularize the term “sovereign democracy” in the mid-2000s, his article requires a serious analysis.
One of the article’s core problems can be distilled in one of its early sentences:
Having fallen from the level of the USSR to the level of the RF, Russia has stopped collapsing, and has began to recover and return to its natural, and only possible, condition as a state that is great, increasing, and gathering the lands of the community of peoples.
This is obviously a nod to the “gathering of the Russian lands,” except that in this case, it refers to some “lands of the community of peoples.” What are these lands? What are these people? Here we come to the crux of the problem – from a Russian national perspective – of Surkov’s worldview.
Let’s start with the national question, which would seem to be central to any discussions about “deep people.” The famous Russian far right blogger/troll Vladimir Frolov (“yarowrath“) has long argued that the “basedness” level of a Russian politician or publicist could be accurately proxied by the ratio of “rossiyane” (anodyne PC term for denizens of Russia) vs. “russkie” (ethnic Russians) in his vocabulary. Now at eight to five, Surkov’s piece is better than average for kremlinspeak, but that’s the most that can be said for it. This is confirmed in the details – the only mention of the “Russian nation” occurs in its civic form (“rossiyskaya natsiya”), with its subtext that Russians and Chechens have more in common than Russians in the RSFSR (sorry, I mean the RF) and Russians in the UkSSR (Ukraine). This is something that Zhirinovsky pointed out as well, noting that while there there are plenty of words about the “deep people,” there is nothing about the “Russian people.” As he argues, this is a regression relative to Alexander III, who first coined the slogan “Russia for Russians.”
Note that Surkov is the Kremlin’s “curator” for the LDNR. With people like these in charge, can it be any surprise that news from that front has generally been one of disappointment after disappointment?
Kholmogorov points out that while Surkov’s article can be seen as a modernized update to Uvarov’s triad (“Presidential Autocracy, Deep Nationality, …”) it is missing the first term in the equation. Because without Orthodoxy, what can autocracy plus (undefined, if “deep”; fake, if “rossiyskaya”) nationality, with no higher ethical superstructure, even be other than your typical tinpot populist regime? How is what Surkov is saying different from how the Western media describes Russia, with the minor exception that what the West considers “bad” – Surkov considers “good”?
Surkov’s claims about the all-powerful nature of the “deep states” in the West is belied by the fact that populist successes – Trumps, Brexits, and Salvinis – actually do happen from time to time. But these are homegrown phenomena, and have nothing to do with Russia. Ironically, in “defending” Putinism, Surkov merely echoes neoliberalism.txt’s Russiagate tropes. To the extent that the far right and the far left in the West are more “Russophile” than normie centrists, that is just a function of their hatred of their own establishments; to them, Russia is a blank canvass to project their hopes and dreams, just as Russia is a blank canvass for neoliberals to project their fear and hatred. And certainly there are very few people in the West, even amongst populists, who agree with Surkov that the Russian system is somehow more “honest” than what they have. As Paul Robinson says, “At this point… Surkov is in cloud-cuckoo land.”
The Leninist state is cited as an organic part of Russian history, on par with the states of Ivan III, Peter the Great, and Putin, as opposed to the terrorist takeover that it was. Just presumably another example of the “deep people” in action:
With its gigant supermass, the deep people creates a giant force of cultural gravitation, which connects the nation and attracts (flattens) to the ground (the native soil) the elites, when the cosmopolitanism gets out of hand.
“Deep people” are ethnic minorities with a chip on their shoulder? Actually, Surkov might just have a point there, if perhaps not quite the one he wanted to make.
The deep people is always of its own mind, impenetrable to sociological polls, agitation, threats, and other means of direct study and influence. Understanding what it is, what it thinks, and what it wants, often occurs suddenly and too late, and not to those, who can do anything about it.
So according to Surkov’s PoMoist take, Russians are this primeval hive mind, impenetrable to standard tools of sociology that work everywhere else. Apart from its inherent Russophobia, it also – taken on its own merits – completely discredits arguments to the effect that a solid majority of Russians support Putin. (So what? You yourself have just said that Russia is impenetrable to sociology). Good job, Vlad!
Fortunately, Surkov has a “powerful” rejoinder”:
The ability to listen and understand the people, see through it, to its very depths, and act accordingly – that is the unique and most important feature of Putin’s state.
In reality, the Presidential Administration is positively obsessed with polls. It also seems to be pretty good at it. Maintaining approval ratings of 60%+ for the national leader for almost two decades now without exercising overly coercive media control is quite impressive.
The problem with Surkov is that he evidently fancies himself to be very clever, sophisticated, “the only truth is that there is no truth” philosopher whereas in reality he is quite mediocre. The article itself is one of the clearest examples of Fluctuarius Argenteus’ “RussoShoe Theory” that I have read in months. With “apologists” like him, Putin needs no enemies. Fortunately, Putin’s actual state is less retarded and PoMoist than its putative “ideologue” seems to believe.