In Putin’s head. Where does the Russian president draw from?

In Putin’s head. Where does the Russian president draw from?
In Putin’s head. Where does the Russian president draw from?

“The aging soul becomes more conservative. What do you think?” a student at the University of Irkutsk asked Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2000. Putin did not take the opportunity to reflect on the conservative worldview. Perhaps he was too startled by the mention of aging, and the then forty-eight-year-old president and judoka replied: “I assure you that I feel young. I don’t feel my age.” Did he reject the conservatism with which he would later be associated?

What is certain is that on other occasions he has put aside philosophical and worldview restraint. When he gave a speech in the German Bundestag that same year, he declared in perfect German the greatness of the European philosophical tradition, especially the one growing out of freedom and humanity. He values ​​the Germans that “not even in the worst times, yes, not even in the difficult years of Hitler’s tyranny” did they succeed in “extinguishing the spirit of freedom and humanism, the foundations of which were laid by Lessing and Wilhelm von Humboldt.” He assures German legislators and citizens that “in our country we hold the memory of anti-fascist heroes in special respect.” It is precisely because enlightened Europeans can rely on Russia that Kant’s lofty ideal of eternal peace will finally be realized.

The “liberal Putin” of the zero years relies not only on Kant’s humanism. Andrey Illarionov, Putin’s chief economic advisor at the time in question, recalls that there were more liberal moments: Putin, for example, unequivocally rejected the socialist experiment and saw no alternative to global capitalism.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to call the Putin of that time a liberal-minded person. Illarionov also points out that immediately after taking office as president, he issued an order to provoke bomb explosions in Dagestan, which were blamed on Chechens. He did not delay in taking over the important media either. And while in the West he emphasized that a picture of the enlightened Tsar Peter I hung in his study, in China he assured that he had taken the picture down a long time ago. In other words, the degree of liberality depended on the president’s geographic location.

Strategically, Putin also acted in following up on the Russian philosophical tradition. He is convinced that culture cannot be ignored, for reasons that were also stated in the speech from 2000. The genuineness of Putin’s interest in Kant can be doubted, but Putin not only does not consider culture to be marginal, but rather it appears to him as a central area of ​​mobilization. States consist of space and people, but to a significant extent also of ideas, stories and spiritual currents – to dominate space without spirituality is unstrategic.

His conviction that only a fool ignores culture is evidenced by the New Year’s gift to colleagues and high-ranking civil servants: they received a package of books from the presidential office in January 2014: Our tasks by Ivan Ilyin, The philosophy of inequality by Nikolai Berdyaev and The justification of good by Vladimir Solovyov. Ivan Ilyin (1883–1954), whom Putin has been referring to in his speeches since 2005, is especially interesting.

The entire essay by Tereza Matějčková “Reader Putin” you can read it on ECHOPRIME or in the print edition of the Echo Weekly. You can subscribe to the weekly Echo from 249 crowns per month here.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Putins Russian president draw

PREV Experts: The physical integrity of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant was violated
NEXT We will help Ukraine regardless of people, Minister Baerbock said