On my airplane trip across America to my off-the-grid property (which I will talk about in a future post), I read Russian Populist, another book by Matthew Raphael Johnson, written in 2012. Unlike his book Ukrainian Nationalism, this one was a bit more well-edited. Since I read the entire thing in one sitting on a plane without taking any actual notes, this post will be a bit more terse than others.
In the introduction, the author makes the perfect statement on how the West views Putin:
“Putin is a scapegoat for American problems. Putin provides a useful outlet for those complaints that should be applied to America. As this book has already stated: the attacks on Putin are not rational, they are the result of insecure Americans projecting their fears onto a convenient leader abroad.”
The author describes the state of Russia as Putin became its leader as that of a post-colonial African state. Putin needed to reconstruct a powerful state that could facilitate the recovery of Russian sovereignty, which especially included the autonomy of the Russia state from the private sector. In order to do this, Russia required unity behind a powerful state rather than the chaotic control of the oligarchs. Putin bypassed the Russian disorganized Russia elites and ruled as a singular person in order to achieve this. The economic recovery he facilitated and his populist appeals to the people, armed forces, and patriotic elements allowed him to do this. The positioning of patriotic Russian generals who were not corrupted by the oligarchic elite were placed in bureaucratic ministerial positions to provide an organized and reliable elite class for Putin to work with. This style of government, using the “power ministries” of the police and military are partly what led westerners to accuse Putin of running a police state.