31 May 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
British intelligence is doubtless a more reliable source than “British scholars.” So it’s forgivable to cite them, although no intelligence service in the world, probably, would give you a hundred percent guarantee of reliability. A few days ago, four British tabloids at the same time reported, citing a source in British intelligence, on the demise of President Vladimir Putin as possibly having already occurred. The Daily Star, Express, The Sun, and The Mirror seriously assert that in the last few days a double has been standing in for Putin at public events.
“THE FORMER TYRANT’S PLACE WILL BE TAKEN BY A NEW ONE”
We’re all mortal, of course. Sometimes even suddenly so. Dictators are all the more mortal since they cause trouble for too many people, especially when they start insane wars and flush their own country down the toilet for the sake of military amusement. Many think that if Putin somehow were gone, the situation would take a cardinal change for the better. I doubt it.
A tyrant’s death can briefly open a window of opportunities, but acting on them depends on what condition society is in. If there is a critical mass of dissatisfied people prepared to risk a lot for the sake of freedom, tyranny is done for. If there isn’t, the former tyrant’s place will be taken by a new one. Therefore, upon rumors of Putin’s death, rather than cross their fingers and knock on the nearest piece of wood, dreamers of Russian freedom should be looking around in search of support.
Let’s look around right now, in advance. What do we see? There is obviously no mass support in Russian society for the war against Ukraine. Nor is there gratitude for inflation and the country’s self-isolation. There is the mass emigration of recent months, desertion from the army, and a muffled rumble of dissatisfaction in the corruption milieu, which is used to stealing here and spending its ill-gotten gains in the West. There are even discontents in the government. But this isn’t enough for positive changes.
“WHAT WILL COME OF ALL THIS, NO ONE KNOWS”
Positive changes require a readiness in a part of society to oppose the despotic regime recklessly and at the risk of loss. Not just express dissatisfaction in your own kitchen or curse the dictatorship from the safety of emigration, but put your personal freedom, your well-being, and possibly even your life on the line. Meanwhile, there still are no guarantees of victory over the authoritarian regime, and what will come of all this, no one knows.
Put more simply, turning the country toward freedom requires a significant portion of society having a sense of their own dignity and taking the upper hand over their fear of repressions. And even the opposition doesn’t have that, the opposition which, presumably, should be sublimating public dissatisfaction, transforming it into political opposition to the regime. Political activists pack their bags ridiculously quickly and decamp for emigration as soon as the clouds gather over their head and a sullen investigator from the Investigative Committee calls them in for questioning.
“NO ONE IS GOING TO DO OUR RUSSIAN BUSINESS FOR US”
A few individuals, like Aleksei Navalny or Vladimir Kara-Murza, have rejected emigration as the path to personal salvation. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s wise minnows say that little good would come of them in prison and it would be better for them in the West, but this is them talking about themselves, not understanding the main thing: authoritarianism in Russia will fall when people are filled with a sense of their own dignity and don’t let the Kremlin villains manipulate them anymore. What kind of dignity can political windbags have whose emigré heels flash so gaily in their panicked flight from Russia?
No one is going to do our Russian business for us. This incredible mass of ice that has engulfed Russia again can be thawed only from the inside and only by our own efforts. The tyrant’s death alone will yield nothing. Of course, he went too far by setting Russia at odds with the whole world. So his seat will be occupied by a more amenable and less bloodthirsty heir who will continue the old games on the special Russian path, and the West will breathe a sigh of relief and once again buy oil and gas, embrace the new dictator, and thank him for not starting a nuclear war.
This is assuming British intelligence wasn’t wrong.
Translated by Marian Schwartz