Putin the Aging Terminator: Psychohistorical and Psychopolitical Notes

Article excerpt

There will not be two deaths, but one is inevitable.

To some it is war, to others a dear mother.

Truth splits the eye.

A wolf won't eat wolf.

-Russian proverbs

A NORMAL RUSSIAN CHILDHOOD

Not many details are known of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's childhood.1 He was born on October 7th, 1952 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). His father Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin was an industrial factory worker who had experienced severe war traumas and was wounded. He was a stern man who must have occasionally whipped his son, but not as cruelly as Stalin's or even Yeltsin's father. His mother Maria Ivanovna Putina was a kinder, uneducated working woman and a devout Russian Orthodox believer. She had her son (to whom she gave birth at the age of 41) baptized in the Russian Orthodox faith. Later in 1993 she gave him his baptismal cross, which he had blessed at the Lord's Tomb in Jerusalem. He says that he has been wearing that cross around his neck since that day. Vladimir (called "Volodya" or "Vovka" by his childhood and family friends, and "Putka" in his youth) was raised as an only child, since his two brothers died young, one shortly after birth and the other of diphtheria during World War II. His parents invested as much as they could in their son.2

The Putins lived in Leningrad in poor but at that time typical circumstances. Their communal one-room apartment was on the fifth floor, with no elevator, hot water or bathtub. Rats ran around in the entryways. His normal Russian childhood with its typical misery was imprinted in Putin's mind/brain, in his self-organizing neuronal networks and in his behavioral traits. This experiential background of totalitarian normalcy corresponds with the experiences of the majority of the Russians of Putin's generation. In their mindscape and mindset they became used to being submissive to the rule of the one truth and to the uniform and immutable way of life.

Writing on "monopihilia" of the Soviet totalitarian consciousness, Leonid Gozman and Alexander Etkind (1992, pp. 41-42) state,

One god, one ideology, one nation-monophile groups of various times and peoples, from the monastic orders to the Soviet "Pamyat" society, have demanded elimination of everything that is even slightly out of line and consolidation of the uniformity achieved for ever. The regime destroys everything down to the foundations and then builds and maintains uniformity on the territory under its control. (...) Totalitarian regimes, even those that are completely ossified internally, preserve revolutionary phraseology in external policy declarations for a long time.3

They also assume that monophilia is by no means "senseless," having three major consequences: "(...) a uniform, identical world view gives the bearer of totalitarian consciousness understanding of his surroundings, control over them, and, most important, the possibility of predicting the future development of events."4

Uniformity in terms of being loyal, obeying orders and not asking any questions was shared by most Russians caught up in the chain of stern (mostly ambivalent and intrusive, and only partly socializing) child-rearing practices under Stalin (who still abandoned his sons) and even after his reign. The fluctuation between fusion and individuation (between regression and progression) had its effect among and on the younger psychoclasses brought up under Gorbachev's perestroika ("restructuring"). Several defense mechanisms can exist simultaneously, but in Russian groupfantasies the fear of abandonment and abusive intrusion is still strongly mixed with feelings of inferiority and humiliation, and numbed rage.

Because of his small stature Putin was bullied at school by taller and stronger pupils. Soviet and Post-Soviet regimented school education formed a backdrop for the recapitulation of educational punishment, outlets for expression of the silenced cruelty and hidden degradation that children experienced in their homes. …