Swaddled Nation: Modern Mother Russia and a Psychohistorical Reassessment of Stalin

By Shakhireva, Stephanie | The Journal of Psychohistory, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Swaddled Nation: Modern Mother Russia and a Psychohistorical Reassessment of Stalin


Shakhireva, Stephanie, The Journal of Psychohistory


Will we soon be using the phrase "Putinism"? After all, if we take a quick look at the headlines, totalitarian rule in Russia under Vladimir Putin may be reemerging. Conventional social scientists in the West see Putin's duty clearly laid out in front of him: take the earth's largest nation, make its people and goals cohesive, and drive it toward democracy. But is that really the goal? Perhaps the reason a smooth path toward a free, democratic Russia seems elusive is the long held psychogenic mode in which democracy and personal freewill is a foreign concept with no bearing on the Russian experience. Under his KGB-trained gaze, Putin recognizes the deep, psychological longings of his people, and to satiate it means a strong paternal bearing, sternness, and repression if necessary. Knowing that westerners are mostly unfamiliar with Russian cultural psychology, he simplifies his language for a foreign audience with ambiguous, diplomatic phrases that rebuke westerners to be patient with Russia's unique style of burgeoning democracy. Like a nation of swaddled children, Russians are more passive and cry less than westerners; when beat by Mother, they are utterly resigned. Passive, sheepish following of oppressive leaders has been the salient feature of all Russian social history.

Meanwhile, American politicians shake their fingers at Putin and voice disapproval of what is perceived as a drift back to Soviet-style authoritarianism. But what Americans don't know, is that Putin's grip on the nation is Russia's manifest destiny; the inevitable reflection of Russia's group-fantasy, a collective psychological desire to retain a strict and punishing governance that mirrors the Russian childhood experience of many of its citizens. Putin may indeed be the new master of Russia's long-suffering population-reaffirming and condoning what Rancour-Laferriere suggests are deeply-held masochistic tendencies that it feels most comfortable with (59-65).

Putin is correct when he says that the West must respect the preference of authoritarianism that Russians seem to display. He should know, because he himself is the product of modern Russia's most repressive age, the Stalinist Soviet Age-however unwitting a Stalinist he might be. And Americans, by-and-large, do not yet understand the full ramification and social fallout that occurs after going a round with Stalinism; a system that finds its roots in abuse and victimization, both on personal and societal levels. Stalin, the abandoned and abused Georgian, reached into the soul of Mother Russia, using her own innate weaknesses against her, capitalizing on her own history of cruelty and repression. Finally, he swaddled her in terror, denunciation, cronyism, suspicion, prohibition of mobility, mass alcoholism, a slave-master mentality, hyper-bureaucracy, and a national superiority-inferiority complex so completely intertwined that it can be bewildering to navigate altogether. Using Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great as role models, Stalin brought Russia back to its traditional, terrorized roots with a vengeance.

As Victor Meladze remarks in his Journal article Beneath the Hammer, the Soviet system that Stalin created was instrumental in deconstructing a coherent reality (48). For Stalin and Stalinists that have come after him, reality as recognized by individuals outside of that psychoclass has no bearing on sentient existence. Because Stalin could not divorce himself from his own consciousness and the entirety of his own personal evolution, he subjected the people of the Soviet Union to a power paradigm designed to mimic the extremes of his own childhood abuse, dysfunction, and neurosis. His influence persists to this day. What's more, because imperial Russians were already a part of a repressive psychoclass, his subjects could not reflect normally on their own misery. Literally and figuratively they justified their own sufferings at the hands of Father Stalin, whose punishing acts were to be seen as ultimately benign. …

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