“Putinism” — Walter Laqueur’s New Book

Extracts from the review in The New York Times, July 21:

For Christmas in 2013, President Vladimir V. Putin sent three books to every regional governor and other senior officials in Russia. One of them was Our Tasks, by Ivan Ilyin, an early-20th-century Russian philosopher who disdained Western-style democracy and argued for an authoritarian, though not totalitarian, state. In Mr. Ilyin’s view, the government would not control all aspects of society, but in certain important areas would be “dictatorial in the scope of its powers….”

The product of an upper-class Moscow family with ties to the army, Mr. Ilyin studied philosophy and did not last long once the Bolsheviks swept to power. Expelled from the Soviet Union in 1922, he wound up in Germany, where he worked for the Russian Scientific Institute, which Mr. Laqueur points out was part of Joseph Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda. He was fired and fled again, this time to Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1954. Once forgotten in Russia, nearly 30 of his books have been republished in his home country since the fall of the Soviet Union….

Walter LaqueurTo some extent, Mr. Laqueur saw this coming. In his 1993 volume, Black Hundred, issued as the rest of the world was still basking in the fall of the Soviet Union and foreseeing a new democratic Russia, he warned of the opposite.

“An authoritarian system based on some nationalist populism appears more probable,” Mr. Laqueur wrote then.

More than 20 years later, he seems eerily and depressingly prescient.


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