Vladimir the First.

This observation by Ralph Peters is both depressing

[Vladimir] Putin’s genius — and it is nothing less — begins with an insight into governance that eluded the “great” dictators of the last century: You need control only public life, not personal lives. Putin grasped that human beings need to let off steam about the world’s ills, and that letting them do so around the kitchen table, over a bottle of vodka, does no harm to the state. His tacit compact with the Russian people is that they may do or say what they like behind closed doors, as long as they don’t take it into the streets. He saw that an authoritarian state that stops at the front door is not only tolerable but also more efficient.

…and probably accurate (that’s why it’s depressing).

And in some ways it’s our own fault: in retrospect, the last two Presidential administrations probably should have paid a bit more attention to the post-Soviet era in Russia.  It’s hard to blame people for that inattention (after all, we were all first breathing a sigh of relief that the Cold War was over, and then we had the Middle East to worry about)… but it’s a somewhat grim truth that the typical face of capitalism in Russia in the 1990s usually was one of either a gangster, or a former (corrupt) government official, or someone with ties to either.  Or both.  This seems to have soured the Russian people a bit on the basic economic theory; unfortunately, it seems to have also subtly discounted the appeal of a democratic system of government as well.  What the Russians are apparently comfortable with these days would be an autocrat that leaves them alone, keeps the supermarkets stocked, does nothing to hinder the church, and demands that the rest of the planet show Russia the respect due a Great Power (with nuclear weapons)*. In other words: a grown-up, non-disfigured Doctor Doom.

The problem with this (aside from the obvious ones)? Putin has no sons.  That’s the problem with autocracies generally, in fact: I think that it was Poul Anderson who noted that despotism works fine as long as the despot is able, but sooner or later you get a meathead on the throne…

Moe Lane

PS: I know that he has daughters.  However, when you’re deliberately trying to tap into folk myth structures, well…

*We should probably all be grateful that the Russians are apparently not comfortable with the prospect of an immediate series of wars to regain certain rebellious Imperial provinces.


  • Mikey NTH says:

    In other words, Putin is governing pretty much like a Romanov, Hohenzollern, or Hapsburg – only he’s competent.

    Wonderful. It only took us a century to get back to the days just before WWI.

  • Mikey NTH says:

    The Hapsburgs were competent at marrying their way out of trouble and into fortune.

    A pretty useful skill if you ask me.

  • PubliusNV says:

    I saw a post yesterday (sorry, can’t find the link) that claimed that a poll found that half of all Russians under the age of 25 wanted to leave their country. It all depends on what the definition of “tolerable” is, I guess.

  • Rob Crawford says:

    Don’t count his daughters out as heirs. Russian history isn’t exactly lacking strong female rulers. ISTR one who invited her husband’s murderers to dinner then set fire to the dining hall.
    For a while, the Romanovs alternated male and female rulers, so…

  • Neil Stevens says:

    Rebellious provinces? You mean like northern Georgia?

  • Rob Crawford says:

    And Alaska.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      I sincerely think that Vladimir Putin is smarter than that. If Obama even looked like he was seriously contemplating giving back Alaska his own party would call for his removal as per that Presidential disability amendment that I’m currently too lazy to look up.

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