What makes Putin run? Why are so many Russians supporting him? In an interview with the opposition media Meduza, Grigori Yudin gives his explanation, of a psychological, cultural and political order. According to this Russian sociologist, what drives the dictator and what connects him to a good part of his people is not a strategy, it is not a program, it is not even interests. The cold and cynical calculator is, in fact, a sentimentalist. Emotion guides him. But not just any emotion: a negative emotion.
The translation of this interview by political scientist Anna Colin Lebedev, published by the review of ideas Le Grand Continent, seems very enlightening to me. Grigori Yudin perceives in Russian society “a powerful feeling of resentment”. Communion in bitterness and resentment would even be “one of the rare channels through which Vladimir Putin connects with an important part of society. (…) More importantly, he himself produces this resentment — a monstrous and endless resentment, which nothing can appease; it is impossible to imagine what could compensate for it. »
Metaphysics of human misfortune
Grigori Yudin does not use the word, but one cannot fail to make the connection with the mainspring of fascism, to which Putinism increasingly resembles. But according to him, this “overflow of resentment” provokes and meets a deep echo in Russian society. His fellow citizens “resent a world order that seems unjust and, therefore, anyone who takes responsibility for being ‘superior’ in that world order”. In a here below judged bad, a metaphysics of human misfortune, external evil is the cause of Russian failure and suffering. The figure of the American superpower logically concentrates this hostility.
When rereading Yudin’s remarks, a relatively related development jumped out at me. According to him, “a significant part of the world rightly complains about the current world order and the United States, which has assumed responsibility, has become a hegemon and has benefited from the world order in many ways. We find that parts of the world that are overwhelmed by this resentment are more understanding of Vladimir Putin. It should be noted that even an opponent like him recognizes himself in part in this analysis grid. Resentment arises “rightly” in the face of a world order that “benefits” some, but not others. That is to say if this feeling is deeply rooted.
In fact, countries or regimes that refuse to condemn Russia are crossed by this current of negative energy, this approach that is more emotional than rational. We certainly find in the list of pariah regimes, such as North Korea or Syria, and a whole gradation of countries with a pro-Soviet or non-aligned culture, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria, or India.
But precisely, these states have long nourished, like Russia, a certain tradition of post-colonial resentment, here anti-gringo, there neo-Third Worldist. This culture is sometimes even the only ideological engine of the regime in place, and a convenient way to silence internal critics.
The eternal cliche on the Russian soul
Yudin’s reading grid is therefore only partially related to the eternal cliché of the “Russian soul”, which would be nostalgic, sentimental and convulsive. From his critical observation of the society that surrounds him and the regime that suffocates him, the sociologist has perhaps put his finger on a trait of the era, more than of culture or civilization.
What has France encountered in recent years in a good part of its former African zone of influence, to the point of sometimes having to pack up? Animosity and resentment. What did Donald Trump do to come to power? The moral suffering of the declining classes. And we could continue this painful world tour.
What do our increasingly victimized societies express? How to understand the vogue of conspiracy? Disillusionment, bitterness, the justification of its failures by naming the culprits are everywhere at work. Many populist leaders are trying to divert this inexhaustible source of energy to turn it into political or geopolitical fuel. We have entered the era of resentment, and this change in climate is no less worrying than the other.
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