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Patriotic startups for Putin

Andrei Pertsev sums up the week (September 4−8)

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On September 5, Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the «Victory» organizing committee. In effect, that’s a presidential informal council for the «patriotic education» of citizens. Think of it like an investor meeting his educational startup cohort. During the meeting Putin announced the creation of another structure for this «education» — a national center of historical memory. Judging by the speeches of Putin and the director of the Victory Museum, Alexander Shkolnik, this will be a state organization, the investor will be the Presidential Administration. In his speech, Putin sought to pitch his cause back to the Second World War: «in 1945, Nazism was defeated, but, unfortunately, it was not eliminated.» He described the Center for Historical Memory as an «adequate instrument of protection» against Russophobia and, for some reason, anti-Semitism. Alexander Shkolnik called the structure, which has not yet been officially created, an «operational headquarters» and said that it would be engaged in the formation of «ideological immunity» in Russian society. According to him, the «scientific community» will create «standards for the perception and evaluation» of historical events for Russians. Simply put, the «center» will create another quasi-ideological construct in addition to the «Fundamentals of Russian Statehood», a new university subject.

«Fundamentals» presents Russia as a «civilization state» with a «special path» of development, which is regularly opposed by Western countries, but the Russian people, thanks to traditional values and «collectivism,» repel these blows. The course mentions Putin’s favorite philosophers and historians — first of all, the author of the theory of passionarity Lev Gumilyov, as well as Slavophiles like Ivan Ilyin, Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov. This quasi-ideology is convenient and attractive, primarily for the leadership of Russia, which is not distinguished by its management or planning. After all, according to the «civilizational approach,» Russia, as a civilization, is younger than the West, so it is simply doomed to victory. Most likely, «ideological immunity» will be built on approximately the same quasi-scientifi basis

Alexander Shkolnik’s speech at the same meeting can also be called an historical document. It clearly shows the techniques and aspirations of humanitarian managers serving Putin in the patriotic and educational sphere (and the art of making money on the misconceptions and hobbies of the Russian president.) Firstly, Shkolnik sprinkles pseudo-scientific and management terms familiar to Putin like «Operational headquarters» or «ideological immunity.» (These terms might remind the president of the fight against Covid.) The director of the Victory Museum mentions the «international authority» of Russia and the «aggression» of the West; this is also one of the president’s favorite chimeras. «Ukrainian fascists» and «traditional values» also get an inevitable mention. The apprentice acts as an NLP coach who captivates the client with his own buzzwords. Here he shows himself as a fashionable manager who is in vogue and au fait with best practices: he talks about «designing resonant events», «constructing semantic content». And he perfectly understands why he is doing this. After all, the center will become an extra source of income for producers of «historical memory» and those brokering the commodity of official patriotism, people like Alexander Shkolnik himself.

Approximately the same notes can be found in the speeches of the curator of the development of the «Fundamentals of Russian Statehood», a close associate of the head of the Kremlin political bloc Andrei Polosin. Activists of children’s and youth pro-Kremlin movements on September 1 spoke to Putin about family values, friendship with China, and patriotism — most likely, their speeches and questions were also prepared by curators from the Presidential Administration.

Sergei Kiriyenko’s block and careerists from the scientific and educational circles realize how to fool the main customer in Russia. Little wonder that patriotic, educational «startups» are growing before our eyes, and Putin is turning into a venture investor in official patriotism and imposing his own beliefs on citizens. Alexander Shkolnik talks about the delights of the center, applies NLP techniques, and wants to achieve one thing — to expand his sources of income and climb the career ladder. Prepared by Rosmolodezh and the Presidential Administartion, the «patriotic» teenagers talk in Putin’s favorite way and at the same time talk about the delights of the movements in which they are members, the forums and competitions in which they participated. The client’s conclusion should be simple — more money needs to be given for indoctrination. And here it must be emphasized that patriotic startupers are counting primarily on one client, and not on working with the broad masses — it will be imitated and profaned.

The techniques of patriotism brokers are working. «I think we need such a center. Relevant instructions will be given following today’s meeting. I ask you to quickly resolve all organizational and financial issues without any delay,» Putin said at the Pobeda meeting.

Meeting reality

The methods of Kremlin managers have not yet encountered serious resistance from society. It does not necessarily have to share the imposed ideas; just at some point, tacitly agreeing with them is more profitable and calmer than resisting. This is what happens in politics: the population may quietly dislike Moscow appointed governors brought down from the Kremlin, but will put up with them. Yet as soon as a Kremlin governor begins to take his role too zealously, the citizens are able to say no to him. This was the case in the Vladimir region and Primorye in 2018. This happened this year in Khakassia. The epic struggle of the Kremlin with communist governor Valentin Konovalov (who also won the protest wave of 2018) ended with the removal of the United Russia candidate, Moscow-appointed Sergei Sokol. The official reason was a serious illness, and it is quite possible that Sokol really fell ill due to nervousness; after all, by the end of August it became clear that he most likely would not be able to win the elections. Before the illness of the United Russia candidate, the Kremlin was seriously discussing canceling the elections due to alleged fraud on the part of the authorities of Khakassia. Now Konovalov will again become governor, and the Khakass elites who supported him have demonstrated their ability to withstand pressure from the center. The ideas about «new wave» governors, supposedly popular «Special Military Operation veterans» among the people, who should go to power (Sokol was at the front), which the Kremlin’s internal political bloc sold to Putin, failed in a single region. But as long as startups imitate work on a national scale, the customer will pay, and Kremlin contractors will earn on his tastes. At some point, Putin, as a venture investor in ultra-patriotism, will most likely burn out — citizens will forget «ideological immunity» and the «special path» in a moment of crisis. But the same managers, with a certain degree of probability, may find themselves next to the new managers of power and budgets and invite them to invest in «designing events» in a democratic or socialist manner.

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