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A Cultural Interpretation of Putin’s Constitutional Pre-Coup

by Gordon M. Hahn

It appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin has engineered a constitutional ‘pre-coup.’ In this potential prelude to the coup’s culmination possibly in 2024, Putin has set up the rules of the game that would allow him to run for yet another presidential term that would begin that year. Putin’s success in setting the table for this coup depended in part on the Russian people and media, testifying to a shift in Russian culture under his leadership in the direction of the pre-Soviet Russian tradition of authoritarianism, Orthodoxy, and national security. As I have written incessantly, much of this turn away from the West, democracy, and free market is the result of Western actions (NATO and EU expansion, destabilizing democracy promotion, and color revolutionism).

Politics, whether democratic or authoritarian in their conduct, are very much driven by culture and, naturally political culture—attitudes, values, norms, and even institutions and behaviors related to politics in any particular group’s culture. Therefore, it is no surprise that much of the operation around Putin’s constitutional changes was carried out in accordance with certain Russian cultural elements, general and political. In particular, on display were: ‘smirenie’ (humility or meekness) translating into the political culture as constraining one’s ambitions and refraining from the appearance of being ambitious among certain publics, even the general public; suspicion, even distrust of the West; a high value on security from both foreign and domestic threats to Russia’s stability and sovereignty; and an aspiration to sociopolitical unity and limits on dissent.

Putin the Meek? Not Quite

Smirenie is an important Orthodox Christian value that has been at times dominant, at times ‘recessive’ in Russian culture. It has a long tradition in the Russian religious experience and general culture as I noted in a previous article (https://gordonhahn.com/2020/06/28/russian-evolution-towards-orderly-and-peaceful-regime-transformation-in-russia/). It survived into the Soviet period in a different and more recessive form. By the late Soviet period, an unpublished sociocultural study to be published only in the 1990s showed that Russians/Soviets expected their leaders at various levels to demonstrate asceticism and unselfishness, rejecting or at least appearing unwilling or reluctant to take a higher office from that currently held [Kseniya Kasyanova, O Russkom Natsionalnym Kharaktere (Moscow and Yekaterinburg: Akademicheskii Proekt and Delovaya kniga, 2003), pp. 319-20]. According to Kasyanova, this is reflected in the cultural archetype of Russian Orthodox missionary and monk Sergei Radonezhskii, who rejected to head up a monastery in just a demonstration of being in the likeness of Christ’s meekness (Kasyanova, O Russkom Natsionalnym Kharaktere, pp. 345-6). Russian culture’s uniqueness, according to Kasyanova, lay in the “extraordinarily high degree” and “very strict” (surovaya) way in which it “requires from a person very strong self-limitation and repression of his/her own immediate internal impulses… and personal, individual goals in favor of favor of more general cultural values” (Kasyanova, O Russkom Natsionalnym Kharaktere, p. 380). Leading figures must appeal to Russian cultural values or others held by potential supporters or colleagues, otherwise Russians will not act as leaders wish with any enthusiasm and may begin to shirk and sabotage (Kasyanova, O Russkom Natsionalnym Kharaktere, pp. 384-6 and 391).

Thus, most of the Russian Empire’s rulers were never publicly arrogant. To the contrary, emperors and empresses alike appeared before the people and even small gatherings as quiet, restrained, humble servats of God. In the Soviet era this transformed in politics first in the form of Vladimir Lenin’s ascetic lifestyle, which clearly met the Russian sociocultural requirement of humility (as well as communist strictures against wealth). We also can see it being deployed, perhaps, in Joseph Stalin’s calm, quiet public demeanor, which gave off an aura of humility or at least did not signal his unquenchable ambition and the aggression evident in the actual content of his speeches and policies. Also, recall Stalin’s habit of feigned modesty in attempting to quiet the ‘stormy applause’ at Party gatherings that he and his personality cult actually required from Party members. During the post-Stalin period, this value was evident in the public demeanor of Party-state officials, excluding perhaps Nikita Khrushchev’s often bombastic articulations. As a political norm, the humility value seems to have survived under Soviet rule as a taboo on manifestations of political ambition, which should not be publicly revealed or overtly displayed in the corridors of power by contenders to top posts or promoters of a particular policy position. This is said to have been true even in policy and succession struggles within the Politburo, where conflict was avoided, relegated to behind-the-scenes jockeying and support-building before presenting a foregone conclusion at an official session of the ‘collective leadership’ and those of lower-standing bodies. While Gorbachev’s soft confidence, perhaps, and Yeltsin’s overt ambitiousness and cantankerous arrogance most certainly broke with this tradition, this is because the salience of traditional patterns usually wanes during times of change or upheaval.

Putin displays often enough a certain public humility, which in the early Putin came across as downright shyness. Putin has claimed that he did not want the Russian presidency and initially refused it when Yeltsin offered him the position of acting president so that he might resign. Hill and Gaddy claimed Putin “kept his own ambitions tightly under wraps” “like” (and presumably because he was) “a good KGB case officer” [Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2013), p. 12)]. It is just and likely more important that Russian political culture requires such a show of humility than it is that Putin was a KGB man a decade earlier. Although it could be pointed out that the KGB was part of the CPSU system that also required self-restraint in demonstrating one’s ambition even at the top. Over the years, Putin has repeatedly appeared or attempted to appear reluctant to run for another of his now four terms as president. But again, as should be clear by now, this is not to say that Putin is by any means humble or lacking in ambition and ego; few politicians are, and such are far fewer the higher in the hierarchy one looks. It is to say that Putin also must, or at least is politically better off if he does operate within the normative framework of Russian culture. In a recent Ekho Moskvy interview, poet and literary historian Dmitrii Bykov noted that the word ‘I’ is ”absolutely absent” in Putin’s public speaking. He explained this as a reflection of “(e)ither such a scale of ego that it is better not to refer to it out loud or that he already really feels himself not as ‘I’ but as an enormous ‘we’” (https://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2664535-echo/). These hypotheses may give us part of the answer. However, as I discuss below, the subordination of the ‘I’ to the ‘we’ reflects another Russian cultural value, one closely connected with the value of practicing or at least demonstrating smirenie. One must display smirenie in good part because it demonstrates subordination to ‘we.’

The cultural requirement to demonstrate smirenie in leadership would explain in part the elaborate process in getting to the final content of Putin’s constitutional amendments, most importantly the ‘obnulirovanie.’ During the constitutional amendment process, he did his best to play down obnulirovanie’s importance, striving to appear that he had been dragged along in coming to accept its necessity (and careful to maintain the veneer of legality that he has nurtured since his first presidential term in the early 2000s). In fact, it increasingly appears that obnulirovanie may have been the ultimate purpose of introducing constitutional amendments — something he had excluded for two decades — from the get-go in his 15 January 2020 speech announcing them in their first guise or at least soon thereafter. That first proposal offered constitutional amendments that Putin emphasized would have marked a liberalization and ‘republicanization’ of the political system, with the government put under greater control of the legislature in the form of the Duma. This specific proposal soon disappeared from Putin’s subsequent statements on the proposed amendments and the contents of the actual amendments. More and more traditionalist amendments were placed in the draft bill, though Putin once more rejected the idea of obnulirovanie. Then he made what appeared or what was made to appear as a sudden improvisation, in which he came to the Duma and held open the possibility of obnulirovanie but only after this was proposed by widely, though not universally respected Soviet-era cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, providing the imprimatur of public, communal approval to the idea. Furthermore, he required that the issue be the Constitutional Court rule on the legality of any such amendment. This political-cultural dance ended in the draft amendments that included not only obnulirovanie but a series of traditionalist measures, some of which appear to violate other stipulations in the constitution. Despite the face of humility Putin put on the process, almost all political commentators were struck by the extreme haste and urgency it clearly manifested.

Again, none of this is to say that Putin is humble or even especially religiously fervent. It is to say that he operates within the Russian polity and culture in accordance with certain standards valued in Russian society in order to bolster his actions’ acceptance and legitimacy in both state and society. These practices are part of Putin’s success as a politician and a pillar of his long record of popularity among and trust by the Russian people, however waning, albeit gradually, that popularity may be. Putin’s gradually diminishing popularity and trust in part determined the timing of operation ‘Constitution’ or ‘Obnulirovanie.’

Institutionalizing Russia’s Traditionalist Security Culture and Vigilance Norm

The specific content of the final amendments as adopted by the legislature and approved in the June-July national plebiscite — one that appears to have seen some padding of the results, though they would have been approved by 50 percent of the vote in a completely honest vote — demonstrates other key traditional norms and values. Once recessive or at least in sharp decline during the perestroika era, these traditionalist norms and values are now revived as significantly, though not yet powerfully dominant in Russian political culture: suspicion, even distrust of the West; a high value on security from both foreign and domestic threats to Russia’s stability and sovereignty; and sociopolitical unity.

Suspicion and distrust of the West are long-standing Russian attitudes, which historically have been dominant Russia’s political and strategic cultures, with exceptions including the 1990s, even the perestroika late 1980s. Suspicion and distrust of the West were in part due to often inordinate Western cultural, economic, and political influence and some Russians’ rejection of it. But these attitudes were not based on irrational paranoia. Rather, a long list of calamities and invasions, domestic and foreign, emanating from the West added to a peculiar passion for sovereignty and security first seeded as a result of invasions from the south and east–for example, by the Pechenegs’ and later Crimean Tatars’ repeated attacks and then conquest by, and invasion and a two-century long subjugation to the Mongol-Tatar Hordes. With the rise of Europe and the West, Russians increasingly developed a highly security-oriented political and strategic culture that placed a high value on a norm of vigilance against Western threats; militarily to Russia’s state sovereignty and independence and politically and culturally to its internal stability.

Externally speaking, Western military invasions included: the Teutonic Knights, Polish-Lithuanian invasions, Swedish invasions, Napoleon, and Hitler. The Germans in World War I and the British in the Crimean War (the Solovetsk Monastery, for example) also attacked the Russian homeland. Sometimes, Russian (and Soviet) regimes have exaggerated the gravity of the Western military threat by dint of misperception or, for purposes of regime legitimacy, instrumentalist manipulation, but this does not erase the record and effect on Russian political and strategic culture of very real, often quite horrendous military aggression against Russia coming from various parties in the West. As an aside, Europe simultaneously influenced Russian political and strategic cultures in ways quite distinct from the oft-touted modernization and liberalization of Westernization and its ‘universal values.’ From the time of Peter the Great’s ‘opening a window on the West,’ Russians learned from Europe the patterns of imperial conquest and great power chauvinism, often as their victim, sometimes as partner of one or another country or alliance in Europe’s eternal ‘Great Game’—what the West now pins on Russia with the meme: “Putin’s 19th century thinking.”

In terms of Western destabilization of Russia’s domestic society and politics – sometimes more benignly by robust cultural influence, sometimes more malignantly by deliberate destabilization through political interference in collusion with one side or another in Russian power struggles – the record of Western interference in Russia’s internal political struggles is extensive. The Poles’ and, less directly, the Vatican’s sponsorship of the ‘False Dmitrii’ (or false successor to the Russian throne) and organization of his invasion force, sparking civil war in Russia’s catastrophic ‘Time of Troubles’ in the early 17th century, is the most infamous, overt, and consequential interference in Russia’s domestic affairs. It also included collusion with conspiring Russian boyars, Polish and Swedish military incursions, and direct Polish military invasions.

European powers – Sweden, France, Great Britain – through their ambassadors in St. Petersburg colluded directly with opposition parties in the internal political maneuverings during the 1730 power struggle between aristocratic constitutionalists and imperial traditionalists that played out during Anna Ioannovna’s rise to the throne in 1730 and were direct participants in the coup machinations that brought to power Elizabeth I in 1741, the German princess Catherine the Great’s coup against her German-Russian husband Peter III in 1762 (that left Peter dead), and Alexander I’s palace coup against his father Paul I in 1801. Subsidies from the French, Swiss and British governments in these coups were but the tip of the iceberg of the Western meddling in these cases. Russian suspicion of Western meddling and compatriots’ collusion reached such a level that Nicholas I and his investigators suspected Western involvement in the Decembrist revolt and some Russian socialization repeats the claim (Ivan Kurilla, Sergey Ivanov, and Adrian Selin “’Russia, My History’: History as an Ideological Tool,” PONARS Eurasia, 5 August 2018, http://www.ponarseurasia.org/point-counter/russia-my-history-as-ideological-tool).

Western meddling reached a new zenith when Kaiser Wilhelm’s government financed the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary parties, playing a key role in Lenin’s rise to power. Much of the Russian public, including Putin, regard Lenin as a traitor and thus the German action as yet another, rather successful attempt in undermining Russia’s political stability and state sovereignty. The Nazification of Germany and rise of fascism across much of Europe after Russia’s fall to communism, leading to Russia’s greatest catastrophe of all — Hitler’s invasion of the USSR and some 20 million ancestors of today’s Russians killed during the Great Patriotic War — taught a final, vital security and vigilance lesson to Russians: Not only did the modern, civilized, democratic West often act to undermine Russia’s sociopolitical stability and state sovereignty but often enough Western democracies devolve into something less benign and in the bargain can pose an existential threat to Russia as a state and nation.

Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm against domestic and foreign threats generated in the West are reflected robustly in Russia’s artistic culture and historiography by symbolic figures such as False Dmitrii Otrepev, Boris Godunov, the False Dmitrii’s Polish wife Marina Mniszech, Poles in general, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, and – by virtue of NATO expansion and color revolutionism – America, NATO, and to a lesser extent Europe, that is, the West. Throughout its history the Church has canonized numerous ancient Russian warriors and modern Russian generals, and the military designates particular saints as protectors for the various kinds of Russian armed forces. Four centuries after the ‘Time of Troubles,’ Mniszech remains a Russian synonym for “witch,” and the Polish mazurka danced in Mikhail Glinka’s opera Life for the Tsar set in the Smuta in the scene of the Kremlin wedding of Dmitrii and Marina represents intrusion by the “decadent foreigner” [James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Intrepetive History of Russian Culture (New York: Vintage, 1970), p. 106]. The central sacrament consolidating the revival of Russia’s traditionalist security culture and the attendant vigilance norm is the annual Victory Day Parade organized ‘from above’ by the state and the ‘Immortal Regiment’ marches inspired ‘from below’ in society on May 9th commemorating the USSR’s triumph over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. Under Putin, Victory Day has become nearly a religious ritual – extremely, almost universally popular – honoring the grandparents of today’s Russians who perished fighting fascism. The recently completed “Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces” dedicated the resurrection of Christ and this year’s 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War is a mammoth, veritable icon to Russian security culture and the vigilance norm (https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=%D0%93%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9+%D1%85%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BC+%D0%92%D0%BE%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D1%8B%D1%85+%D0%A1%D0%B8%D0%BB+%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B8#id=28&vid=1d712417a699ed69542cbe2028d4b90c&action=view; https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=%D0%93%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9+%D1%85%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BC+%D0%92%D0%BE%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D1%8B%D1%85+%D0%A1%D0%B8%D0%BB+%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B8#id=2&vid=0151904dcccd9de6b36fe92aef2505a3&action=view; and https://hram.mil.ru/#video-bg).

Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces

It is no accident – on several levels – that Putin himself marches in the Immortal Regiment march on the 9th of May each year. It is a reflection of (1) a personal commitment to his brother’s death from diphtheria during the Nazi siege of St. Petersburg father’s wartime service fighting the Nazis; (2) an expression of unity under Russia’s revived traditionalist security culture and vigilance norm he and many Russians believe is important to prevent Westerners from driving a wedge between them and recruiting colluders; (3) as a means of legitimizing his rule; and (4) a gesture of subordination to, and solidarity with the national community, Russia.

The Role of Putin’s Constitutional Amendments in Institutionalizing Russia’s Neo-Traditionalist Culture

In terms of protecting state security, sovereignty, and integrity against foreign, especially Western military threats and meddling and any domestic colluders, one Putin amendment bans the removal of territories from the Russian Federation and public support or appeals for such. Russia’s constitution in its previous, pre-Putin amended version, had taken a step in that direction already. It included clauses that attempted to protect Russia’s state security and territorial integrity, for example, by banning the creation of organizations calling for secession or separatism. Indeed, when Russia’s Constitutional Court issued a clearly politically-forced illiberal finding that Putin’s amendments as passed in a law by the Duma for the nationwide vote on April 22nd  did not violate Russians’ constitutional right to freedom of speech, in particular the Putin clause that now bans calls for the separation of territory from the Russian Federation (akin to the Ukrainian law banning calls in support of “separatism”), the court did so referencing the precedent of already existing constitutional ban on creating separatist organizations (https://echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/2606756-echo/, pp. 13-14). Another Putin amendment honors the memory of defenders of the Fatherland and towards this end it also stipulates protecting the historical truth, which Putin and many Russians regard as being under assault with regard to the Great Patriotic War and other issues from the West and Westernizing opposition forces.

Before the boyars’ dissent that facilitated the West’s intervention sparing the Time of Troubles, Russians had learned that division, in the form of infighting among Russia’s numerous principalities led to Kievan Rus’s collapse and the many ‘Russias’ subordnation to the Mongol-Tatar Hordes. Later dissenters defected to the West and tried to return to Russia in order to seize the throne. In this way, important cultural symbols of collusion with the West include, among many others, Ivan the Terrible’s once close associate-turned foe Prince Andrei Kurbskii, Peter the Great’s son and tsarevich Alexei (both of whom defected to the West and hatched plans to seize the throne with Western backing), and the 18th century Cossack hetman Mazepa who colluded with both the Poles and Swedes against Peter. Russian emperors and empresses, sometimes even reformist ones, cracked down on prominent writers and thinkers, a pattern that continued in the the Soviet era: Catherine the Great’s exiling of Alexander Radishchev, Nicholas I’s machinations against Pushkin, Stalin’s repression of writers from the socialist Maxim Gorky to the Orthodox Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Indeed, the Soviet era reinforced the value of vigilance against internal dissent in order to maintain unity and stability by instituting a bacchanalia of suspicion, spy mania, and political murder, especially during Stalin’s Great Terror against masses. The abandonment of such repression under Gorbachev and Yeltsin did not entirely cauterize this infection from Russian culture, as the small-scale return to the repression of dissenters under Putin demonstrates.  

Thus, in Putin’s constitutional amendments the threat of foreign interference and collusion is addressed in the amendments establishing ineligibility to hold numerous public offices if one holds a foreign passport, residency permit, or bank account; requiring of 25 years (instead of 10) of continuous residency in Russia and no previous foreign citizenship to be eligible to run for the presidency; stipulating the supremacy of Russian law over international law and decisions of international organizations; and outlawing any interference in Russia’s internal affairs.

Unity, Collectivism, Sobornost’

Many scholars, both Russian and non-Russian, have demonstrated the unity norm and aspiration in Russian culture and political culture. Whether called Russian ‘sobornost’ as in the pre-Soviet period or ‘kollektivizm’ in Soviet times, the idea refers to Russians’ prioritizing the interests of the family, group, enterprise or working collective, and nation over the individual and one’s own personal preferences and aspirations. Collectivity trumps (though does not eliminate entirely) individuality. Unity has been seen in and/or aspired and sometimes coercively applied to society (Tsarist sobornost’, communism’s elimination of class and ethnonational distinctions), state-society relations, Church-state relations (simfoniya), language (Pavel Florenskii), the world (Dostoevskii’s Russian universalism, Nikolai Berdyaev’s “world soul”), the universe, (Russian cosmism), and mankind and God (Vladimir Solovev’s “Man-God”). The Russian “cultural experience,” while valuing unity, monism, universalism, and collectivism also itself expresses an integrality: “an integral worldview and intuition, connected with a tense moral sense” [Grigorii Tul’chinskii, Politicheskya kul’tura Rossii: istochniki, uroki, perspektivy (St. Petersburg: Aleteiya, 2018), p. 72]. The idea of “all-unity”, an “aspiration to integrality,” has been a leitmotif of Russian culture from at least the Slavophiles to A. S. Khomyakov amd L. P. Karsavin, to the cosmism of N. F. Fedorov to Berdyaev’s personalism (Tul’chinskii, Politicheskya kul’tura Rossii: istochniki, uroki, perspektivy, p.  94).

Thus, Bykov notes that Putin, in using the word ‘we’ to the exclusion of the word ‘I’, is signaling that he is part and parcel an organic expression of all Russian society: “He (Putin) sometimes uses ‘We’. That is, he is the voice of the people and representative of the people. He no longer has his own functionality, but this organ of the people for leadership of them, I would say, part of the entire society (sotsium), a kind of essence, personal embodiment. His ego is absent. This is a sad result. Well, because everyone says – ‘it is impossible to say ‘I’ – this is the last letter in the (Russian) alphabet. In my view, ‘I’ is responsibility. And to say all the time ‘was sent’, ‘was read’, ‘was requested’ – means to reject ‘I’. But I is the only thing that is given to us, the only thing we answer for” (https://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2664535-echo/).

We Together. We are Russia.

Thus, many of the Putin amendments are designed to support unity, as Putin, the elite, the dominant culture envision it. As noted in a previous article, one new Putin amendment underscores sociopolitical and territorial unity. A new Putin amendment declares the “historically laid state unity” of the country and actually mentions unity twice: “The Russian Federation, united by a thousand year history, preserving the memory of its ancestors, who handed us the ideals of faith in God as well as the continuity of the Russian state’s development, recognizes the historically laid state unity.” (The Russian text: «Российская Федерация, объединенная тысячелетней историей, сохраняя память предков, передавших нам идеалы и веру в бога, а также преемственность развития российского государства, признает исторически сложившееся государственное единство». Putin’s amendments mentioning of “faith in God handed down to the people by their forebears” and upholding the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman are nods to the Russian Orthodox Church, a cornerstone of Russian sociopolitical unity and traditional cultural values.

Russia’s traditional paternalism and patriarchy are thought to secure the unity of the collective. Thus, Putin performs the function of father. The state is Putin’s job which provides the ‘bacon’ to the national collective (family). Thus, the constitutional amendments include gifts for the wife, the children, and even grandparents: guarantees of maternity payments, a minimum wage at a specifically determined level, and the indexation of pensions and other social welfare subsidies. Putin’s amendment that perhaps most symbolizes their tradition-consolidating purpose is that stipulating civility and respect for the elderly. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the pensioners are also a foundation of his political support base.)


Putin’s actions, the content of his constitutional amendments, and the majority support for them (regardless of any padding of the July 1 plebiscite results)  testify to the endurance of Russian traditional cultural norms and values, especially in politics in conditions of enduring Western patterns that very much helped to form if not predetermine Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm in the first place.

There have been four causes of the revival of Russia’s traditional security culture and vigilance norm to dominance in Russian culture and political culture in the post-Soviet period. First, is the survival of Russia’s security value and vigilance norm vis-à-vis the West throughout the Cold War, despite its diminution during perestroika and the 1990s ‘post-perestroika’ eras. Second, was the limited nature of the Soviet regime transformation in Russia by way of revolution from above, which brought into the ‘new Russia’ many of the old regime’s elites, institutions, and cultural values, making post-Soviet Russia’s revival under a cultural system and normative structure more open and pluralistic and less closed and communal-collectivist. Third and perhaps most importantly is the post-Soviet Western expansionism and meddling mentioned above. Finally, there is Putin’s decision that a revival of Russia’s traditional security culture and norm of vigilance is the best defense against real, perceived, and misperceived Western-based external and internal threats.

None of the above is noted in order to defend Putin’s security-oriented and traditionalist amendments, as some of our many intolerant rusologists will no doubt claim. Rather, it is to help to explain them. I would prefer to see a Russian democracy and a largely free market flourish, and I believe Putin is mistaken in opting for authoritarianism in the face of Western ambition and that Russia can withstand NATO expansion and color revolutionism in conditions of democracy and markets.

Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm has its problems. At times they have been severely overwrought in Russian society and are fraught with the danger of paranoia, xenophobia, and totalitarianism. One needs to look no further than the security culture run amok during the Great Terror. Russia’s strong security can make creating a political culture of trust, individualism, pluralism, and republicanism extremely difficult. That culture is especially problematic when it is being pushed into overdrive by external developments that seem eerily reminiscent of Western military and political aggression against Russia that historically nourished it. Those drivers today are NATO expansion, EU expansion, destabilizing democracy-promotion, and color revolutions featuring domestic elements colluding with Western governments, both having ties to opposition forces in Russia itself.


About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: The Russian Dilemma: Aspiration, Trepidation, and the West in the Making of Russia’s Security Culture (McFarland, 2021). Previously, he has authored four well-received books: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.

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