An interpretation of Russian politics, with lessons for all. (Thx Ted S!)
The second easiest thing has been to demonize the “Other,” creating an internal enemy for everyone to fear. Jews are out – Putin, who values loyalty above all, has had an affinity for Jews since childhood, when he was reportedly saved from being beaten up by street kids by a Jewish neighbor. Migrants are out – Russia needs millions of them in order to carry out the mass infrastructure projects that the country needs to keep its economy afloat; and the nationalist card is simply too dangerous to play with anyway. Who’s left? Gays.
Demonizing gays allows Putin to tell the “heartland”: I will protect you and your ‘traditional’ families, you are the real Russia. It also grows suspicion of the liberal opposition, presented as fundamentally “unRussian” as they stand up increasingly for gay rights amid Putin’s growing crackdown. And finally, it allows Russia to do what it does best these days: present itself as Not The West.
It is no accident that Russia is stripping away gay rights as (popular and legal) support for gay marriage in the US and Europe grows. The West is decadent, permissive, and doomed to orgiastic decline. As Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently put it: gay marriage is a “dangerous apocalyptic system” that leads a nation “on a path of self-destruction.”
And then there is Russia – not really standing for anything, but standing against a whole lot: gays, liberals, the West. It’s the strategy that Putin has chosen for his own survival.
“I think the most ridiculous questions come up during the decay of an empire,” said Anton Krasovsky, a prominent Russian journalist recently fired for being gay, when asked why the “gay question” had suddenly emerged in Russia. “It’s like when Judeo-Christians were fed to the lions in 3rd century Rome – it’s just the sunset of the empire.”