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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Dimitriy Savvin: “Putin’s regime is a neo-Soviet system inherited from the USSR, not from historical Russia”

By Álvaro Peñas

Interview with Dimitriy Kivvan, Orthodox traditionalist, Russian political refugee and head of the Russian organisation AREM in Latvia. A historian from the University of Transbaikalia, he specialises in Church History, and is the author of two novels, in Russian and Latvian. Kivvan was born in 1984 in Chita, Eastern Siberia.  

When did you leave Russia and why?

I left Russia for Latvia in 2015, so I have been out of my country for more than six years. In Russia there are political prisoners and we have a large exile community in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The repression of this neo-Soviet system is not organised from one day to the next, it is progressive. Years ago, the situation was bearable, but after the annexation of Crimea it started to become more severe. In 2015 I had a problem with the FSB (security service, successor of the KGB) and I was forced to go to Latvia, where in 2016 I got the status of a political refugee.

This repression by Putin has been directed against Russian nationalists and conservatives. It is ironic that many consider Putin a nationalist, especially when Russia suffers from the influx of mass immigration from Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

What would have happened to you if you had stayed in Russia?

Prison was a very real prospect and you have to understand that prisons in the Russian Federation are not like those in Norway, Finland or Spain. Our political prisoners are tortured and many are killed in prison. It is not like Stalin’s Gulag, but I think that is the aim for the current regime.

You talk about a regime, but there are elections and different political parties.

Having different parties is not a guarantee of democracy. The People’s Republic of China has many parties represented in parliament. In Eastern Europe, in the socialist period, in the DDR, in addition to the Communist Party there were other parties with labels like national democratic, Christian democratic or even liberal, but they all voted as they were told and for socialism. Putin’s system is a copy of this model. The Russian Federation in many ways resembles the DDR. We tried to legalise our political party, but it was impossible without the Kremlin’s permission. To understand Putin’s system you cannot think of a thousand years of Russian history, you cannot think of the Tsars and the church, you must look at the Soviet Union and Stalin.

Many in the West claim that Putin represents traditional Russia.

Russia and the Russian people after the Bolshevik revolution had no real nation state, and Putin’s Russia today or the Soviet Union have nothing to do with historical Russia, to make a parallel is like the difference between the Roman or Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

We must understand that in Russia in 1991 there was no anti-communist revolution, why? First of all because that would have meant changing the ruling elite and in the Russian Federation after the demise of the USSR we can see that all the officials and members of the Communist Party remained in positions of power.

This happened in many Eastern countries, the communists changed their jackets and in many of them remained in power.

Yes, this cancer can be seen in many Eastern states. But in the Russian Federation this problem was even greater. All communists and KGB members were very well placed in the sphere of power. Moreover, all the people in the Soviet system could not understand the meaning of the market, private property and many other things in the Western world. You must understand that the people who had maintained the Soviet system did not understand freedom of speech or freedom of religion, so in order to stay in power they needed to restore the Soviet system. That is why I call Putin’s regime a neo-Soviet system, it is not a continuity of historical Russia, it is a continuity of the Soviet Union.

This is very important. Back then Soviet propaganda was using a large variety of different methods. For example, after the Bolshevik revolution there was a very harsh repression against the Orthodox Church, but in 1943, during the Second World War, Stalin “restored” the church and allowed it to elect a Patriarch and a new council of bishops. Propaganda, however, used this fact to glorify Stalin.

Now, however, the Orthodox Church seems to have Putin’s support.

Now we see that in Russia there are many churches, but are there believers? At Easter, our first celebration in the Orthodox tradition, only 2-3% of the population goes to church. And how is it possible that such a supposedly conservative and Christian country has the highest percentage of abortions. Russian society is not Christian. The Soviet elite is in the upper classes and in the intelligence services, and you can see neo-Soviet propaganda on TV, is this a Christian country? Spain right now is not a very Christian country, but every Sunday you can find that 16% of the population attends mass regularly. In Russia 2-3% at Easter, not on Sunday.

Is that the reason why communist leaders are being whitewashed?

The whitewashing of communist leaders is a way of legitimising the past. You won’t hear much about Russian emperors or generals, but you will hear a lot about Soviets and communists. The legitimisation of the Russian Federation is to be found in the cult of the Second World War, in the Soviet tradition the Great Patriotic War. This is the central basis of the new Soviet propaganda and a very effective tool because in every family you find grandfathers or great-grandfathers who fought in the Red Army, and television honours these men and tells people that they should support the Red Army. Of course, if you support it, then you must also support the state, the Soviet Union and its leaders, which brings us to the cult of Stalin who was the one who achieved victory. Putin’s system uses this tool in a very effective way and now we see the same language being used. For example, the first reason for the war is denazification.

Where are Christian and conservative values? Nowhere, what matters is 9 May, the day of victory, the veterans of the Red Army and the fight against the Nazis. That is why the president of Ukraine, although a Jew, is a neo-Nazi.

You mentioned abortion, yet many believe Putin is a conservative because of his opposition to the LGBT lobby.

For a Christian the first right is the right to life, but the Russian Federation is the first country in the world in abortions and the birth rate keeps decreasing (in 2019, 1,484,517 children were born, 50,000 less in 2020 and 1,404,834 in 2021). And then there is divorce, which also shows huge numbers (in 2021, 923,553 marriages were registered and 644,207 divorces). Where is the traditional family? I know too many families consisting of grandmother, mother and child, it is not very traditional.

Putin is neither religious nor conservative, for him religion and family are just another propaganda tool. What is really sacred to him is the heritage of the Soviet Union.

So, basically, this is a means to establish a state cult, as was done in the Soviet Union.

Yes, and let me make a comparison with Franco’s Spain. It was an authoritarian regime but it was freer and more liberal than the former socialist states. There was much more freedom than in the Soviet Union, which was absolutely totalitarian. And this cult of the state is the basis of that authoritarianism, you are not allowed to be neutral and you must support the state, you are not allowed to be silent and you must affirm that you are loyal to the great leader.

And where is the Russian identity?

In modern Russia we can find two identities: the original Russian identity and the Soviet identity. The Soviet Union worked towards the goal of creating a new man identity: the homo sovieticus. And many people identify with this identity and are not interested in Russian tradition or history, only in the Soviet Union and the Second World War, and they are still, in a way, Soviet citizens.

Source: El Correo de España




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