Putin's personality cult: The real Vladimir Putin -- career KGB officer and figurehead for a vast criminal collective -- is disguised by the Kremlin myth of his popularity as a pro-Western national hero of Russia. (Russia).
"Too many participants of the so-called 'Cold War' -- which sometimes took rather hot turns -- are still living," continues Sheymov. "My point here is that for some time the West will be dealing with those who were brought up within the communist system and are still driven by a communist mentality. Therefore, it is imperative to understand those people, who for at least three generations were raised in an atmosphere of hatred for the West."
It is important to understand that Sheymov's warnings do not apply to the Russian people in general, who are victims of the criminal conspiracy called Communism. Historically and culturally, Russia is part of the West, which would be immeasurably poorer without Russia's contributions to art, music, literature, and religious thought. Restoring Russia to its pre-Soviet stature would be a tremendous blessing, not only for that long-suffering nation, but for the West as well.
Since Black Tuesday, Western political and media figures have spared no effort to persuade the public that Russia has "rejoined the West" under Vladimir Putin's leadership. While true that Putin has not become a Gorbachev-magnitude political star in the West, opinion molders and policymakers have embraced him as a "genuine friend." The American public -- to the extent it is aware of Putin -- has a largely favorable impression of him as a reliable ally in the war on terrorism.
Because the KGB assembled the global terrorist networks that the U.S. is purportedly targeting in its open-ended war on terrorism, one might expect that informed Americans would have reservations about an alliance with Putin's regime. But the Kremlin's image-makers, with the help of our own Establishment media, have successfully re-packaged Putin -- a career KGB/FSB officer, son of a commando in Stalin's NKVD, and grandson of Stalin's personal cook -- into a Christian, pro-Western Russian patriot. This makeover began in Russia as part of a campaign to convince that nation's public that Putin and his KGB comrades were all that stood between them and vicious Chechen terrorists allied with Osama bin Laden.
The KGB's Coup
Shortly after becoming Russian prime minister, the Los Angeles Times reported, Putin told a group of his KGB associates, "a group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission." Those remarks were made during a celebration of "Security Organs Day" on December 20th, an annual commemoration marking the creation of the Soviet Cheka secret police in 1917.
While the Times insisted that Putin's remark was "intended to be funny," it prompted a less than mirthful response from critics of Russia's secret police. "The KGB has risen from the ashes and come to power in Russia," states Sergei Grigory-ants, who was repeatedly arrested by the KGB during the 1970s and 1980s and served nine years in prison for criticizing the Soviet regime. "It is the logical outcome of the process that has been unfolding for the past decade."
Putin's ascent to the pinnacle of Russian politics came through appointment, rather than by election. Boris Yeltsin tapped Putin to serve as prime minister in August 1999, and he became acting Russian president on New Year's Day following Yeltsin's resignation.
This amounted "to a coup d'etat, although one that currently enjoys popular approval," declared liberal commentator William Pfaff in the January 10, 2000 International Herald Tribune. "An early presidential election has suddenly been called, at a moment when war [with Chechen separatists] has produced a patriotic mobilization of the public. Controlled television, radio and press are enlisted to support not only the war but also a candidate whose sole discernible entitlement to the presidency is that he is waging that war."
"Without having done anything, without making even slightly creative promises, [Putin] was declared a national hero," complained Russian commentator Boris Kagarlitsky following Putin's election in May 2000. "The biggest success of the Kremlin's propaganda is not that people have come to love the president, but that they have bought into the myth of his all-encompassing popularity."
One of the myth weavers, Kremlin propagandist Gleb Pavlovsky, shared a few of his trade secrets in the October 2000 issue of Vanity Fair. Pavlovsky explained that the Kremlin's image-makers cast Putin in the role of "Stirlitz," a "dashing fictional KGB officer who is the hero of a popular old film, and undercover agent in the SS in Germany in World War II...." This image was featured in a media campaign built around "a clever series of macho photo ops in which Putin said almost nothing but proclaimed a 'dictatorship of the law,' while the state-owned media mercilessly slandered his opponents."
Thus "Russians saw Putin distributing hunting knives to Russian troops at the Chechen front on New Year's Day, Putin using crude prison slang to say how he'd deal with Chechen guerrillas,... Putin flying a two-seat military jet," and so on. Putin was marketed as an action hero -- "our James Bond," in the words of Moscow radio journalist Vladimir Solovyov.
Back in the USSR?
In January of this year, the London Daily Telegraph reported that the Kremlin had organized a 50,000-man volunteer organization called "Walking Together." Members of the group "are encouraged to recruit others with promises of rank and glory reminiscent of Communist indoctrination methods," wrote Moscow correspondent Clem Cecil. The group's founder, Vasily Yakimenko, states that its objective is "to create a new generation to help the president bring Russia out of crisis."
The group debuted with a November 2000 rally celebrating Putin's presidency. "Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Putin's face, thousands gathered near the Kremlin and spoke of their love for the president," noted Cecil. Some Russian observers "fear that the group is the embodiment of persistent attempts by senior Kremlin officials to set up a new Soviet-style cult of personality around the president...."
From Boris Kagarlitsky's perspective, the emerging Putin personality cult is a throwback to the era of Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev. The Russian academic points out that the formative period of today's Russian ruling class "was the Brezhnev era. It was then that they joined the Komsomol [Communist Youth League] and the Communist Party and went to serve in the KGB."
Just as Victor Sheymov speaks of the persistent Communist "mind-set" of Russia's rulers, Kagarlitsky sees in them a compulsion to recreate "the behavioral stereotypes of their youth." But when these warnings are coupled with the indispensable insights of Anatoliy Golitsyn, the most valuable KGB defector to reach the West, another explanation suggests itself: Putin is the latest figurehead for the same criminal collective that has tyrannized Russia and menaced the West for decades. That collective is not helplessly trapped in an outdated mind-set, or yielding to neurotic impulses; rather, it's carrying out its time-honored strategy to pursue power.