“A fish begins to rot from the head,” Russians say, “and society descends into insanity following its dictator. His personal paranoia become that of society and propaganda infects the entire country with it,” Igor Eidman says. “Thus it was in Stalin’s USSR; such it has occurred in Putin’s Russia as well.”
There is only one principle difference, the Russian commentator for Deutsche Wellesays.
“Stalin’s paranoia was directed inside the country. He was pathologically afraid of conspiracies, didn’t trust even his closest entourage, and sought to destroy all he suspected of disloyalty.”
Putin’s paranoia in contrast is “directed abroad.” He believes that the West and “above all the US” wants to overthrow and destroy him.” Indeed, he appears to view himself as a Russian bear “which the West and the US ‘never will leave in piece” but will always try to seek out and destroy.
As a result, “Putin views any world event, be it the revolution in Ukraine or the elections in France through the prism of this paranoid fear;” and his propaganda machine spreads this “xenophobic hysteria and hatred” through the population. “Thus, for the second time, the illness of one man has become the source of an epidemic of mass psychosis.”
There is certainly data that support this argument, that the problem has spread from a Kremlin leader to Russian society, including recent polls showing that Russians rank Stalin number one as a leader of all times as places and that nearly half of them think that without his harsh policies, order couldn’t have been preserved.
Other evidence for this view comes from a new Levada Center survey which found that a third of Russians want their president to be even more harsh toward the population and the West than Putin has been up to now, with only one in eight favoring any kind of liberalization.
But some experts, like Denis Volkov of the Levada Center, say that “it is impossible to say just what [Russians] understand” by such statements or whether they are in any way prepared to have such harsh measures apply to themselves as opposed to individuals and groups that the state has identified as enemies.
And still others, like commentator Sergey Rakhmanin, argue that those who see the problem emanating from Putin and spreading downward have gotten things exactly backward. Instead, he says, the population has in Putin exactly the kind of leader it wants.
In his view, the commentator says, “‘the Putin effect’ consists in that he is a politician of a type which most completely corresponds to the mental, political and psychological needs of Russians, to their views of the world, their tastes, their so-called ‘mission of Russia,’ and also corresponds to their prejudices, myths, phobias, and expectations.”
In short, “Russia is the way it is not because Putin is president … but because the current generation of Russians needs precisely such a leader.”