Streetwise Professor

September 20, 2013

The Madness of King Vlad

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:51 pm

Vladimir Putin has a bug up his  . . . . Let me rephrase that.  Vladimir Putin appears to be obsessed with homosexuality, and particularly European attitudes towards it.  This is bad enough on its own terms, but is even worse when one recognizes that eagerness to expound his views on such a subject is symptomatic of a deeper disturbance.

The specifics.

At yesterday’s Valdai audience, he hypothesized that his Bunga Bunga Buddy Silvio Berlusconi’s legal and political problems arising from his, um, relationship with an underage girl were gender-driven.  According to Vova, Italians would have been totally cool with it if Silvio had bedded a boy instead of a girl.

That’s one theory.

Now maybe Italians are different than Lousianians, but Putin’s hypothesis about Berlusconi is the exact opposite of that of another corrupt, roguish politician with a horn dog rep, former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.  Edwards famously opined “the only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”  Edwards’s political longevity and success in the face of numerous scandals parallels that of Berlusconi, suggesting that Italians and Louisianians aren’t that different after all.  I would suggest that there are a lot of similarities between Louisiana politics and Italian.  Meaning that I would tend to believe Edwards in these matters, over Putin.

Another Putin Pearl of Wisdom uttered at Valdai is that homosexual marriage is causing Europe to die out.


After being condemned internationally for promoting legislation that was aimed he said at protecting minors from homosexual propaganda, he suggested same-sex marriages were contributing to Europe’s low birth rate. “Europeans are dying out,” he said. “Same-sex marriages can’t produce children.”

For one thing, Europe’s demographic decline began long before anyone seriously considered same-sex marriage.  So as an empirical matter, this theory makes absolute zero sense.

For another thing: is he freaking kidding us?  If gay marriage is why Europe has a low birth rate, what’s Russia’s excuse?  Who’s dying out faster? Europe or Russia? What explains homophobic Russia’s “dying out”?

This is mind boggling, really.  Russia has had existential demographic problems for more than 20 years.  Putin recognizes these problems, and has pushed various initiatives to raise birth rates, with very limited success.

Talk about seeing the speck in Europe’s eye and ignoring the plank in Russia’s.

Reading the coverage of Valdai, the NYT oped, and other recent Putin utterances suggests he is becoming increasingly unhinged. More specifically, he is succumbing to a common malady of autocrats: surrounded by lackeys who constantly affirm his genius, and with no one willing to challenge him, he thinks himself infallible and that any thought that crosses his mind is an amazing insight that must be shared with the world.  He feels himself omni-competent, able to expound on any subject.  He’s not quite in Kim Jung Il or Kim Jung Un territory yet, but he’s on his way.

And he hinted at Valdai that he will run for president in 2018. (As if this is a shock.  Look.  Someone in his position cannot play Cincinnatus. George Washington he ain’t-and the Russian Federation isn’t Federalist America.)  Meaning that Russia will be ruled by an increasingly detached and delusional ruler until he assumes room temperature.

Great Britain-and the world-survived the madness of King George. But Britain had strong institutions, and as a parliamentary democracy with a constitutionally limited monarch, it could survive the periodic insanity of the head of state.  Russia has weak institutions and is a Potemkin democracy rather than a true parliamentary one.  Russian government is highly personalized, and highly dependent on the personality of the ruler.  As a result, it is much less likely to be immune to the flights of fantasy and whims of that ruler.

What’s more, given that that ruler has pretensions to playing a leading role in international affairs, his delusions will be afflicted on the rest of the world.  Obama’s capitulation to him on Syria and Snowden will only feed these pretensions, and Putin’s belief in his genius and omnipotence. So you can chuckle at Putin’s bizarre utterances, but realize that they are symptomatic of a deeper disturbance that will only grow worse with time, with malign consequences not only for Russia but the rest of the world.

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  1. Professor, I think being unhinged is unavoidable in Putin’s case. No modern time dictator that I can think of has ended well.
    And while I find his arguments relating the demographic issues to gay marriage ridiculous, much of the western reaction to the gay controversy in Russia is misplaced and misrepresented.
    First, my thinking is that those who have internal fears are more aggressive with respect to the gay issue. The others, with no fears are simply indifferent.
    However, gays are not persecuted in Russia. They go about their lives like they do in USA. A lot of the Russian celebrities are visibly gay and they do fine and get a lot of PR.
    What I understand Russia resists to is the institutionalization of the “gay rights and pride.” I generally think that the state should not resist to the gay rights, such as marriage, inheritance, etc. – “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
    In this respect I find the gay community itself to be the unhinged one. What means “gay pride?” Is being gay a choice or a given? If it is a given what is there to be proud of? Should the straights also be proud of being straight?
    If being gay is a choice why should the society subsidize the choices of some and what choices the society should not subsidize?

    Comment by MJ — September 20, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

  2. MJ, that would explain the vigilante groups that hunt down homosexuals in Russia.
    Next you will be saying there is no racism in Russia either…..
    As an Orthodox Christian myself, I tend to follow the rule given by Jesus, “hate the sin, but love the sinner”.
    Not to mention “Judge not, lest thee be judged”.
    Both of which the Russians seem to have forgotten…..

    Comment by Andrew — September 21, 2013 @ 3:50 am

  3. Andrew, have some Kool-Aid. 😉

    Comment by MJ — September 21, 2013 @ 6:15 am

  4. +++As an Orthodox Christian myself, I tend to follow the rule given by Jesus, “hate the sin, but love the sinner”.+++
    Andrew, I have brought this concept up in a few discussions on Russian web forums. The almost universal answer was: “that is a Catholic thing; we, the Orthodox, don’t follow it”.


    Comment by LL — September 21, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  5. @MJ. I agree re western reaction to the gay controversy in Russia. Within Russia itself, I understand it’s really a matter of indifference to most, and that the policies have little impact on the daily lives of most gays. Which it makes it all the more strange to me that the Russian Orthodox Church and the government-to the highest level-is making such a big issue out of homosexuality.

    While I believe that the Russian law is misguided, it’s hardly the most serious human rights issue in Russia, and hence I find it somewhat annoying that vapid celebrities in the West have made this such a cause celebre, when there are many more wrongs that deserve much more attention and criticism.

    My post isn’t about the gay propaganda law, really. It’s about how Putin seems to be fixated on the issue, and that it provides a particularly telling example of Putin making bizarre statements. It’s his increasingly unhinged public persona that is the real issue, and I think that will have very bad effects going forward.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 21, 2013 @ 8:13 am

  6. @LL I have never heard Russian in my circles say anything like that.
    I can add also there are no separate commandments or code of conduct given to Orthodox Christians compared to the Catholic or Protestant. The very emphasis put on being Orthodox or what you have it is an indication that one asserts that being Orthodox implies something special. Christ was neither Orthodox, nor Catholic nor Protestant.
    There is an age old controversy of who follows Christ more correctly. Russians also would frequently claim that they are the only righteous church. And I am sure Georgian and Greek Orthodox will claim the same. So do the others as well. Interestingly enough, the fundamental tenants of the Russian Orthodox Church doctrine are the Nicean, Apostolic and Athanesian creeds – exactly what many Protestants would claim to be the crux of their doctrine. All other mainstream Christian Churches also have these very same tenants as the foundation of their doctrine with just semantic differences.
    The split of the Christian Church after the Chalcedonian Council was more politically driven than spiritually or religious-doctrinally.
    And going back to the gay issue, Andrew, I cannot deny that somewhere like in Lubertsi there might be antigay vigilante in Russia. There are all types of vigilante in some quarters of Russia as anywhere else.
    But as a matter of a general phenomenon and institutional phenomenon there is no antigay movement in Russia. There is a state policy to prosecute gay propaganda. Now, how one interprets what gay propaganda is could depend on a lot of things. I am sure a Gay pride parade will be crashed in Russia. But then again, why do people do such things? What is it that they are trying to prove and what is the thing that they take pride in?

    Comment by MJ — September 21, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  7. @Professor I am with you totally.
    As I was saying, my personal observation is that those who have strong attitude against gays usually fear their own hidden inclinations. And I can conceptualize how terrifying it could be for someone to occasionally sense that he is not indifferent to the same sex. And if he is than why does he care what someone else does as long as it is not being done publically or for the sake of publicity pursuing whatever questionable ends.
    As to the Russian Orthodox Church, it is very ideological. In fact it is one of the cradles of Russian nationalism. But then, pretty much it is the same with all national churches – Armenian, Georgian, Greek, Korean … you name it.
    The same way the Iranian version of Islam is largely shaped by the Iranian nationalism – it is not directed against Christianity as much as it is against the Western values and influence possibly penetrating into Iran through the Western brand of Christianity.

    Comment by MJ — September 21, 2013 @ 8:34 am

  8. MJ: “Should the straights also be proud of being straight?”

    This question answers itself. What are Putin’s bombastic statements except expressing pride in being straight? And you can say the same about any homophobe.

    The only person who isn’t expressing pride in something is the person who keeps quiet and lets other people get on with their lives. And that means getting on with equal lives. It’s not “Keep quiet, and we’ll tolerate you.”

    Comment by jon livesey — September 21, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  9. @all As a general matter I avoid these social issues like a plague. I am of the live-and-let-live school, similar to what @jon means re “keep[ing] quiet and let[ting] other people get on with their lives.”

    To rephrase what I said before. I find it amazing that (a) Putin seems obsessed with this particular social issue, and (b) uses it to expound bizarre theories which are plainly at odds to the facts, and one of which (the “dying out” theory) begs a huge question since Russia is dying out faster than any high or middle income country. IOW, it’s Putin’s obsession with, and takes on, this particular social issue that I find revealing and disturbing.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 21, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

  10. I think the UK’s Private Eye magazine caught the mad tone rather nicely with this

    Comment by DaveS — September 21, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

  11. Homophobia, like patriotism/nationalism, is a usual tool politicians use to prop up their sagging popular support. That’s what-s driving Putin’s recent preoccupation with homosexuality. He is trying to distract the public from the REAL problems.

    Comment by Vlad — September 21, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

  12. jon livesey> The only person who isn’t expressing pride in something is the person who keeps quiet and lets other people get on with their lives.

    Well, there are different ways of expressing one’s pride. Look at Gay Pride Parades. In fact, search for “gay pride parade” in Google Images:

    What is the first thing you notice in terms of difference between these parades and all other public parades? Almost-naked people in tight bikinis. And if you search for “gay pride parade naked”, you will get endless examples of full frontal nudity in public:

    Try the following experiment: dress like that yourself and try to parade like that in your city’s downtown area in the middle of the day in front of passing-by children. How long will it take before you are arrested and charged with the crime of indecent exposure?

    Is there any wonder that gay pride parades are opposed by many people, and not only in Russia? Don’t you think that if gay pride parade participants in the West wore decent clothing and behaved in a civilized fashion, there would be less opposition to them?

    Comment by Vlad — September 21, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

  13. @Professor My only point was that the gays who “who keeps quiet and get on with their lives” do not have problems in Russia. Assaulted are those who don’t keep quiet and express “pride.” More exactly the “pride” itself is assaulted.

    My personal opinion was expressed by referencing the renowned “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” meaning in this particular case that the issue doesn’t belong to the court of “Caesar.”

    Comment by MJ — September 21, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

  14. It’s not about the gays actually. It is about the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Which is, on one hand, is declared in the Russian Constitution and, on the other hand, is being severely limited by a plurality of laws: regarding “gay propaganda”, “extremism”, “insulting a public official” and so on. The latest idiocy: a court in Novorossiysk banning a commented Koran translation for “extremism” and “spreading the ideas of human inequality”. “Hate speech”, anybody?

    There is Constitutional Court in Russia. In theory all these laws can be legally challenged. But in reality it does not seem to work – not that the Court sustains these laws, it just never looks at them.

    Comment by LL — September 22, 2013 @ 5:18 am

  15. “На патриотизм стали напирать. Видимо, проворовались”. /Салтыкова-Щедрин/

    19th century satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin: “They are now promoting patriotism (in this case: homophobia). Caught embezzling again?”

    Comment by Vlad — September 23, 2013 @ 4:29 am

  16. Russia’s birth rate is higher than the EU average:

    Within Europe, only the UK, France, Armenia, Moldova, and Albania have higher birthrates than Russia. Russia’s birthrate is higher than that of most US states who don’t have large numbers of Latino immigrants.

    Russia also has a high death rate, but even taking that into account its growth rate of -.01% is better than that of several European countries, such as Germany (-.2%).

    Blaming gays for this is absurd, but painting Russia as demographically healthier than Western Europe is not. Russia entered a demographic black hole in the 1990’s, but it’s mostly crawled out.

    Comment by AP — September 23, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

  17. @AP. Take out the Muslims whom the Russians refuse to accept as Russian, and you’ll get totally different results. Muslims=Russia’s Latinos.

    Moreover, a good deal of the recent Russian uptick is also an artifact of a demographic blip in the early-80s. Once that works itself out, the picture is pretty bleak, as honest Russian commentators readily acknowledge.

    Interesting to contrast the Great Russian hatred of Central Asian immigrants with the official propaganda (which you regurgitate) about Russia’s relative demographic position, which is dependent on Muslim fecundity.

    Re the US, the recent birth dearth was largely the result of the Great Recession and is beginning to turn around.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 23, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

  18. MJ, that would explain the vigilante groups that hunt down homosexuals in Russia. Next you will be saying there is no racism in Russia either….. As an Orthodox Christian myself, I tend to follow the rule given by Jesus, “hate the sin, but love the sinner”. Not to mention “Judge not, lest thee be judged”. Both of which the Russians seem to have forgotten…

    Which must explain why you love the word “fag” so much, eh Andrew?

    PS. How’s it going for you in Georgia what with your saak’o’shit buttboy getting kicked out and all?

    Comment by S/O — September 23, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  19. Take out the Muslims whom the Russians refuse to accept as Russian, and you’ll get totally different results. Muslims=Russia’s Latinos.

    Muslims constitute ~10% of Russia’s population, and of the Muslim republics, only Chechnya has a total fertiltiy rate above replacement level rates.

    Here is some concrete data –

    But, oh, my bad – I forgot that as far as the SWP Hive is concerned, data and statistics are regurgitated official propaganda.

    Comment by S/O — September 23, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

  20. @S/O-As I thought you must be feeling particularly unfulfilled after seeing the dread BANNED banners in DaveS’s link.

    I am with you professor-live and let live. Unfortunately in th US this pride thing amounts to official recognition of another group of victims that willl suck on the public teat (there may be some gender confusion inherent in this expression and so teat will need to change for a suitably gender neutral expression).

    Comment by pahoben — September 24, 2013 @ 9:32 am

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