Last week it was asked on this blog whether or not Russia is Cold War Communist or Imperalist Tsarist. It wasn't really something that could be answered without a bit of research, hence the delay. In summary, I now think the Putin and the elites of Russia are trying to be both Soviet and Tsarist to a certain extent, yet are also neither. I've linked to articles exploring this and related ideas, with the more relevant and interesting parts quoted below:
Putin Accepts Only ‘Imperial-Militarist’ Component of Soviet Inheritance
Vladimir Putin is often accused of wanting to restore the Soviet system or at least its core values, but in fact, the Kremlin leader is interested in promoting the its “imperial-militarist” element and not its “revolutionary” component, a pattern that has the effect of limiting Russia’s ability to deal with the rest of the world, according to Vadim Shtepa.
In a new commentary, the Petrozavodsk-based federalist thinker notes that as a result of this, Putin is even more interested in promoting “the cult of ‘the Great Victory’” in World War II than Brezhnev, even though “it would seem” that that event is “ever further receding into history.”
Putin’s use of this “cult,” the commentator says, reflects the Kremlin’s understanding that it is “an extraordinarily useful technology for political repressions and territorial expansions” because “any opponent can with ease be designated ‘a fascist’” and thus deserving of destruction.
“And so,” he continues, “the post-Soviet evolution [of Russia] has led to a strange ideological remake from the Soviet inheritance and the pre-Soviet imperial tradition,” a combination that despite its obvious logical problems as “a post-modern mix” has nonetheless “proven quite popular.”
This next section talks about no real break from the Communist past of the USSR and today:
Because “no historical border between the USSR and the Russian Federation” was drawn, the two “began to be considered one and the same country,” even though it was Russia’s Boris Yeltsin who precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union by his actions at Beloveshchaya rather than any actions by non-Russian leaders or nations.
Many Russians today believe just the reverse and that shift in understanding “has led to a situation in which ‘the near abroad’ in contemporary Russia is conceived not as consisting of independent states but ever more as some kind of ‘separatist provinces.’” And that has been particularly true with regard to Ukraine.
According to Shtepa, ”the worldview sources of this conflict are rooted in the reborth imperial myth of ‘a triune people’ (the Great Russians, the Little Russians, and the Belorussians),” a myth that Shtepa argues is “incompatible with contemporary state-legal principles.”
On Putin's tsar-like power in Russia:
In Shtepa’s telling, “the first major political event of independent Russia was the signing in March 1992 of the Federal Treaty.” But even this document contained within itself “fatal imperial aspects:” It was not concluded by equal subjects but between “’the center’ and ‘the provinces.’”
And 18 months later, this document was superceded by a new Constitution which “gave the president almost tsar-like authority and significantly reduced the importance of the parliament.” And that bow to the past in turn in “a logical way” restarted “the endless Caucasian colonial wars.”
From Putin is ‘Last Soldier’ of a Dying Empire
... Like many in the Moscow elite, [Putin] has a dual national identity: he feels himself at one and the same time Imperial and Soviet, “not noting the anti-natural nature and even historical absurdity of this combination.”Interesting. It's always difficult to really understand a society that works off myths to such an extent.
As the Kremlin leader appears to have forgotten or not understood, “Soviet civilization destroyed Imperial Russia and was by definition deeply hostile to it.” At the same time, “Soviet identity was built on the denial of Russian identity and its suppression.” But what is most curious is something else, Pastukhov says.
Imperial values were “directed toward a real Russian past, which it canonized,” and Soviet ones were directed toward “a Russian future which had never existed but which it idealized.” Putin in contrast seeks to restore a Russia which never existed and which no one lost.”
“Such a philosophy of Russia, while deeply Russophobic toward existing any existing Russian, raises to the heavens a mythical Russian in the name of which power is realized.” This approach is in fact a form of bolshevism but one “directed not toward the future but toward the past.”
Putin has thus “transformed himself into yet another Russian utopian, who lives by a mythological consciousness within his own person oikumen which is separated as if by a Chinese wall from the external and real world.” All Russian leaders, of course, have been guided by myths, but they have been constructive because they were directed toward the future.
“The Putin myth,” in contrast, Pastukhov argues, “is destructive because it is redirected toward the past and brought down to earth.” It doesn’t inspire anything creative “except bureaucratic” things. It is, in short, “an unconstructive myth of an era of collapse.”