Saturday, November 10, 2007

Russia's "Quiet Cultural Revolution"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has several good articles on the political maneuvering in Russia, Russia's Power Elite, Why the Chekist Mindset Matters and others, that tell an ongoing story that is far more interesting anything we've seen on the big screen in a long, long time. But what intrigues me is how the Putin apparatus is framing the narrative in its domestic and foreign IO campaigns:

The Soft-Power Foundations of Putin's Russia

But the real secret of the siloviki [Russian slang for members or veterans of the security services] is their massive and skillful use of "soft power." Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci noted that ruling classes secure their power over the governed not only through coercion, but also by manufacturing their consent by establishing "cultural hegemony" over the national consciousness. Over the last decade, the siloviki in Putin's Russia have provided a textbook example of the practical implementation of this seemingly abstract idea.

Over the last decade, the siloviki waged a "quiet cultural counterrevolution" with tremendous effect. They worked to systematically devalue and compromise liberal values, standards, and institutions -- values that had massive public support in the early 1990s. The main tools of this counterrevolution were the state-controlled national television networks, pro-Kremlin intellectuals, the Russian Orthodox Church, and pseudo-independent public groups and youth organizations.

At the same time, the Russian airwaves have been filled with hundreds of films, serials, documentaries, and news reports about how the chekisty (a word formed from the acronym for the original Soviet secret police that is used to describe people tied to the former KGB or other security organs) past and present are fighting against "enemies of Russia" and exposing the plots of Western intelligence services. Much of this material is of Soviet vintage, but a large and growing percentage was produced under Putin.

Mimicking the KGB, the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2006 established its own national awards for works in the visual arts, cinema, literature, and journalism "creating with great artistry a positive image of the state-security officer." As for books, works extolling the KGB and its successor organizations clearly dominate over those that deal with the crimes of the communist era or the KGB. In recent years, some of Russia's energy revenues have been used to finance a growing number of new films in this genre as well.

The results of these efforts are clear in changing public attitudes and contribute to the popularity of Putin himself and his silovik administration. Today's youth, born after the fall of communism, realize that becoming a chekist is a prestigious and profitable career path. There were reportedly 10 applicants for every slot this fall at the FSB's main training academy.

No comments: