He is the very model of the modern media monarch…

For the record, Putin is not a fascist, nor is he a tsar...

For the record, Putin is not a fascist, nor is he a tsar…

In my most recent post for Russia! magazine, Hail to the Prince!, I find myself–perhaps provocatively–looking at Putin and the tawdry extravaganza of the Popular Front for Russia convention and raising the specters of tsarist coronations, fascist rallies (more of the Mussolini than Hitler variety, for what that’s worth) and the crass theatricals of modern TV (“Putin is if anything a populist tsar, a tsar for the reality TV generation.”)

The serious point relates to the personalization of rule, a compound of patrimonial habits (in which everything is the property of the state/monarch and merely assigned at his pleasure) and a messianic belief in the ruler’s specific and numinous mission:

And this is where monarchy and fascism intersect. Both, ultimately, are personalized forms of rule, where the role of court, aristocracy, party and government are all about connecting the autocrat with his people rather than—in theory—having agency and agendas of their own, let alone acting as counterweights and constraints on him. This has been one of the striking phenomena of Putin’s recent political strategy, what I’ve (rather clumsily) described elsewhere as “institutionalized deinstitutionalization.” The People’s Front may perhaps one day become a party, but at present it is explicitly intended not to be one, or rather to be a structure which can embrace parties, individuals, groups and blocs. It is open to all, so long as they share a common worldview which, frankly, can also be summed up in all its intricate complexity by one of the rally’s chants: Narod! Rossiya! Putin! “The People! Russia! Putin!”

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