Of Strelkov and Stolypin


Banner celebrating Strelkov and the ‘Strelkovtsy’. Can a movie deal be far behind?

Strelkov, the military commander of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’, imperial adventurer and historian-with-a-gun, and Stolypin, the reforming reactionary prime minister who, I would suggest, represented tsarist Russia’s last chance for survival: two imperial(ist) figures of the moment, both of whom see the revival of something past or passing in reshaping the future, by violent means if need be. (There’s a reason why the ‘Stolypin necktie’ became a slang term for the hangman’s noose.) I mention them not just because Russian imperialism seems very much in vogue, but because of purely self-interested promotion.

I have a piece over at Russia! magazine that throws out some thoughts about Strelkov and what role he plays: ‘“War nerd,” “military romantic,” “god of war,” “monster and killer”: no one seems entirely sure to make of Igor Girkin, aka Strelkov, the “defense minister” of the equally-unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic.” And so they project what they expect to see.’

Petr Stolypin

Petr Stolypin

And my fledgling new column for Business New Europe now has a title. The Economist has Charlemagne; BNE now has Stolypin! I hope to bring the same brand of ruthlessly clear-eyed pragmatism to bear as Stolypin, as I explore Russia’s domestic and foreign affairs each month. Even if I  cannot hope to match his impressive facial hair. My most recent column, on Ukraine of course, is here.


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  1. Very interesting about no winners in the Ukrainian conflict, and certainly true. But recall that only a few months ago Putin thought he was a real winner, with an impressive show at Sochi and a new Eurasian Union in the works All of that is now in ruins. If Daniel Kahneman is right about how anyone with big losses reacts, Putin is attempting to recoup some very large losses, although the prospects for doing so are decidedly grim. But for him the alternative is worse: certain humiliation at home, perhaps even his fall.
    I fervently pray that all sides find a way out, but I don’t see how Putin can accept a settlement that leaves Ukraine outside the Union. Indeed, if he perceives he is losing (and it is only the prospect of sanctions that have restricted his moves so far) he may see a dramatic gamble as the only way to recoup his losses–plausibly deniable of course.

  1. Of Strelkov and Stolypin: Tsarist Russia’s Last Chance

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