Putinism as Gaullism

The Russian state under the rule of Vladimir Putin is often perceived as a special kind of so — called Putinism. Of course, from the analyst’s point of view, to use for operation the name of his leader is not always productive. First, with this approach, we always run the risk of overestimating the role of personality and underestimate the significance of the structural elements. Secondly, the heuristic value of the typology of regimes in principle, low because it is often about the merger in one category of States having little in common. However, such names may characterize a certain spirit of the time, explaining why this or that leader at a certain historical moment, becomes a kind of incarnation of the country, society or political course, as happened with Thatcher and Thatcherism.


Perhaps the “Putinism” it makes sense to compare with other “isms”. But now his opponents in the country and abroad prefer to make comparisons with Stalinism, fascism or even Nazism. It looks like the attempts to present his regime that cannot interact on equal terms and which cannot be considered politically legitimate. If you do not have to label, you can remember and other “isms” against which it would be more meaningful and not so politically loaded. Some experts, indeed, found interesting Parallels of this kind. For example, Marcel van Herpen (Marcel van Herpen) recalled in connection with Putin berlusconism and Bonapartism. I would like to offer another comparison.


The legitimacy of Putin and de Gaulle relied on the double victory. De Gaulle embodied France, which opposed Nazi Germany and refused to cooperate with the occupation authorities. Thus, it served as a symbol of preserving the French Republican ideal in difficult times. De Gaulle also pacified on the verge of civil war, the French society by concluding in 1962, the Evian agreements that ended the bloody decolonization war in Algeria.


Putin’s legitimacy rests on the same grounds. Its high popularity is known to all: after the annexation of Crimea on the positive attitude toward Putin began to claim about 80% of respondents, but even to this he trusted more than any other Russian politician or political institution. Polls “Levada-the Centre” to explain this special status in two phenomena: Putin — regardless of political turmoil is seen as a personification of the Russian nation and the Russian state and as the leader who restored Russia’s status of a great power after the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, Putin is a grateful, considering that he stopped going in the 1990-ies disastrous internal processes that threatened the collapse of Russia.


Putin and de Gaulle (Putin, De Gaulle) embody a state of continuity after a serious injury — collaboration in the case of France and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the event of a successful restoration of national consensus and the avoidance of social discord. Parallels between the impact of Algeria and Chechnya on the formation of French and Russian public opinion — and later and xenophobia are amazing. And France, and Russia had something to do with their Imperial past, it was necessary to develop new forms of identity and find a way to interact with the former “colonies”/”near Abroad”. In both cases the leaders also avoided attention to the “dark pages” of national history. De Gaulle focused on the Resistance and opposed public discussion of collaboration. Putin focuses on the victory of Russia in 1945, and puts aside the question of the occupation of Eastern Europe after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.


It is not only their common features. Both of them have created a relatively authoritarian regimes resort to censorship, displaces the opposition (the left in France, the Gaullist and liberal in Putin’s Russia) on the sidelines, though not forbidding, and resort to bureaucratic practices to manage the political process. They both proclaimed a national consensus based on the perceived needs of the country in law and order and conservative values such as “traditional family” and “decent manners”. It was assumed willingness to confront the liberalization of morals and the changes in the structure of the family.

© Anurag Kashyap’s Karri / WikimediaАкция memory of Charles De Gaulle in Paris

Both modes also actively appealed to the ideology of national greatness. De Gaulle was a staunch nationalist, convinced of the exceptional political and cultural importance of France to the world. He put forward the idea of “Francophonie”, much like the modern idea of the “Russian world”. We are talking about ideas based on the language factor (i.e. availability outside of France/Russia a large number of native speakers of the respective languages) and associated with the use of a prestigious cultural heritage as a key instrument of public diplomacy. Of them directly stems the necessity to protect “French/Russian world” and “the positions of Russia/France on the international arena.” They also make the dubious post-colonial policy, which was conducted in the “French Africa” in 1960-1970-ies and conducted by Russia in the “near Abroad.” In both cases, commercial and military interests of the former metropolis superimposed on a desire to support the client’s commodity regimes in post-colonial countries.


De Gaulle also did not trust Britain and was tuned sharply anti-American. He was convinced that “Atlanticism”, ie Anglo-Saxon model of world politics are unnecessarily aggressive towards the rest of the world, and therefore withdrew France from NATO-related structures. While de Gaulle believed that continental Europe — as in the classic sense and in the sense of the German-French partnership, can provide much more prospects for peaceful cooperation between the “West” and the then Third world.


Suspicious treating the European institutions, de Gaulle advocated a Europe of Nations, are relatively friendly to the Soviet Union, in which he saw the new face of traditional Russia. Here it is easy to see Parallels with the worldview of the modern Russian state, which also acts for Europe of the Nations, in closely cooperating with Russia and which greatly differs from the “Atlanticist” world and its institutions (such as NATO) and Brussels pan-European structures.


Of course, between Gaullism and Putinism — as well as between Putin and de Gaulle between the Russian society and French — there are noticeable differences. However, a comparison between these two political regimes is quite productive. It helps us perceive the modern Russian state as more of a “normal” phenomenon. Politically loaded definition of the Putin regime enjoyed by many of his political opponents and some Western politicians, openly demonize him, but do not allow scientists and analysts to understand its nature. Meanwhile, nothing exceptional — and only Russian — it is not. Putin is a relatively classic example of the Patriarchal leader, who managed to consolidate traumatisierung society and to secure civil peace on the basis of consensus around national greatness and conservative values.


Such models typically collapse when they exhaust their historic mission, reaching the civilian world. However, they often reflect turning points in the history of their countries. They are partly rooted in the basic needs of society and, accordingly, created jointly by the society and the state, not just planting the top.