You can take the man out of the KGB, but you can’t take the KGB out of the man…
Admit it. Ever since the Olympics and his ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ passed magically before your eyes, you have been intrigued by Russia’s stoney-faced leader. You may have initially scoffed when you saw photos of a bare-chested Vladimir Putin as he posed in the Russian countryside – fishing – waist-deep in a river – and riding a horse – pecs on view for all the world to marvel at, as if to prove that “Mr. Russia is no aging Soviet tyrant, but a powerful man of action!” Seriously, that was the expected response – which says a whole lot about the man and the ego fuelling his questionable choices as leader of a questionable democracy.
The opening and closing of the Sochi Winter Olympics certainly didn’t disappoint. Viewers were taken on an awesome, romantic fantasy-ride through Russia’s history of achievement. The only glitch in what could be judged as nearly a perfect ‘10’ performance, was when one of the floating snowflakes (sadly) failed to drop down and join the others in forming the Olympic rings (oh, the horror!). I poke fun, because as expected, the ceremonies sandwiching the games were full of wonderful illusions intended to dazzle and delight, but at the same time, were so incredibly over the top. This personally-orchestrated monument to the man himself, was the most expensive Olympics ever – costing a whopping 51 billion dollars!
But the show inside the stadium, however grandiose, had as little substance in revealing the true experience of modern Russia, as the ethereal representations that skimmed over the brutal reality of the country’s recent history. While celebrating the glory that was – and is – Russia, the astounding choreography of aesthetic engineering was no doubt, the very best that modern technology had to offer. As was the artistry a most excellent homage to the impressive cultural contributions of a country that can best be described as a complexity of contradiction. But Russia’s historical ideology and technological and cultural accomplishments belie a repetitive primitivism of self-indulgence, corruption and inherent denial of human rights.
Under Putin’s dominant rule, Russian citizens are deprived of the basic right to influence their country’s fate. Freedom of speech, freedom of access to truthful information and consideration of human rights are as undermined as they were under communism. To understand how corrupt Russia is, one merely has to check out the evidence of the obviously ill-gotten fortunes of Putin and his friends – the multiple mansions, yachts and luxurious transportation at their disposal… It has become all too obvious that there is not only great inequality in Russia, but the nation is certainly not the democracy that it claims to be.
Allow me to expand: There are pretty credible parallels drawn between the so-apparent, ego-driven extravagance of Putin’s outrageously costly Olympic display, and Hitler’s megalomaniacal demonstration of military power at the pre-WWII, 1936 Munich Olympics. The traditional demonstration of patriotic pride and celebration of one’s national cultural assets are an understandably typical theme running through all modern Olympics, but while the displays at the games in Munich and Sochi were nothing alike in content, it is obvious that both leaders were similarly compelled to stand out on the world stage within a uniquely personal, overtly triumphant context. The analogy between the two has become even more eerily significant since Putin sent in troops to take over Crimea – just as Hitler, following his Olympics – began to invade Germany’s neighbours. Hitler broke a treaty agreement when he invaded other countries, as did Putin go against Russia’s 1994 agreement to respect the sovereign borders of The Ukraine following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Hitler’s background involved war and violent political takeovers. Putin headed the notorious KGB which was Soviet Russia’s brutal policing force during the Cold War. It defies logic to imagine one who has a personal history of heading an organization known for its oppressive violation of human rights, becoming a leader of a democratic nation.
In truth, Russia has become nothing more than a pseudo-democracy under corrupt, authoritarian rule. One type of Russia for the ‘haves’ such as Putin and his cronies – and another for the ‘have-nots’ like Pussy Riot and their unfortunate kind. The official homophobic intolerance, wide-spread corruption, aggressive invasion of the Ukraine, and the pompous posturing and irresponsible, spare-no-expense gratification of ego while his nation’s economy is in such dire straits – all lead to the conclusion that you can take the man out of the KGB, but you can’t take the KGB . . . well, you get my drift. . .