Posts Tagged ‘lrb blogs’

May 2013

The Empty Chair

LRB Blog

Egor could clearly see the heights of Creation,where in a blinding abyss frolic non-corporeal, un-piloted, pathless words, free beings, joining and dividing and merging to create beautiful patterns. Vladislav Surkov, Almost Zero

Vladislav Surkov, the grand vizier of the Putin era, the creator of ‘managed democracy’ and ‘post-modern dictatorship’, today resigned (was sacked) from the Russian government. I saw him on 1 May when he gave the speech at the LSE that may have been his undoing. There was a small protest at the entrance to the lecture hall calling for him to be included on the list of Russian officials denied visas to the US for their part in the killing of the anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. In a gesture of patriotism Surkov had recently said he would be ‘honoured to be on the Magnitsky list’. Surkov avoided the protest and strode in through the back door. He was wearing a white shirt and a tightly cut leather jacket that was part Joy Division and part 1930s Chekist. He was smiling a Cheshire cat smile. He said that we were too clever an audience to be lectured at and that it would be much freer and more fun if we just threw questions at him. After one vague inquiry he talked for 45 minutes: it was his system of ‘managed democracy’ in miniature – democratic rhetoric and authoritarian practice.

‘ I am proud to be one of the architects of the Russian system,’ he said, ‘and today I am responsible for modernisation, innovation, religion’ – he paused and smiled again – ‘modern art.’ Jumping between roles, he played the woolly liberal one moment, saying Russia needs a Steve Jobs to become a creative, post-industrial society, before morphing into a finger-wagging nationalist demagogue the next: ‘The political system that we have in Russia reflects the mentality and the soul of the Russian people.’ All the time he indulged in his favourite practice of inverting reality: protests in Moscow ‘showed that the system was strong enough to stand up to extremists’ he said (the protests have led to dissidents being arrested on trumped-up charges). Surkov was a genius at using the language of rights and representation to validate tyranny, as well as trying to make tyranny hip.

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