As much of the world makes amends for social and political injustices of the past, Russia is lionizing its despots, raising statues to the worst of them. Behind this phenomenon is an ultra-nationalist brand of conservatism that seeks to take Russian politics back to the Middle Ages.
While much of the world is busy dismantling monuments to oppressors, Russians are moving in the opposite direction, erecting statues to medieval warlords who were famous for their despotism. Understanding this revival can shed light on the direction of Russia’s politics.
In October 2016, with the endorsement of Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, the country’s first-ever monument to Ivan the Terrible was unveiled in the city of Orel. A month later, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, called for Lenin Avenue in Moscow to be renamed Ivan the Terrible Highway. And in July of this year, President Vladimir Putin christened Moscow’s own tribute to the tyrant, declaring, erroneously, that “most likely, Ivan the Terrible never killed anyone, not even his son.”
Most historians agree that Ivan lived up to his name; not only did he kill his son and other relatives, he also ordered the oprichnina, the state-led purges that terrorized Russia from 1565 to 1572. He also presided over Russia’s defeat in the Livonian War, and his misrule contributed to the Time of Troubles and the state’s devastating depopulation.
.. Joseph Stalin initiated the modern cult of Ivan the Terrible. But, since the mid-2000s, Russia’s Eurasia Party – a political movement led by the pro-fascist mystic Alexander Dugin – has moved to position Ivan as the best incarnation of an “authentic” Russian tradition: authoritarian monarchy.
Dugin’s brand of “Eurasianism” advocates the embrace of a “new Middle Ages,” where what little remains of Russian democracy is replaced by an absolute autocrat. In Dugin’s ideal future, a medieval social order would return, the empire would be restored, and the Orthodox church would assume control over culture and education.
.. Eurasianism, which was marginal in the 1990s, has gained considerable popularity in recent years by contributing to the formation of the so-called Izborsky Club, which unites the Russian far right.
.. Putin has referred to Eurasianism as an important part of Russian ideology
.. members of the Eurasia Party, who consider political terror the most effective tool of governance and call for a “new oprichnina” – a staunchly anti-Western Eurasian conservative revolution. According to Mikhail Yuriev, a member of the political council of the Eurasia Party and author of the utopian novel The Third Empire, the oprichniks should be the only political class, and they should rule by fear.
.. Cultural vocabulary is also reverting. For example, the word kholop, which means “serf,” is returning to the vernacular, a linguistic devolution that parallels a troubling rise in Russia’s modern slavery. Data from the Global Slavery Index show that more than one million Russians are currently enslaved in the construction industry, the military, agriculture, and the sex trade. Moreover, serf “owners” are also happily identifying themselves as modern-day barins.
.. Nostalgia for serfdom compliments the desire for a return to autocracy.
.. Putin’s tacit support for the Eurasian vision of a neo-medieval Russia invokes the historical memory of Stalinism. According to Dugin, “Stalin created the Soviet Empire,” and, like Ivan the Terrible, expresses “the spirit of the Soviet society and the Soviet people.” No wonder, then, that monuments to Stalin, too, are multiplying in Russian cities.
.. Neo-medievalism is rooted in nostalgia for a social order based on inequality, caste, and clan, enforced by terror.
The lionization of historical despots reflects the contemporary embrace of such pre-modern, radically anti-democratic and unjust values. For Ivan’s contemporary champions, the past is prologue.
The renowned liberal attorney threw ethics out the window to help Harvey Weinstein.
Boies told Farrow that he didn’t think this was a conflict, explaining that he was doing the Times a favor by pushing the newspaper to vet its Weinstein coverage carefully. “If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest,” he told the New Yorker... In the Trump era, we often measure justice along one simple axis, one that pits the president and his bullying New York attack dogs against legal rules and norms. But there is and has always been a second axis, one populated by respectable, principled attorneys who will work against the rule of law when they are working for the extremely wealthy. Consider Jamie Gorelick, the longtime Democratic activist and deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton, who represented Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in their business affairs. While Gorelick stepped back in July from handling anything related to Kushner and the Russia probe, her view has always been that everyone deserves quality representation.It is a long-standing American legal tradition dating back to John Adams that even contemptible people deserve good representation. The problem comes when counsel for the 1 percent finds themselves helping their clients contract out of, or bully their way around, the legal rules imposed upon the rest of us.wealthy to fail.
What Boies seems to have done here is the very opposite of fighting for the rule of law. Rather, it looks an awful lot like aiding and abetting a man determined to bypass legal sanctions with money, privilege, and terror. At the very least, he created an attorney-client bubble around grotesque abuse. But Boies also should have known what lawyers and investigators were doing to vulnerable women in the interest of protecting Weinstein. In conceding that he failed to supervise or manage a raft of outside investigators, Boies was also admitting that Weinstein essentially bought his way around his legal relationship with his lawyer, then deployed that same legal relationship for cover.There are many, many legal stratagems that allow society’s wealthiest to buy their way out of criminal and civil sanctions. In Weinstein’s case, those stratagems have included oppressive nondisclosure agreements and legal threats and attempts to confuse and harass witnesses. Anyone who has watched Donald Trump ooze his way out from under oodles of lawsuits knows that there have always been Platinum Elite workarounds for the rule of law—and lawyers willing to fly you there. This week we learned that Boies may very well be one of them.