Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Three presidential cards

“(S)at down like a needle” really means ‘sat down on a needle’, as in ‘injected like an addict needs a drug’.  I had a bunch of Russian speakers respond to my question about that saying.  

Basically, Putin feeds an addiction that the Russian people have to how he presents information. 

If you’re confused about the reality of Russia, read this article. There are actually very few Russian ‘sayings’ in the article, but the one at the beginning has to be understood.

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Putin won the elections not through tricks, but politically, by offering the country a course that she sat down like a needle (ed highlighting).

Vladimir Pastukhov  Doctor of Political Science. University College of London

For nearly twenty years of continuous rule, Vladimir Putin synthesized in Russia a people appropriate to his political tastes, and then he himself took a political form that was perfectly compatible with the demands of this unpretentious and simple-minded people, thus recreating the almost sacred identity of the Russian leader and the Russian masses. Putin, of course, could not win the election, which was not, but on the next national plebiscite, he won a confident victory over the liberal opposition, which, however, did not take real part in this plebiscite either. Their correspondence match ended in favor of Putin with a crushing score, but the final figures on the ballots have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Putin won more than elections – he won the battle for the “collective unconscious” of the Russian people.

He won not by points, but by sending his opponent into a knockout, not at all administrative, as many people write and say about it, but with a purely political blow “under the breath.” Perhaps, now that the Russian opposition is lying down, overturned by the face, listening to the countdown of history, she will finally understand that politics is something different than what she did in the previous quarter of a century.

Photo: Victoria Odissonova / Novaya Gazeta

To comprehend defeat means to win

Despite the fact that the whole history of post-communist Russia is a series of continuous and humiliating defeats of Russian liberalism (at least the force that declares liberal values out loud), the supporters of the so-called “European choice” stubbornly refuse to admit that they suffered in Russia precisely political, and not some other inexplicable mythical defeat. They traditionally explain their eternal failures in elections either by technological or by political methods and only very rarely by political reasons.


This interpretation of electoral statistics, sad for liberals, was very popular six or seven years ago, when the key to understanding all political processes in Russia was the word “falsification”. People sincerely believed that they had been stolen from victory by forging the results of the vote. There was a lot of naive and good conceit in this faith. There is no doubt that falsifications of various kinds have been and remain an indispensable attribute of the Russian electoral system. But to think that the victory of the party of power is based solely on falsifications is to be deeply mistaken. The tricks of the “tsik” are just the tuning of the political body; The political motor with which Putin wins one race after another does not look like that.


Over time, it became clear that the matter was not only and not so much in the falsification of voting results. The thesis that the mechanics of the electoral process itself is built on deception was put forward to the forefront. Not the problem is that the outcome of the will of the voter is represented in a distorted form, but that the will is not in itself free. There are no conditions for an independent and objective opinion based on obtaining an objective and impartial information. The latter is the object of intensive application of various technologies of consciousness manipulation, only a small part of which is the use of an “administrative resource”, that is, direct pressure.

A separate line of unkind word, of course, refers to state-controlled media, including federal television channels and even such exotic things as a “troll factory.” Unfortunately, however, all this also does not explain the permanent electoral success of the regime. First of all, because it is possible to effectively deceive only those who are deceived themselves. Where a more powerful Soviet propaganda machine did not save the USSR from collapse, the first approach to which was the election of allied deputies. So, it’s something else.


The unadjusted truth is that Putin’s political course enjoys real support from hispeople. Moreover, I dare to suggest that if today Putin suddenly ceased to be himself and decided to make a broad democratic gesture by admitting Navalny to the election, allowing all candidates without exception to be on air for as long as the viewer can take them, and even singling out they have a decent budget, then with a high degree of probability, he would still have won in these elections, albeit with a smaller percentage, but with a greater turnout.

I am ready to go even further and assume that if during the election campaign it suddenly turned out that Putin personally gave all the most unlawful orders in the world, this would not have greatly affected the outcome of the vote: the attitude towards Putin has long been a matter of faith, and not the question of knowledge, including the facts that discredit it. I do not think that Putin stole the liberals’ victory or hid it from them. It’s just that this victory was never really there, but there were illusions and self-conceit that prevented the right assessment of the situation.

There is an apocrypha, the truth of which can not be verified. I witnessed Boris Nemtsov’s story about how he met with Putin about the Russian anthem. Nemtsov then handed him a petition asking him not to return the Soviet prototype. Allegedly, taking the letter in hand, Putin asked: “Do you like music yourself?” Nemtsov said: “No”. “And me,” Putin answered. “But people like it.” And what kind of people, such songs … ”

So Putin won this game not with the help of political technology tricks, as many would like to think, but politically, suggesting not the word, but the deed of the country the course, to which it sat down, like a needle.

While Putin’s opponents beat themselves in the chest with their fists, declaring “I am a politician!” He turned out to be almost the only one who was engaged in politics, not just rhetoric, looking for that unique and unique formula that would allow him to create a strong tandem with his people. He excelled because he learned to sing songs that people like.

Three cards

Petr Sarukhanov / Novaya Gazeta. Go to artist’s site

The real political program of Putin in the best Russian traditions is written not on paper, but on human skins. His real program is that image, to the design of which he treats with incredible thoroughness, adjusting it to all the stereotypes of Russian thinking known to him. Over this scenic image, he scrupulously worked almost two decades, until finally he created an almost perfect mask, suitable for both the temple and the booth.

Six years ago, in response to the timid attempt of the next Russian revolution to show his rights to power, he laid out on the political game table a killer trump card of three cards and won the “Jackpot” of the Russian counter-revolution. On the contrary, his opponents did not have a single trump card on their hands. Since then, Putin has not released these three cards from his hands.


The symbolic meaning of the triplet is the basis, the basis, then, on which everything rests. Putin’s policy rests on the “Versailles syndrome” – this is a policy of resentment. Rarely does anyone know how to pick political wounds like that. I admit that Putin knows what he is doing, as these wounds bleed, first of all, in his own soul. All peoples who have escaped the “Versailles syndrome” live an equally boring life, each “Versailles syndrome” diversifies the life of the chosen people in its own way.

The Russian “Versailles Syndrome” sounds somehow extraordinarily hysterical. Here, forged by Orthodoxy forever unfulfilled unlimited Russian messianism, and unquenchable nostalgia for the Empire, and an unhealed wound from the collapse of the USSR, and the wounded pride of the people who lost the Cold War, and humiliation by deception, real and imagined, from the West, which supposedly promised not to expand, but it expanded so much that it does not seem too small. In short, the whole bouquet was gathered together. All these pains and resentments were eventually pressed into one deafening force by a cry of vengeance.

Russia wants to be strong, steep, smashing, and to her as a “new order” was a new variation of George the Victorious.


The number seven symbolizes the walls, structure, frame, around which the building is erected. The building of Putin’s new post-Crimean course is built from “Russian fears”, the main one of which is the fear of change. The population is equally afraid of both its future and its past. Memories of the 90’s – the most important factor, which accounts for a significant part of all these phobias. People on a subconscious level believed that any change only leads to deterioration, and therefore hysterically cling to the present, seeking to make it endless.

The cult of stability was invented not by Putin, he only privatized it.

  • ACE

In the symbolic hierarchy, the ace, of course, is the designation of all the most important, the essence of processes, their core. Whatever Putin does, he is essentially oriented towards the traditional rejection of capitalism by the main part of Russian society, bourgeois values in general and private property in particular, that is, everything that exactly fits the notion of “European choice”. Under the influence of active pro-European (at least – in words) minority Russian society at the end of XX century made a breakthrough in capitalism, not very, however, successful. But the bulk of the population remained on the previous positions in the captivity of traditional values. It perceives modern renationalization as a return to socialism, through which it feels nostalgic.

Putin has long caught the left agenda in the marginal Russian communists and successfully exploit it. This greatly strengthens his support.

Short circuit

It is necessary to distinguish between the keynote of Putin’s policy and its arrangement. Repression, propaganda, falsification – all this is secondary. The primary combination of three chords is militarism, archaism and left populism. This is the melody that the people want to hear today, and no other is happy with it. Putin has learned to skillfully perform with the help of these three chords political symphony of any complexity. Therefore, people will vote for Putin, even in democratic elections, and no revelations he was not afraid in the near future.

All this became possible only because Putin managed to reformat the people “for themselves” before the 14th year, that is, before the counter-revolutionary coup. He crushed and subjugated the elites, turning them into an appendage of state power. Even before the “Russian spring”, the elites ceased to play any independent political role in Russia. This gave Putin the opportunity to “short-circuit” his power “directly” to the “mass”. There was a link of the leader with the mass, which is now almost impossible to open. In this direct communication of the leader with the mass – bypassing the elite – and lies today the main secret of the stability of the regime, which explains, among other things, record high figures for voting for Putin and a record low number of votes for his opponents in the March elections. This is a lock, to which it is impossible to find keys, it can only be broken.

Theoretically, there are two possible scenarios for the development of the situation after the elections.


Sooner or later someone will learn to play another melody based on the same three chords. The notes are basically the same, but the layout is different. For example, an external enemy can be replaced by an internal (class) enemy. Fear of the future will take a hysterical form of feverish thirst for change. Hatred of capitalism is sublimated in the desire to take everything away and divide. Something similar has already happened in Russia. Today the people are so carried away by Putin that they do not want to listen to anyone else. But the inner ear, of course, hears and hears everything. There is only a good shock, so that remembered seditious words jumped out of the subconscious, and the people picked up a new obtrusive motive. When all the resources are invested in preparing for war, it is difficult to exclude shocks. So after Putin, someone who looks like him can come, but who will be stronger, and, perhaps,


In an optimal scenario for Russia, which does not look very romantic and exciting, but more vegetarian, the old sold and resold many times the post-communist elite finds the strength to consolidate and regains its place in politics. Of course, the “seven-bankership” was a disgusting phenomenon of Russian life, but now we know that there are worse things – a “one-pocket” system. If the elites manage to break the chain and return to the place of an intermediary between the authorities and the masses, then the society will have a field for historical maneuver and a chance to slip out of the next loop. Only elites can put a restrictive framework for power (“condition”), the masses can not do this. This is the essence of the constitutional path, which by definition is “elite”.

The election of 2018 is a serious warning: in and of itself, Putin’s withdrawal from politics (whenever it happens), with which his opponents have begun to associate excessive expectations, may not automatically lead to a change in the political regime if the general format of the leader’s relations with the masses remains the same. And this format will never change unless the elite consolidates in order to restore its independent political role. Waiting for “post-Putin” can become another intellectual utopia.


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