The Z of History

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For a significant part of my life (2014-2022) I identified as a Russian nationalist. In this section, I will explain why I considered Russian nationalism to be a legitimate and positive value added ideology in terms of the welfare of ethnic Russians, and even for global civilization as a whole; why I was deeply skeptical towards the Putinist state during the mid-2010s; why I stopped worrying and learned to love Putinism in the late 2010s; and why the Ukraine War collapsed these delusions. I will then ponder on why I got the nature of the late Putinist state so wrong despite having repatriated to Russia in 2016, speaking the language, and being relatively well informed about it. I will then briefly discuss my current thoughts on the war and what I now see as the optimal template for Russia’s future after Putin – namely, liberal democracy and unironic commitment to “GloboHomo” values.

But before I get to that I must first clarify what exactly I mean by Russian nationalism, which constitutes a very broad strand of thought encompassing multitudes of contradictory and sometimes warring factions, all of whom have their own highly ambiguous, mutable, and situational attitudes towards the Putinist state.

 

The Russian Golgotha and Its Consequences

My road to Russian nationalism had both an identitarian and an intellectual component. I will not dwell long on the former, because my psychological cockroaches are not a very interesting or important topic. However, it is important to understanding where I was coming from, as well as the seemingly radical nature of my reversal, and that in retrospect has much to do with my diaspora background – I left Russia at a young age in 1994, moving first to the UK and then spending a decade in the US – and the amusingly artificial nature of my conversation to Russian nationalism.

Feeling no real connection to any one country or culture, I decided to quell my “identitarian unease” by repatriating to Russia in 2016:

I also like to think I will be fulfilling Richard Spencer’s dictum of “becoming who you are.” That said, I am under no particular illusions that I will ever truly belong to either Russia or the Anglosphere, and that my fate is to remain a rootless cosmopolitan until death or technological singularity. Charles de Gaulle is alleged to have said “He who does not love his mother more than other mothers and his country more than other countries, loves neither his mother nor his country.” A corollary would be that he who has more than one country has none. In Guillaume Durocher’s essay on the phenomenon of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – the highly mobile and frequently bilingual children of expats – it is pointed out that they have a number of “rather strange” characteristics: “They tend to be more educated, more likely to experience depression, more likely to commit suicide, more likely to feel alienated, and, paradoxically but perhaps unsurprisingly, more likely to be nationalistic (they often superficially embrace and advertise their nation of origin in response to identitarian unease).” So I suppose one could also view my repatriation as a sort of psychotherapy.

But just as I intuited, suppressing my diasporic anomie through identitarian pursuits such as repatriation and Russian nationalist activism was never very likely to work out. I almost thought it did, but 2022 collapsed everything. Consequently, I am capitulating on that doomed enterprise that has brought no happiness or closure to either myself nor most anyone else, and “becoming who I am”, and always have been, for real – a “rootless cosmopolitan” in the most fundamental sense of the world. To underline my commitment to front-running Elite Human Capital by embracing post-national superglobalism and transhumanist maximalism, I am also eschewing classical race and gender identities entirely and becoming just a “thing” or “object”. My preferred pronouns are “it/it”, though to quote Taiwanese EHC paladin Audrey Tang, this is not any kind of big deal, and you may continue referring to this thing as you please: “What’s important here is not which pronouns you use, but the experience… about those pronouns… I’m not just non-binary. I’m really whatever, so do whatever.”

The intellectual reason that I was a Russian nationalist was because I viewed Russians as a people which had lost so incredibly much in service of militantly internationalist ideologies during the 20th century. The repeated demographic catastrophes of 1917-1947 – the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War and its famines, the White emigration, the Soviet collectivization famines, the Great Purge, World War II, the 1947 Famine – resulted in a population that was just half of what it could have been even within the current borders of the Russian Federation, to say nothing of the 400-500 million that a surviving Russian Empire or Russian Republic would have had. This was a veritable “Russian Golgotha” in the Russian nationalist mythology. Furthermore, Soviet central planning ensured that Russia would never converge with the developed Western economies, ensuring a GDP that was reduced by yet another 50% relative to what it could have been under a “normal” course of capitalist development.

Furthermore, these lost opportunities, which afflicted no other similarly “big” nation, had mostly been inflicted by people who were not ethnic Russians themselves and who as often as not were indifferent or actively hated traditional Russian culture. They drew borders that stranded large majorities of ethnic Russians outside the RSFSR and intermittently reversed Russification processes in Ukraine and Belarus – processes that under normal conditions would have likely led to their subsummation as part of the All-Russian nation, as happened in post-Revolutionary France – and actively promoted Ukrainian identity while at the same time starving millions of them to death and souring them on Russian identity by association.

So you know Ethereum and its “triple halving”? It just strikes me that this is kind of what happened to Russia in the 20th century. Its potential population was halved through the demographic Golgotha, then halved again though the drastically less traumatic but no less real korenizatsiya processes that put the kibosh on late Imperial Russification processes. And its potential GDP per capita was halved in turn due to Soviet suppression of markets and its political-economic consequences that last to this day. Alexis de Tocqueville’s prophesy that the US and Russia would each rule half the world came to pass. However, they did not rule as equals. During the Cold War, the USSR was only a superpower in a deeply stunted and unsustainable way that mostly loaded on prodigal levels of military spending and ruinously expensive subsidies to “fraternal” socialist states and its own elites ended up selling it out for jeans and Miami condos.

And so Russia ended its traumatic 20th century with just ~10% of its late Tsarist potential in some alternate Everett branch. Triple halving.

My modest conclusion was that if Russia was to have a happier and less catastrophic 21st century, perhaps it should look out for the interests of its own people for a change. And more specifically, the interests of the ethnicity that happens to make up 85% of its population in particular for a change (much as Israel is a “Jewish state” that unapologetically privileges the interests of a certain ethnoreligious group that makes up 75% of its population, or indeed how many East European states and even Russian constituent republics define themselves as the “national states” of their titular nationalities).

Note that this is all in the context of a political culture in which mainstream politicians were actively reticent about even naming ethnic Russians:

The famous Russian far right blogger/troll Vladimir Frolov (“yarowrath”) once argued that the “basedness” level of a Russian politician could be accurately proxied by the ratio of “russkie” (ethnic Russians) vs. “rossiyane” (anodyne PC term for denizens of Russia) in his vocabulary. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of Russian nationalists is that they are unafraid to speak of the interests of russkie, whereas kremlins and liberals alike opt for the term rossiyane (PM Dmitry Medvedev prefers the even less offensive “inhabitants of Russia”).

I believe that this constitutes a fair summary of the classical “White Guardist” Russian nationalist position that I endorsed – and which I still do so if now in an exclusively historiographic, not prescriptive, sense. However, I was not interested in “culture war” issues such as liberalism vs. conservativism per se. (Which, ironically, is also White Guardist).

To the extent I formulated it, my core position was that the entire purpose of nationalism was to become so ingrained in society that all ideological factions would embrace it:

I’m probably better defined as a centrist-nationalist/ethnocentrist rather than a right-winger. My main “right” position is racial realism/rejection of the clean slate theory. But among these there are people of almost all ideologies, including liberals and even (though rarely) leftists.

… and that it would “self-annihilate”:

The main goal of nationalism is to self-destruct. To such an extent “normalize” national thinking that “nationalism” will remain, by and large, become the reserve of only freaks, outcasts, and svidomy.

What were those nationalist principles? In a 2017 article, loading on what I took to be the “center of gravity” position at Sputnik & Pogrom, I defined them as follows:

  1. The cessation of political prosecutions for “hate speech” under Article 282.
  2. An end to mass immigration from Central Asia.
  3. The regathering of the Russian lands, including Belorussia, North Kazakhstan, Novorossiya, and Malorossiya.

Finally, all of these issues were inseparable from techno-progressivism, as the grandiose conclusion to my Sputnik & Pogrom article on Russian IQ from 2019 makes clear:

Intelligence is success at any level (personal, regional, global). There are only 10 million Ashkenazi Jews in the world, but they make up a huge percentage of billionaires and Nobel Prize laureates. They also exert enormous influence on the foreign policy of the world’s only superpower.

What’s their secret? Culture? Freemasonry? Forbidden mysteries? It’s much simpler – an average IQ of around 115 points. Now imagine a nation, say, of 200 million people. With an average IQ of around 175 points. They would conquer the world. A ‘scientific’ or ‘cultural’ victory, to use terms from the computer game ‘Civilization’. Although they would undoubtedly be incredibly strong both militarily and diplomatically.

And we, Russians, should do everything possible not to be left on the sidelines of this wonderful new world.

It is telling that the most appropriate place to publish this was precisely Sputnik & Pogrom, which was not just a Moscow-based nationalist journal but a community, an ideology, and an aesthetic all rolled into one. I will speak more about its central role in the Russian nationalist culture of the 2010s, which remains unrecognized in Western political science. However, I was but one of many factions that are commonly assigned to the nationalist space, especially by Western observers, and far from the most prominent one; even though in many cases, those associations with Russian nationalism are objectively dubious to non-existence. So before moving on to that, I will briefly list those factions, and my relations with them.

 

Sputnik & Pogrom’s World

In this section I will briefly describe the positions of what I view to be the eight major strands of Russian nationalism. These are Orthodox nationalism, state nationalism, Duginism, Neo-Bolshevism, National Bolshevism, Liberal Nationalism, Neo-Nazism/White Nationalism, and the White Guardism championed by the Sputnik & Pogrom ecosystem that more than anything else defined the 2010s Russian nationalism that laid the initial ideological foundations for the Ukraine War. Although there are some overlaps, these are very different things, with different outlooks on Putinism and foreign policy, and disputes with the other factions. Some also have a questionable relationship to nationalism, or would – as in the case of the Neo-Bolsheviks and Duginists – outright deny their association with it outright. However, I think that all of them can be clustered under “nationalism” in the sense none of them can really be viewed as “normal” statists, conservatives, or liberals.

(1) Orthodox Nationalists

The main Orthodox-conservative factions that are explicitly nationalist, as opposed to normie religious conservatives – on them, just read Paul Robinson’s book Russian Conservatism – would be Malofeev’s various structures (e.g. Tsargrad TV; The Two-Headed Eagle) with which I am only passingly familiar, and the more hardcore Russian Imperial Movement, whose bunker in Saint-Petersburg I visited once but otherwise had no contacts with. Though intermittently suppressed within Russia, RIM has made itself “useful” with a paramilitary arm that trained foreign White Nationalists, and was always militarily involved in Ukraine. It has long been sanctioned by the US on account of its ties to Western extremist movements, which constitute an impressively comprehensive list of cringe freaks and based psychopaths from the Traditional Workers’ Party to Atomwaffen.

Russia’s most serious “Orthodox-conservative” intellectual who is also explicitly nationalist is Egor Kholmogorov. He coined the concept of Atomic Orthodoxy, which is the idea that since there can be no major wars between the Great Powers in the Atomic Age, the main locus of conflict and subversion moves to the ideological and memetic realm. He also came up with the term “The Russian Spring” to describe the pro-Russian protests in Ukraine in 2014 (which kremlins later retconned as the “Crimean Spring” during the Minsk era).

Although these were interesting ideas and somewhat concordant with my own thinking about civilization-states and noospheric partitioning, the idea of Orthodox fundamentalism as integral to Russian nationalism or national interests never much interested me. Although Russian cosmism was originally fruitfully interlinked with Orthodoxy, the modern ROC is a much dumber creature – but what do you expect of yet another siloviki run institution? – and one that is unusually hostile to transhumanist and bioliberal ideas even by the standards of most world religions. There can’t be much in the way of alignment between a technological accelerationist and a movement that is strongly bioconservative and consistently draws some of the most deranged nutjobs.

Consequently, despite admiring the Warhammer 40K like aesthetics of the Central Military Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, I was somewhat leery about the larp becoming overly real. Not only have these concerns been fully validated, but what I have since discovered is that it was in reality all larp and no substance. You had the Orthodox priests blessing the nuclear missiles and the Fortress Monastery cathedral and so forth which is all very based and grimdarkpilled, but sadly in the real world production capacities matter, you can’t commune with the machine spirits, red doesn’t make you go faster, and praying  doesn’t stop the drones.

And so I must in retrospect admit that Egor Prosvirnin, who only prayed to his apartment’s plumbing spirits, was completely validated in his militant atheism.

(2) State Nationalists

State nationalists are in their extreme versions essentially the okhranniks (regime guardians) who parrot the party line of the day. Stalinists like Nikolay Starikov, who went from praising the Minsk Accords as Putin heroically averting WW3, and misappropriating aid to Donbass, now a fanatical Z head railing against traitors. Or Boris Yakemenko, one of the early organizers of the Nashi pro-Putin youth movement – half of whose stars seem to have since migrated to the US – who was recently engaging in a spittle-flecked rant against Russian volunteers as “monarchist, anarchist scum with a very strong inclination towards fascism.” One can view them as broadly equivalent to personality cults such as American MAGA with all the appropriate levels of intelligence, integrity, and personal principles that go along with it.

(3) Duginism

Any cursory search of my blog or X archives will show that I have always held Dugin in low regard as a mountebank and obscurantist known for overly verbose books summarizing the work of 20th century German geopolitical theorists sprinkled with derivative Nouvelle Droite talking points, Third Worldist resentment, and anti-capitalist social justice rhetoric. There is obviously a large element of performative larp, but I never found it particularly amusing: “The most terrible ghettoes will be created for surfers – this is the most arrogant, most anti-Eurasian phenomenon” is not exactly BAP/Hakan tier. Finally, Dugin’s relationship to Russian nationalism is ambiguous. For his own part, he has always denied being a Russian nationalist, and indeed at times demanded they be prosecuted under Russia’s hate speech laws, even though the war has forced a broad reconciliation amongst these factions.

Although quite marginal in Russia throughout the 2010s – the idea that he was ever Putin’s “gray cardinal” is amusing, but deranged – his takes naturally appealed to Alt Right “intellectuals”, where he became a major influence thanks to his own active involvement in propagating his ideas into English (unlike Russian nationalists who overwhelmingly wrote for their own), as well as the translation efforts of Nina Kouprianova, Richard Spencer’s former wife. And in a further demonstration of US soft power, it was amusing mostly through them – as relayed to me by a Russian identitarian whom I met at Listva – that Duginism was recycled recycled back into Russian right-wing discourse. Nonetheless, I maintain that any Western work on Russian nationalism on whom a Ctrl-F yields endless references to Dugin while avoiding mentioning Prosvirnin, Krylov, Galkovsky, or Kholmogorov is unlikely to be worth the paper it’s written on.

Needless to say, I consider Duginism to be not just a deranged but a self-defeating ideology for the same reason that Unabomber primitivism, which draws many of the same fans, is doomed – technophobia is uncompetitive in a technological world. Furthermore, Dugin comes off as a total failure even so far as spreading Russian soft power is concerned. This ranges from provoking fear and hate amongst the Western libs who keep citing the that infamous extract from the Wikipedia summary of Foundations of Geopolitics, while driving even rightoids with initially pro-Russian inclinations into virulent Russophobia: Apart from the well-known case of Richard Spencer, this also includes a large part of the Ukrainian nationalist movement (!!), including Rus-Ukraina ideologist Oleksiy Arestovych, Dmytro Korchynsky, and Azov ideologue Olena Semenyaka; Anton Shekhovtsov, Eurasianist turned anti-extremism researcher and author of a book called Russia and the Western Far Right; Navalny associate and FBK investigations head Maria Pevchikh (Dugin was her doctoral advisor at MSU). I even recall hearing of an Islamist fan who took up the cause of jihad against Russia, and of Swedish identitarians who later went to fight in Ukraine. Tragically, this tendency to repel ended up reverberating on Dugin himself. I suspect that it is precisely Dugin’s overinflated status in the Ukrainian nationalist imagination that doomed his daughter – the car bomb was clearly meant for him.

What is it about Dugin that causes so many people who started out associating with him and getting inspired by him to eventually check out and desperately commit to combatting the Eurasian ideology, be it on the Internet or the battlefield?

(4) Neo-Bolsheviks/Stalinists

Quite apart from my dim views on the Soviet experiment – on Stalinism, Lenin, Bolshevik aristocide, etc. – I never had any interest in Neo-Bolshevism. In my view, they combine all the worst brain worms from both the Far Left and Far Right – true Red/Brown hours, with a side dash of COVID denialism and obsessions with QR codes as the number of the Beast on the more demented extremes that intersect with the Orthodox people. (Amusing, it’s also the epicenter of Russia’s sovereign citizen movement – Soviet citizens; NOD; the Spirit of the Times (Kurginyan) – all of which is brain-meltingly based, stupid stuff).

Intellectually, so far as the term has merit, their “formal” leading spokesman in Russia is probably Alexander Prokhanov (Zavtra). However, former jack of all trades (including police canine handler), Stalin understandooor, and video game writer Dmitry “Goblin” Puchkov is vastly more color and culturally influential. Their most visible representative in the West is probably Israel Shamir, a Jewish anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist who of course also has a column in The Unz Review.

It is difficult to classify these people as nationalists. They are more accurately viewed as the left-wing representatives of Russian conservatism, as Paul Robinson does in his book Russian Conservatism. They do have significant influence in the Russian government, most notably through Sergey Glazyev, Ukraine hawk and “multipolar” economist.

(5) National Bolsheviks

Distinct from the Neo-Bolsheviks, I would say that the NazBols are the most thymotic and poetic Russian nationalist faction, following in the spirit of their late founder, the writer Eduard Limonov. Though obviously I didn’t see eye to eye with them on economic topics – that said, they are arguably less radical than the Neo-Bolsheviks, being basically NEPists and smenovekhovtsy in outlook – they were very open to HBD/IQ realism and anti-immigrationism in my podcast with them.

Despite – or rather, because – they were one of the most implacable and principled champions of the Donbass Uprising, they are also strong anti-statists who have always had a prickly relationship with the gray morass that is the Putinist state. This translates into a visually attractive counter-culture centered around bunkers and spontaneous protest against the police state and elites (which belongs to the general post-Soviet Russian tradition of highly visual protest/activism as art observed in the work of Oleg Kulik or in Voina/FEMEN). I think they might be the nationalist faction with the highest percentage of women, which makes sense in light of their self-image as revolutionary poets and romantics.

They even managed to become a significant memetic presence in Western schizo politics discourse through the “NazBol Gang” meme. Personally I love their aesthetics and have found them to be the most “fun” faction to hang around with.

(6) Liberal Nationalists

Liberal nationalism has a long pedigree, and includes the early Alexey Navalny, who used to call Gastarbeiters cockroaches and go on Russian Marches before deciding his prospects would be better if he was to become handshakeworthy. However, there are no real organizations in this sphere; it is a descriptive label that applies to individuals and sub-factions within the other main factions, as opposed to being its own thing.

However, the two closest equivalents might be Roman Yuneman’s Obschestvo Buduschee (Society of the Future) and Mikhail Svetov’s Libertarian Party.

The Society of the Future, led by Roman Yuneman, is anti-Putinist, pro-democracy and civil rights, and ideologically war-skeptical – but patriotic and supportive of the war effort now that there’s no way out. They are also stridently pro-Donbass, having organized some of Russia’s largest humanitarian efforts – their supply of radiators to Mariupol is the main reason civilians in that city didn’t freeze last winter. They are also associated with Russian Field, one of Russia’s best new polling companies. As of the present day, this is probably the main and only force within Russian nationalism that I would still be willing to endorse.

The Libertarian Party, led by Mikhail Svetov, and their media arm SVTV News is anti-Putin and anti-war, but is critical of the Russian opposition’s overly pro-Ukrainian positions. It is also much more oriented towards Alt Right-ish positions on race and immigration, strong MRA themes, and COVID denial and anti-vaxxerism.

(7) White Nationalists/Neo-Nazis

This skinhead/1488 faction, dominant in the 1990s to 2000s, was basically destroyed under 2010s Putinism under extremism laws and Russia’s general post-Soviet civilizing process, and the Ukraine War put them out of their misery.

Some White Nationalists decided to fight for Russia. There was a notable intersection with Wagner, most notably through the Far Right Rusich battalion. Most of them have become strongly disillusioned with the war, especially after the failed Wagner mutiny, and one of its leaders Yan Petrovsky fled to Finland under a false identity. There, he was uncovered and arrested, and in the wake of the Russian government’s lack of interest in advocating on his behalf – in fairness, an understandable decision, why advertise an open Neo-Nazi alleged war criminal who abandoned the battlefield at that? – they appear to have folded up operations.

Other White Nationalists – I would estimate the majority – sided with Ukraine. This includes mainstream White Nationalists and anti-immigration activists such as DPNI founders and Russian March organizers Alexander Potkin (Belov) and Dmitry Demushkin. Some of them even took up arms directly, most famously the Russian Volunteer Corps led by Denis Kapustin (White Rex) which have been involved in direct attacks on Russian territory. (*Lokot Autonomy intensifies*). One can only speculate what Russia’s most famous Neo-Nazi, Maxim Martsinkevich (Tesak), who invented the invented the concept of Neo-Nazi ironic trolling a decade ahead of /pol/ and The Daily Stormer, would have done had he not been tortured to death in his prison cell in 2020.

Although this faction is interesting to observe, I never had any substantive intersections with them. They are not very smart. They tend to make dumb political decisions – all ethics aside, there are zero scenarios in which actively fighting for Ukraine ever redounds to their benefit within Russia, even under a liberal post-Putin regime. The Neo-Nazi and 14/88 larp aside, their visions reduce to the “hobbit hovel” nationalism that have no future under the supremacy of the GAE regime that they, consciously or not, are working towards. Finally, although they are the only Russian nationalist faction to entertain “raciological” discussions, they are of the dumb and dated variety – think 1930s phrenology, not 2020s admixture studies.

And, most importantly, even during my Russian nationalist phase, I was specifically a Russian nationalist. Not a White Nationalist. The whole point of the thing was for Russians to intelligently act in their own ethnic interests for a change, as opposed to abstract foreign groups, be they the International Proletariat under Communism, the sky wizard under Neo-Trad Russia, Eurasians under Duginism, Putin’s Clever Plan under the Starikovs, the White Race under Whiterexia – or, as it turned out, the Rightoid International under Putin. But that’s for later.

Meanwhile, I will tell the story of the only Russian nationalist community that seemed to satisfy those rather modest requirements:

The Russian National State: The rebirth of Russia; the regathering of the Russian lands; gun freedoms; free elections; independent courts; digital freedoms; destruction of ethnic mafias and equality of regions.
Lighter gray…: Free media; repudiation of Belovezha Accords; individual freedoms; cancelation of Soviet internal divisions; rebirth of science; promotion of Russian culture abroad; controlled migration; worthy education system; property rights; direct action Constitution.

(8) White Guardism/Sputnik & Pogrom

The nationalist journal known as Sputnik & Pogrom, published by the late Egor Prosvirnin was, without exaggeration, the intellectual nerve center of Russian nationalism as it developed in the 2010s and its guiding vision of a Russian National State (RNG). Originating from Prosvirnin’s video games-themed personal blog, Sputnik & Pogrom evolved into a luxuriously illustrated glossy featuring historical long-reads and political analysis, statistical studies and translations of English language texts; pro-democracy, pro-freedom of speech, pro-liberalism and anti-theocracy (approximate slogan: “liberalism is the psychology of Europeans; parochial conservatism is the psychology of Ukraine and other Soviet Bantustans”) in social outlook, anti-Third World immigration in politics, Russian irredentist in geopolitics. Consequently, it was stridently anti-Putin in the political context of the 2010s when he was implementing his “Conservative Turn“, turning the screws on democracy, and engaging in “Putinsliv” (“betrayal of the Donbass”) through the Minsk Accords. Prosvirnin made the intuitive decision that for Russian nationalism to win, it needed to bet on the smart, young, and successful – and that bet was a successful one, at least in the sense that virtually all the smart, young Russians I know who are at least somewhat partial to Russian nationalism came to it through Sputnik & Pogrom. (The Russian state eventually awarded Prosvirnin for this achievement by legally harassing him and blocking his journal within Russia).

This ecosystem fragmented in the wake of Prosvirnin’s untimely death in December 2021. The splinter groups are overly marginal to mention beyond the Ordinary Czarism Telegram group (which is now mostly just about Z cheerleading; sadly, Prosvirnin turned out to be irreplaceable, and incidentally, I am ~90% he would have long since rejected Z for the disgusting charade it has become). Nonetheless, I am reasonably sure that in future social and cultural histories of antebellum Russia – to say nothing of studies of modern Russian nationalism – Sputnik & Pogrom will eventually get its due. Its audience may not have been vast, as with the Neo-Bolsheviks, but it was elite. It was read by the likes of Alexander Voloshin, one of the key architects of Putinism, and Anatoly Chubais, the creator of privatization and the modern Russian oligarchy. Let’s be real – these people were not reading Dugin, Tesak, or even Prokhanov. And apart from the “nice” ideas advocating liberalism and rights which the Putinists were decidedly uninterested in adopting, there were also texts that proposed templates for the systemic deconstruction of Ukrainian statehood (not to mention Belarus and North Kazakhstan). Putin speech’s on the eve of the Ukraine War could have been lifted from most any of Sputnik & Pogrom polemics over the past decade – “You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine.” And, well… perhaps it was?!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Sputnik & Pogrom had plenty of flatterers, from (amusingly) the Ukrainian nationalist Petr & Mazepa, a bunch of short-lived Caucasian imitators, and the Islamist Orda1313, which advocated Tatar independence and the creation of a Ukrainian corridor to Kazakhstan in the wake of the Russian state’s dissolution. On a surely entirely unrelated matter, I note that the crypto-Tatar nationalist turned Ukraine War commenter Kamil Galeev is the only popular commenter to notice and extensively talk about the influence of Sputnik & Pogrom and Galkovsky on Russian nationalist discourse, devoting dozens of Tweets to it and dropping “lore” that only someone very much “tuned into” that world could reasonably be aware of, and even his own analysis is redolent of Sputnik & Pogrom’s style – appropriate, in light of the supernova visual that accompanied its last post.

Otherwise, the main hub for “intellectual Russian nationalism” were, and remain, the Listva café-bookshops in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. They are informally affiliated with the Black Hundreds publishing house run by Dmitry Bastrakov, who went to the front as a volunteer soon after the Ukraine War began. Though its main focus is on topics like Russian history, late Tsarist and White Guard political literature, Silver Age culture and literature like the forgotten Vasily Rozanov (who really speaks to me as a splendid troll who managed to attract the ire of both the Tsarist regime and Lenin and defended homosexuality while calling his critics gay), and modern Russian nationalist writings, it maintains a respectably heterodox space that carries literature from Russian Identitarians to queer feminist theory. Although many of these factions don’t get along with each other, this approach has served it well, allowing it to carve out a respectable niche for itself as a coffee salon human capital magnet. Speakers in the fields of history, urbanism, political science, and even major personages connected to the Donbass War such as Igor Strelkov have made presentations in Listva’s two bookshops. This roster has on occasion included myself; it is hard to imagine any other Russian institution giving me a platform to talk about the problem of dysgenics and related matters.

Consequently, to the extent that I was associated with any political faction in Russia, it was within the Sputnik & Pogrom sphere. I assume it’s not hard to see why. It was the main Russian political community that espoused White Guardist historiography and what I considered to be core Russian nationalist tenets and interests – freedom of speech; “Russia for Russians” and anti-immigrationism; national irredentism; viewpoint heterodoxy, including openness to HBD/IQ realism – while attracting a wide range of smart and interesting people (indeed, Prosvirnin and his wife Marina Urusova had something of a coffee salon thing going on at their central Moscow apartment near Tverskaya and the Pushkin statue). In other words, they were for the most part “aligned” with my own views on the role I saw for Russian nationalism, including – most importantly – a relative lack of “culture war” cringe – again, there were both religious conservatives, such as Egor Kholmogorov, the inventor of the “Russian Spring”, and social liberals, such as Russian-Ukrainian nationalist Alexander Chalenko, and people with basically Neo-Bolshevik views on the economy, such as Igor Strelkov, who could both be considered to be distantly within the Sputnik & Pogrom orbit – and some genuine interest in HBD and psychometrics that was on a decidedly higher scientific level than White Nationalist/Neo-Nazi race-baiting.

During this period, I wrote what is still probably the most comprehensive popular HBD/IQ longread in the Russian language, gave several lectures, and participated in a number of podcasts, most of which are still accessible on the Czar Chats YouTube channel. There was even a certain inclination towards transhumanism and cryptocurrency. One of the podcast episodes had a discussion of cryonics and Kriorus (sadly Prosvirnin did not make the relevant arrangements before his death). My very last podcast with him in August 2021 was a discussion of his penultimate article, “Tsar on the Blockchain”, which was essentially a “convergent invention” of Balaji Srinivasan’s “Network State” concept.

Sputnik & Pogrom “Boyar Duma” party in 2019 at which Prosvirnin promised me the Foreign Ministry portfolio in the coming Russian National State.

Apart from that, I also participated in a podcast called ROGPR (original archives) devoted to discussing American alternative politics, HBD realism, political theory, and the weird and strange goings on in the Kremlin Towers. The primary host was a Fallout aficionado called “Kirill Nesterov”, who later signed up to make videos for Sputnik & Pogrom’s YouTube account after I introduced him to Prosvirnin, while the third co-host was pigdog, who is now co-host of the Russians with Attitude podcast together with Kirill Kaminets, another long-standing nationalist who revolved in near-Sputnik & Pogrom circles. Carried under the rubric of ROG Pogrom and mostly consisting of themes recycled from ROGPR or my blog at The Unz Review, Nesterov enjoyed a short but massive surge in popularity, with many of his awkward aphorisms (e.g. “low culture of discussions in Eastern Europe” being my favorite) becoming minor memes on Runet. However, he then had a major falling out with the conservative/groyperish faction of the online Russian nationalist movement then known as The Vendée – or perhaps it was just 2ch trolls, opinions and versions still differ – over some factional drama about the permissibility of Latin American football fans banging Russian women or something equally moronic the details of which can be found on obscure corners of video gaming forums and 2ch. He has now carved out a new name for himself in the Anglosphere as Warlockracy, a video game reviewer.

But returning to the halcyon ROGPR days of 2016-17, one thing I would like to emphasize is that this was set during a time of near total nationalist disillusionment with Putinism. Donbass commanders were getting killed in mysteries accidents and Novorossiya activists were being arrested and extradited to Ukraine into the loving hands of the SBU, “Putinsliv” (Putin betrayal) was on everyone’s lips, “mnogokhodovka” (equivalent of “10D chess” in Alt Right discourse) and “Putin’s clever plan” were terms of mockery. Prosvirnin had his apartment raided and his computer confiscated for… anti-Ukrainian extremism (kek), and Article 282 “hate speech” prosecutions reached their all time peak. This was the environment under which the podcast enjoyed a great deal of success and essentially launched the era of Russian nationalist podcasting.

It shouldn’t surprise you at this point (and my longtime readers from The Unz Review can confirm) that my own politics at that time were rather strongly anti-Kremlin in light of what I perceived to be its cretinism and indifference if not active hostility to ethnic Russian interests. Despite enjoying life as a repatriate in Moscow, I like to think was rather realistic about Russia’s problems. For instance, I wrote about Russia’s technological backwardness in terms of things like the Nature Index, VC activity, and robotization levels. Incidentally, this informed my views in early 2022 that Russia’s prospects would be poor if the Ukraine War was to become prolonged and become an attritional one against the much bigger and richer West, and I assumed the kremlins realized that as well.

It’s rather hard to wage a successful war of attrition against a state that has the support of a US-EU-EU coalition with a 20x GDP and 100x scientific output preponderance.

Speaking of Ukraine – I was especially blackpilled on it. In 2018, I wrote an article with what was in retrospect the very prophetic title of The Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished (And Won’t Anytime Soon). I assessed that Russia policy in Ukraine had terminally failed, citing the collapse of “Russophile” attitudes and the acceleration of Ukrainian nation-building and military modernization, and even noted that as of 2018, any military intervention would no longer be the “smooth cruise to the Dnieper” that it would have been a couple of years previously:

Russia can still crush Ukraine in a full-scale conventional conflict, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future, but it will no longer be the happy cruise to the Dnepr that it would have been two years earlier.

… and proposed a program to brain drain Ukraine instead on the logic that the window for military action had probably closed:

Reunification through military means was ruled out – probably permanently – in May 2014, when Putin recognized Poroshenko as the legitimately elected President of the Ukraine. While certain nationalists, including on this blog, still entertain fantasies about invading the Ukraine and ruling it like a Reichskommissariat, that would be worse than just immoral – it would almost certainly fail, since it buys into the narrative that Ukrainians can only become Russians at the point of a gun.

This was predicated on the logic that population is power, and that unless AI timelines radically accelerated – again, I was explicitly thinking in such terms well before it started becoming slightly mainstream five years later – that this would would remain true.

I suppose that if superintelligence is developed soon, or the entire world melts together into a post-historical open borders dystopia/utopia, or some existential risk does as all in, then these considerations will become rather irrelevant.

However, if the 21st century continues on a more or less “business as usual” path, then having 200 million people (most of Ukraine + Belorussia + South Siberia) will be preferable to having 150 million due to the greater economies of scale and innovation that having more people enables.

So in light of me being “blackpilled” on the regime and having pretty much given up on any military solution to the Ukrainian Question, why did I subsequently change my mind on Putinism, endorsing the war as soon as it became obvious to me from January 2022, and then getting its outcome so catastrophically wrong?

 

The Last Letter in the Alphabet

From late 2018 to 2019, I perceived that Putin was moving in a more nationalist direction, fulfilling more and more parts of the core Russian nationalist program – e.g., rollback of federalism, White Guard revivalism, and even decriminalization of the hated Article 282 hate speech laws. It even seemed to be doing something about many of the problems I had previously identified, such as easing immigration for people with Russian roots in the ex-USSR, stopping the deportations of Donbass activists to Ukraine, and increasing science funding. (This was when I began my running gag that Putin was reading my blog). Consequently, I endorsed him for Eternal President in the March 2020 Constitutional referendum.

The apogee of Putinist nationalism – in retrospect, its euphoria-driven all time high, in trading terms – might have been mid-2021, when I wrote Russia’s Nationalist Turn. By that point, the Constitutional referendum of 2020 had redefined de facto ethnic Russians as the “state-forming people of the Russian Federation”, fulfilling the Russian nationalist goal of a Russian National State (RNG), and Putin had published his June 2021 article on the On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians which affirmed that the Ukrainians are a colorful and distinct, but nonetheless inseparable, part of the All-Russian nation. All of this occurred in the absence of the conservative stupidpol that has inundated Russia in the past two years; to the plaudits of biohackers and the despair of Western neo-Lysenkoists, this was a country where new laws were being passed liberalizing reproductive technologies, as opposed to owning teh gheys and mooting abortion bans.

Meanwhile, the COVID shock aside, and despite the lingering ailments of the Russian state that I was quite cognizant of but did not attach great significance to, Russia was continuing to become a progressively better place to live in – more and more government services were becoming digitized; there was a broad program of historical building renovations, and SWPL culture from shared bicycles to craft beer and historical recreation festivals were advancing inexorably. For a short, magical moment in history it appeared Russia could become a truly “Radical Centrist” state – technologically progressive and non-Woke, HBD aware and bioliberal – and unlike the other “hobbit hovel” nationalisms of Eastern Europe, possessed of the population and economies of scale needed to carve out and indefinitely sustain its own sovereign memetic space. At the time of Prosvirnin’s untimely death in December 2021, it seemed that the world that Sputnik & Pogrom had collectively envisioned – and which I fancier I had played some minor role in bringing to fruition by mainstreaming HBD/IQ thinking amongst the smarter Russian nationalists – might at last be on the horizon.

So when it became clear to me that Russia was going to launch a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in late December/January 2022 I interpreted it as the logical culmination of Putin’s conversion to the Russian nationalist agenda. As I explained in my article Regathering of the Russian Lands just before the start of the war, I also considered the moment opportune in light of what I viewed as negative trends in Ukrainian military modernization and cultural Ukrainization coupled with Russia having – I assumed – spending the past eight years sanctions-proofing its economy and modernizing its own military.

Finally, as a Russian nationalist, I was not come the moment of truth going to stand athwart the Return of History and abandon Russia as it prepared to roll the dice on retrieving the future that was stolen from it by the Bolsheviks:

Ukraine’s value is, forgive the triteness, in its people, or its human capital – namely, 35 million 95+ IQ people who are very close to and compatible with Russians, who are indeed an intrinsic part of the All Russian nation. Now if Russia was prepared to expend a rather high cost in welfare funds and knock on effects on integrating 1.5 million genuinely quite “alien” Chechens, then paying a drastically more modest price (per capita) for 35 million of its own kith and kin is eminently rational. Although Russia’s 145 million people can still generate sufficient economies of scale to maintain political sovereignty and to run a largely self-contained technological civilization, complete with its own IT ecosystem (read: sovereign memetic space, “socially distanced” from the Woke nihilism of the West), space program, and technological visions. But creating and then sustaining such a world-civilization will certainly be considerably easier in a restored “Russian World” that unites Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians under one banner in a Slavic superpower of 200 million people stretching from Brest to Vladivostok.

And so the Z War began on February 24, 2022.

And within the next weeks and months, what I had regarded in Putin’s Russia as nothing less than a “steelmanning” of the right-wing ideology that I had otherwise long become entirely disillusioned with, came crashing down into epistemic oblivion, as the kremlins forgot all about the original nation-gathering justifications for the war and opted for rhetoric “based” around the anti-Satanist 666 genders rightoid discourse.

I suppose fate is not without a sense of irony.

Z is after all the last letter in the Anglo alphabet. What, exactly, had I been expecting?

 

The detailed recounting of the Ukraine War and everything that had to go precisely wrong to produce the happenings that happened will be far too much for an already overly long essay (perhaps I will revisit it in detail when the war is over). However, the long and short of it is that for Russia, almost everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.

I assumed that the Defense Ministry statistics about the ever increasing percentages of modernized weapons system corresponded to reality, that Russian BTGs would enjoy total quantitative and qualitative artillery dominance including through extensive use of drones as promised in prewar PR, and that the Russia Air Force would acquire and retain unchallenged air superiority. I assumed that the Russian MIC was a really existing thing capable of expanding to produce dozens of Armatas per month after all its much touted investments and modernizations during the 2010s, as opposed to a looted and hallowed out shell that critically depended on Western spart parts and servicing to keep functioning. I never banked on the Wunderwaffen promised by Russian state media and Alt Media bloggers, and acknowledged that they were mostly vaporware, but I assumed that Russia had basic things like reliable tires and encrypted military comms systems and that this would not be something I would need to take into consideration. More broadly, while I never bought the idea that Russia’s army was the “world’s second strongest”, I did assume that it was the world’s third strongest, though as it later turned out, blithering moron Gerasimov did drink the Kool-Aid. Again, I was not expecting any wonders of military strategy from the Russian General Staff, but I did expect them to be at least a step or three above the likes of dumb retards like The Saker or Andrey Martyanov.

I assumed that that the General Staff had run the computer models showing they would win quickly, and/or the FSB had politically turned key members of the Ukrainian elites, for I assumed that otherwise Putin would not embark on such a risky course of action, and the very fact he was doing so suggested that my relative pessimism from the late 2010s – “no smooth cruise to the Dnieper” – was unfounded. But as it turned out the FSB indeed assured Putin that all the traitors were in place assuming the Army would make up for any lapses, while the Army went in under the impression the FSB had done their subversion homework, whereas in reality that only panned out in Kherson. But Putin believed all of them. (That said, I have grounds to think based on a couple of conversations with people who “work” that the FSB deception of Putin was cynically intentional, and driven by the desire to get the war they were ideologically committed to. But that’s beside the point – the possibility of an intelligence agency “special operation” against Putin wasn’t something I was modeling either).

I assumed that the Dnieper bridges, other critical infrastructure, and “decision making centers” would all be hit in a massive strike consisting of many hundreds of missiles at Zero Hour. Instead, Russia even avoided striking AFU barracks for the first couple of days. I assumed that the Russian leadership realized that it had to win quickly with a sucker punch because its prospects in a long-term war of attrition in which Ukraine could load on NATO’s vastly greater industrial potential would be pessimistic by default. So I assumed that Russian conscripts and Belarusian soldiers would be brought into play to secure the Army’s rear when it became clear that the offensive was flailing, and I assumed that a wider mobilization would be announced in March or April at the latest, as opposed to waiting for the front to begin dissipating, which it was by late summer 2022. I assumed that the secondary troops would be used to encircle Mariupol – instead of attritioning prime LDNR infantry by taking it street by street – while freeing the main army units to roam much deeper into Ukraine’s as of then undefended southern underbelly. I assumed that the main threat to Russia came from NATO getting directly involved in the war such as by imposing a no fly zone, and that was my main concern during the first couple of months of the war. I did not expect the Ukrainians to be able to halt the Russian advance with hastily mobilized men equipped with Anglo-American light arms as that is what a near maximally positive scenario of non-intervention which. I thought the Ukrainians would be getting more and better arms, and much earlier than they did, and this light Z cope to the effect that Russia was actually “fighting all of NATO” is even further revealed for the travesty it always was.

I assumed that Putin would himself take a much closer interest in the technical details of the war that would determine not just his political fortunes but his historical legacy. At any rate, I assumed this would happen when it started becoming clear that things weren’t going to plan. I certainly wasn’t expecting Putin to become an Interdimensional Generalissimus. But I assumed that I would not be speculating about alt history scenarios in which the Commander-in-Chief was anyone but Putin and speculating that either Nabiullina, because she is smarter, or Kadyrov, because he is far more brutal, could have at least gotten to Dnepropetrovsk, which I had posited as the likeliest “Stalingrad” of the conflict on the off chance there was to be one. Certainly most anyone who had read a few books on World War II and/or played HOI4 could have done a much better job. I am pretty sure that I would have won the war! But even if Putin insisted on remaining ignorant himself, I assumed that at some point he would realize he was being swept up in the Russian military’s Culture of Lying, and would start dismissing the relevant people starting with Shoigu and Gerasimov, since there are limits to the levels of in competence that even he would tolerate from his cronies, or so I assumed. I assumed there was at least some modest level of meritocracy within the military and that it had not been captured by a clique that actively removes commanders that outshine them, promotes failure upwards, and lives in the magical fantasy land in which Russians regularly “kalibrate” hundreds of “Ukrainian nationalists” hiding in random barns on a weekly basis and continuing in similar vein ever since.

I assumed that in the wake of these military difficulties Russia would devote a greater share of its GDP to military spending than the ~measly 5% of GDP it was spending in 2022 because I assumed that the kremlins realized that a major European war was a slightly bigger deal than the colonial-type wars they had been exclusively been waging up to that point. Presumably bigger than the 10% of GDP that the US spend in Vietnam, if lower than the peak 25% of Italian GDP that Mussolini spent in World War II. I assumed that additional manpower be mobilized, in small but regular and recurring waves in order to train them all properly. I also assumed that the import substitution programs were a real thing as opposed to a gargantuan MIC scam. I assumed large-scale industrial and ideological mobilization would happen. Instead, at least until recently, all that was really done was increase hours at MIC factories, with the result that those jobs with their low salaries became even less attractive for any qualified human capital. And demented rhetoric about gay Satanic Nazis aside, the main contribution of the Russian state to ideological mobilization has been to harass and repress the very volunteer movement that is keeping Russian soldiers in Ukraine at least somewhat adequately supplied with personal equipment, armor, and drones. I was obviously not expecting much in the way of open discourse. But that keeping the population passive and quiescent figures higher on the regime’s list of priorities than giving nationalists and Turbo-Patriots free reign to rant about the regathering of the Russian lands and stoke hatred of the enemy when the latter very clearly served the regime’s own purposes in winning the war was not something I expected – after all, that’s not how it works in the Azeri dictatorship, where Aliev has no problems with actively stoking ultra-nationalist sentiment loaded towards irredentist goals – which they successfully followed through on! But Azerbaijan is a “normal dictatorship” whereas Putin’s Russia is magical.

I assumed that that after the debacle at Kharkov (which I did not expect) and the retreat from Kherson (which I did – and called in advance) that the announcement of mobilization in September was a signal that preparations had been made and that Russia was finally committing to waging the war in a serious way, as opposed to improvising and reacting to Ukrainian initiatives. I assumed that it would not try to subsequently fight the war with a warband of head-hunting mercenaries who would eventually turn on them. But I also never assumed that those same mercenaries would turn out to be more militarily competent and respectful of their soldiers’ lives than the Russian military, which has learned nothing and continues to throw men and material in frontal assaults on the most fortified Ukrainian positions almost two years into the war like some retarded AI in a real time strategy game, with the debacle at Ugledar serving as mere warmup for the current, far bigger inanity in Avdeevka.

I assumed that the missile campaign against the Ukrainian electric grid in fall to winter 2022 would properly target generators and turbines as opposed to easily replaced transformers. Based on these assumptions, and regardless the setbacks of late summer 2022 – when you analyze war, it’s always best to focus on general trends, not modest shifts in the frontline – I again became briefly bullish on Russia. But soon afterwards the realization set in that spending wasn’t getting substantially increased, and that the massive Soviet stocks that Russia had relied upon to fight the war were depleting and not getting replaced at scale. Meanwhile, rhetoric was completing its final shift from the initially coherent nation-gathering narrative to inane drivel about the holy war against the Gay Satanic Nazis. The mini-shells hunger of the winter of 2022 forced a final reckoning with the reality that the kremlins were terminally unable or unwilling to take the war seriously; that the far richer Western Powers had put Putin into a position of Zugzwang in which victory had become highly improbable, short of some miracle like a cessation of aid to Ukraine or a Chinese attack on Taiwan; and that by far the likeliest outcome of the war had become a a prolonged and bloody stalemate against a background of increasingly deranged politics and institutional degradation in Russia.

On the logic that it’s best to get to the most probable result straight away without the intermediate step of expending a few 100,000s extra lives in the process, I definitively joined the peace party in January 2023. It was too late. The appropriate time to do that would have been a year earlier when I realized the war was programmed. However, better late than never.

Were my war calls a major analytical failure? Objectively, I do not think so. I predicted that the war would happen while both Kremlin propaganda and many analysts were saying otherwise, and I have been broadly correct about developments ever since the retreat from Kiev. The passage of time makes us forget that this this was an extremely unexpected development! My predictions of a near inevitable Russian victory, though widely lampooned by NAFO trolls after the fact, exactly corresponded to the overwhelming conventional opinion in predictions markets and amongst US analystsIt is noteworthy that for every Z glue huffer from Douglas Macgregor and Scott Ritter on down who have been calling Russian offensives to bisect Ukraine and the imminent collapse of the Ukrainian army for 1.5 years running, there have been analogous NAFOids such as Ben Hodges and Thomas Theiner touting 10:1 loss ratios and a dash to Crimea by the summer. I did not do that and have consistently said that the likeliest result in the context of an increasingly densely drone-infested front and an equal ~$100B worth of military spending by both sides (foreign aid included) is an indefinite stalemate until one side or the other experiences a political and/or manpower collapse. This has been a thankless and profitless endeavor, and one that has now left me hated by NAFO and Z alike, but it is what it is.

However, where I did cardinally fail is as a Russia analyst and observer. On the logic that war is the ultimate test of a state’s function, and Putinism – a political system for which I was a consistent if critical apologist for most of my blogging career (2008-15; 2018-22) – failed at it in singular fashion. Indeed, while I might have been correct on some specifics over the years, I was cardinally wrong on the most important thing – the kakistocratic essence of the Putin regime (and I do mean kakistocratic – not kleptocratic, not oligarchic, but precisely that, kakistocratic) – and as such, my 15 years of accumulated commentary on it have turned out to be negative value added.

Moreover, this was not just an analytical failure, but an ethical one. My endorsement of the war, even on the mistaken assumptions that (1) it would be over quickly and (2) that it would be good not just for Russians and long-suffering Donbassers, but for most Ukrainians themselves in the long-term, objectively puts me into the position of a Vietnam War supporter or a neocon who championed the Iraq invasion in the US. (If partly mitigated by an early reversal and clear repudiation of earlier views, while both Z and NAFO partisans remain committed to duking it out for ultimately irrelevant scraps of the land to the last Russian and Ukrainian, respectively). Although warmongering is not illegal, it would not be inappropriate to devalue any subsequent analysis I might produce on this topic, though I suppose that particular point is largely moot since I have largely lost interest in Russia-related commentary/analysis and literally no longer even support the continued existence of nation-states as the primary organizing unit of global politics.

That said, I think I have a pretty good idea of where I went so wrong on Putinism, and I think it’s worth discussing it so that others could avoid my mistakes.

 

“But What if Dedushka is Mudak?”

In retrospect, I think the key observation I failed to make about Russia – despite living there more or less continuously between 2016 and 2022 – is that there is a cardinal division between the relatively competent, IT-literate, and transparent “technocratic” sector or the civiliki, who are the ones actually keeping Russia afloat and more or less functional, and the profoundly opaque security sector, the siloviki, who control the “power ministries” and dominate the Security Council and the Presidential Administration, Russia’s two most important executive bodies. The world of the civiliki is the visible world of “Central Banker of the Year” Elvira Nabiullina and of Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, of Gosuslugi e-government services and PM Mikhail Mishustin’s computerized VAT system, of relatively accurate and rigorous polling organizations and statistics-gathering organizations (note that Russia’s GDP is not artificially inflated as in most authoritarian regimes), of Yandex and Ozon and Tinkoff, and at a smaller scale, of the craft breweries, bike-sharing, gourmet coffee houses, upscale Azbuka shops, renovations, and urbanism that have transformed Moscow and increasing numbers of provincial cities over the past decade, and contributed to improving living standards even as the economy at large stagnated since the end of the commodity supercycle in 2014. In contrast, the world of the siloviki is a world composed exclusively of men, a Männerbund selected exclusively for loyalty to Putin and which views itself as Russia’s “new nobility” – Patrushev’s own words! – where intelligence or initiative is a disqualifying attribute and the hegemonic ideologies are that of Facebook boomers and pseudo-scientific grifters as suggested by Vaino’s “nooscope” or Patrushev’s more recent Yellowstone Truth takes. Putin privileges them on the most important questions of state policy. I still find it fascinating how Putin saw it fit to tell Kadyrov about the war months in advance whereas Nabiullina, who was managing Russia’s massive foreign currency reserves, only found about it from TV or close enough. As a result, Russia had $300B of its foreign reserves confiscated and there’s now a good chance they are going to be used to kill Russian soldiers in 2024.

Now to be sure, living in Moscow I was quite aware of this division. Indeed, Richard Sakwa’s 2012 book The Crisis of Russian Democracy modeled Russia as a “dual state” composed of Constitutional and extra-Constitutional elements that largely maps to the transparent civiliki/opaque siloviki division that I describe above. Even my minor and incidental connections to elite power were sufficient for me to be cognizant that different layers of society operated by rather different rules and understandings. I was aware of the FBK’s exposes of corruption amidst regime insiders, and it was was obvious to me that someone like the semi-literate Viktor Zolotov, director of Putin’s praetorian guard which was given Wagner’s hardware after their failed mutiny, was several S.D.’s lower in IQ than someone like Nabiullina, who has kept the Russian economy afloat under Iran-tier sanctions. Nonetheless, I did vastly underestimate the sheer size of the cognitive/competence gap between those two groups, with attendant downstream effects on their ability or lack thereof to run a modern war that took near everybody by surprise.

However, in retrospect, I think the signs were all there, and I suspect I could have identified them had I not succumbed to Putin’s nationalist Kool-Aid in 2019-early 2022.

Most obviously, the civiliki answer for things such as economics and bureaucracy, things that are “visible” in mundane life, and were sharply improving! – positive developments that were even acknowledged in the less ideological Western media, e.g. see this Bloomberg feature on beautification in Torzhok, which I confirmed for my own eyes having visited that quaint historical city twice; and were reflected in many indicators of wellbeing in statistical databases, a factor which I always weighted very highly in my analysis, and which was indeed the driving motive behind me getting into blogging in the first place – notably, the gap I perceived between what Western journalists were writing about Russia, and what I perceived to be Russian reality as portrayed in opinion polls and databases (e.g. see my 2010 article Rosstat and Levada are Russophobia’s Bane).

In contrast, the siloviki answer – well, “answer” (see pofigism) – for things such as the military and intelligence which are “hidden” in mundane life, and opaque to quantification. Consequently, there was a penchant to lazily project the visible improvements observed in the technocratic sector to the security world, and even to dismiss claims to the contrary as the rantings of “demshiza” oppositionists and “democratic journalists” suffering from Putin Derangement Syndrome, both groups whom I had often observed lying or manipulating data that portrayed Russia as worse than it really was; who had defended the mafiosi-turned-oligarchs or the 1990s Yeltsin regime that I always viewed as revolting and unconscionable; and whose loyalties I suspected in light of what I viewed as their consistent disregard for Russian interests and geopolitical double standards, such as calling for Western sanctions over Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014, while reliably and stridently defending odious American behavior such as “democratic bombings” or the extraterritorial persecution of Julian Assange.

As for Western journalists in Russia, I perceived them as a close-knit cabal of trust fund kids who mostly got where they were through connections, ideologically homogenous, and who overwhelmingly talked with pro-Western activists based in the capital city – the “Moscow hack pack” as Bryan MacDonald called them – with the result that their Western audiences received an extremely skewed perspective on really existing attitudes in Russia that ignored and straw-manned pro-Putin, “patriotic”, Communist, and nationalist voices. (That said, the lack of interest in dialogue was a two-way street – my 2012-13 project The Russian Spectrum to remedy this state of affairs by doing translations didn’t end up getting funding from the Russian state, which was ultimately more interested in highlighting culture warriors, “Alt Media”, and grifters who loyally towed the Kremlin line and owned the Westoids to the exclusion of all else.)

Nor do I do not even disavow most of these particular views now. It would be strange and indeed dishonest to do so because I never consciously lied in my Russia blogging.

However, in retrospect, I was afflicted by two important biases. First, Russian liberal oppositionists and foreign journalists are not a collective; while some of the prominent ones that I focused on might indeed have been self-hating lolcows and disinformation peddlers, such as the likes of Valeriya Novodvorskaya and Yulia Latynina, or Edward Lucas and Luke Harding, many of them were not and were producing good work, and even to the extent that some might have come off as overly slavish towards the West, this might have been more a case of pointingspiderman.jpg in the sense that just because you paper over the West’s flaws and injustices does not mean that you’re lying about Russia’s.

Second, and I think this might be even more important, I think epistemic standards amongst both the Russian liberal opposition and Russia journalists improved over the past decade, perhaps as a result of them being increasingly challenged by fact checkers and the court of public opinion on Twitter, perhaps as a result of the regime becoming genuinely worse and giving more cause to write bad things about itself while driving away its more talented apologists. To give just one illustrative example of this, I will note that more than a decade ago, the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov – who was murdered in 2015 – released a “white paper” that attempted to pass off what I personally knew to be a palace museum as Putin’s private residence that was restored with misappropriated money. However, in the subsequent decade, such amateurish and cack-handed efforts were replaced by Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), whose investigations – and this I was consistently acknowledging from the late 2010s – were serious and meticulously sourced.

So again, I was quite aware of Russia’s corruption problems. Including its systemic nature. I was familiar with the literature. I read the late Karen Dawisha’s magisterial Putin’s Kleptocracy, though I found many of the allegations in it incredible in a way that I no longer do so. The Sputnik & Pogrom archives are a veritable compendium of the murky histories of the “Unknown Fathers” of the Kremlin. I assumed some or much of it was exaggerated, since many details struck me as simply too “magical” to be credible. Nonetheless, it was very clear even to me that the top kremlins and their families enjoyed lifestyles several orders of magnitude above their paygrade, that they received massive gifts in cash and kind (including elite apartments – Mikhail Zygar wrote about this in All The Kremlin’s Men) which also doubled as blackmail (Go against Putin’s whims? Even had this, in retrospect, won Russia its current war? Enjoy your corruption investigation, Mr. Serdyukov! And so Putin vetoed a major increase in military spending proposed under Medvedev in 2010 under the fear that his seat-warmer was attempting to build his own patronage network and stay in the Presidency). Hence the systemic nature of Russian corruption; it isn’t even so much about corruption per se as binding the elites into a web of criminality they could not hope to extricate themselves from.

However, instead of recognizing this regime for the literal “mafia state” that it was, and either condemning it or quietly ignoring it like normal Putin stans – aaah, the ravages of autism! – I insisted on coming up with intricate and convoluted excuses for it as a sort of intellectual challenge, made extra sad by the fact that the kremlins weren’t even paying me for it. Weren’t most of these ill-gotten properties in Russia? So doesn’t this make it a kind of “patriotic corruption” as per… Dugin!? And besides, isn’t this typical of regimes that oppose GAE? The families of the Chinese Politburo are very rich. Hungary? Oooh I know the biography of Lőrinc Mészáro. Plumber and Orban bagman turned billionaire. And this is an EU country! But I am not a naive moron like some Breitbart drone, nor a paid up Danube Institute or MCC dupe – I am a hard-bitten cynic who knows how things work… And the price is worth it! These BASED sovereign nations have to “consolidate their elites” against GAE subversion as the price of their sovereignty. Even Hitler was onto this scam! Ever hear of the Konto 5 slush fund for senior Wehrmacht officers… Oops! Bad example, never mind, forget I said that. Also if we really speculate hard, don’t the “civilized” Western countries have their own, similar mechanisms of elite control? Who killed Epstein!? If the choice is between “normal” corruption (Based Orban, Putler, Xi) and gaining kompromat through fiddling kids (evil Westoids) to maintain “elite discipline” then surely the former option is better?

All very amusing and droll in retrospect. However, the more prosaic and straightforward interpretation is and was that these are bad regimes staffed by venal people with relatively low IQs and competence levels who can’t ever hope to acquire their wealth and power in more open and competitive systems, and insofar as they open their mouths to blabber on about “sovereign democracy”, “multipolarity”, “deep people”, and “traditional values”, it is with the exclusive aim of pulling a scam on you, and if there appears a 1984 character like Syme who “gets it” but is a “true believer” and sufficiently committed to the mission to give it a pseudo-intellectual veneer in the form of “patriotic corruption” (“friend-foe distinction”, “elite consolidation”, etc.), then so much the better!

In retrospect, I now view the systemic corruption of the Putin regime as part of a general post-Soviet phenomenon that could be called the “Culture of Lying” – though in reality it is not even post-Soviet as such but, as with anti-colonial rhetoric and the Multipolarity Grift, merely its continuation in more cynical and degenerated forms.

Its most obvious, quantifiable element is electoral fraud. I never denied it because I can read bloggers and data scientists like Alexander Kireev and Dmitry Kobak, and have some modest statistical literacy. Their arguments that it exists and on a large and systemic scale are convincing, and I was writing about this very early on – see Measuring Churov’s Beard from 2011. But my mistake was that I was overly interested in ultimately minor and superficial aspects – things such as geographical patterns of fraud and what they said about relative corruption/dysfunction in different Russian regions, or worse, politicized rationalizations in the spirit of, “yes this is bad, but who cares, Putin would have won anyway” or “but you can’t take the Gaussian at face value, there are distinct populations in voting behavior and you have to remember the urban/rural confound, real aggregate fraud was only 10%, not 15%” – as opposed to taking the time to deeply ponder what it said about the Putinist state that it exercised Uganda-level fraud and with such a degree of chutzpah that it bothered neither to conceal it with complicated statistical smudging, not even to take the drastically easier and lazier step of just releasing a singular fictive result like Lukashenko’s “normal dictatorship” in Belarus. It’s really remarkable when you think about it. Here you have a relatively well educated and socially sophisticated country whose schoolteachers in most regions are intimately involved in a massive conspiracy to defraud and disenfranchise the public once every few years. (The vote tends to be fairly counted in the northern regions and in Moscow after 2011, when the regime evidently made a long-term decision not to risk a repeat of the Bolotnaya protests and told Moscow authorities to play it fair henceforth). Most Russians are OK with it, are unaware of it, or cynically resigned to it – only a few bother to either actively defend it and/or deny it, or to protest and campaign against it, and those latter two are “very online” kind of people.

It is now my belief that Russian electoral fraud is just the most obvious and verifiable part of the Culture of Lying that permeate Russian statehood, which was hinted at by COVID and blown wide open by the Ukraine War. This is a world in which a vast state-backed doping conspiracy is possible, such that Russian athletes became persona non grata at international sporting events and more than cancel out any meager gains it might have yielded before its unraveling. In previous years, I viewed the existence of such a conspiracy as too absurd to credit, and assumed this was an American plot to sideline and humiliate Russia. However, under a model in which large-scale criminal conspiracies can exist and the local MSM is too neutered to carry out and publicize serious investigations, the hypothesis of an American conspiracy falls away. This is a world in which Russia can develop Sputnik V, but still suffer the second highest numbers of excess deaths per capita in Europe, as official mortality COVID statistics becoming completely divorced from reality as the epidemic raged on. It is a world that is quite numbers-heavy and “quantitative”, with ostensibly “objective” statistics on the ever increasing percentages – to one decimal point! – of “modernized” weapons systems getting released by the Defense Ministry every year. But as we learned in 2022 those numbers bore zero relation to reality. (In view of the extreme opacity of the military sector, which reaches a black hole like singularity in the nuclear weapons sector, one wonders what they really mean when they now say that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is “near fully modernized“). It is a world with a broken epistemic culture, and there is a straight line from falsified elections – but the results available and downloadable down to the polling station level – to Shoigu’s yarns about 383,217 UAF soldiers, 14,026 armored vehicles and 553 planes destroyed in Ukraine.

There is one final important aspect about Russia’s Culture of Lying that makes it especially pernicious, and cancels out any fairytale vibes of a somnolent kingdom with its lazy and obese but ultimately harmless bureaucrats. The regime is willing to murder to maintain it. This makes the kremlins pathological in a way that, say, Orban is not – though the CPC is. For most of my Russia watching career, I coped that the overt assassinations almost inevitably fell into two bins – Islamists, and traitor siloviki (Litvinenko; Skripal). Extrajudicially killing Islamists or separatists is at least something that the advanced Western democracies no longer engage in – OK, the US very occasionally does it, but it involves a great deal of introspection and public discussion – but the less “refined” democratic states such as Israel or Modi’s India do. And one can argue that people who sign up for the FSB or the GRU with all their privileges should know what they’re getting into. “There is no such thing as a former spy” is a sufficiently well known trope even in popular culture. Now obviously there were the rumors and the deaths of journalists and activists and suspected poisonings and the like, but there is no way to quantify them as one can with electoral fraud – and besides, didn’t more Russian journalists die under “democratic” Yeltsin!? Aren’t most of these people paranoiacs anyway who suffer from Putin Derangement Syndrome and are working on behalf of the West and émigré oligarchs, out of conviction or money, to discredit Putin and bring back their “glorious 1990s” which were not so glorious for the vast majority of Russians?

However, if you can organize large-scale conspiracies like electoral fraud, then setting up some death squads shouldn’t be too much of an organizational challenge; and if you’re willing to blow up an airplane to whack a renegade mercenary leader and casually murder the pilots and stewardess in the process when you could alternately have just imprisoned him and on entirely legitimate grounds at that and then “vanished” him if necessary, those those same death squads would hardly present a moral quandary either. Furthermore, there is also the disturbing observation that late Putinism has seen even more blatant targeting of people who are obviously neither Islamists, nor security agency renegades – see the attempted poisoning of Navalny – even as the evidence that there are deaths squad at work has become overwhelming – although I realize Bellingcat has a chequered reputation, their 2021 investigation showing the targeted assassinations of journalists and activists seems unassailable. All these data points have forced me into a Bayesian updating process on other unusual or suspicious deaths and events that I had dismissed at the time but must now reassess down to the 1999 apartment bombings that laid the foundations for Putinism. I am not going to write more about it at this time. Not because I care for consequences, but simply because I haven’t done this exercise in any systemic fashion, and so I would be running the risk of overcorrecting and producing the same paranoiac cringe that an earlier me would have dismissed as such. Besides, the paperclips are coming soon, and that is more important.

Apart from dual state dynamics, systemic corruption, and the Culture of Lying, the last major factor that I either ignored or elided over is Putin himself. All of this would be manageable if Putin really was the strategic mastermind he is portrayed as in pro-Kremlin hagiographies and even some Western analyses (before 2022). But Putin’s problem is that – as Noah Smith argued might be the case with Xi Jinping – he just isn’t that smart.

Based on Putin’s educational biography (Leningrad State University), his speeches with their close attention to statistics – that is catnip to me in a politician! – German and English language fluency, and his reasonably good knowledge of Russian literature and random general knowledge (e.g. knowing that pork export numbers to Indonesia can’t be true because it’s a Muslim country), I have long assumed that Putin was quite smart. Perhaps around 130 in IQ? Be that as it may, though, there were also some contrary indicators. He never participated in live debates. He is competent enough at improvising answers in his annual national phone-ins and in interviews with journalists, but the discussion is never discursive. He has never participated in an election debate, which are much more g loaded. Even more importantly, Putin famously doesn’t use the Internet.  But he is one of Hanania’s conservatives who watch TV. And a damn lot of it! One of the most fascinating exposes in the FBK’s investigations of Putin’s yachts and armored trains this year is how central a role TV plays in his media consumption. They apparently even designed a custom system to ensure that the signal doesn’t get interrupted when Putin’s armored train was passing underneath tunnels. The boomer needs his daily dose of Soloviev and Skabeeva whether he is in his train, his yacht, his palace-bunker, or traveling abroad. And it’s not even clear that he reads. I used to believe that Putin took a genuine personal interest in the conservative and White Guardist Russian philosophers like Ivan Ilyin whom he amply references, but I later learned second-hand that this particular obsession may have actually come from a based speechwriter.

Even so far as personal interactions of choice go, Putin prefers sportsmen and washed up foreign celebrities like Depardieu and Seagal to intellectuals. Though this is his prerogative, it is worth noting that Russia is not exactly an ideal country for very smart people, and I am not even talking about things like the closed political system, the lack of a VC sphere, the relative material poverty of Russian scientists, and the fact that Sputnik V inventors lead a modest life instead of being multi-millionaire superstars as they would have been in the US.

FSB graduate parade through Moscow thoroughfares. Then you wonder how these bozos repeatedly get their lists of employees leaked.

There’s a weird and disturbing pattern of scientists getting prosecuted and jailed by the FSB on charges such as sending genetic materials abroad or selling rocket technology to China (it has been alleged this is also prevalent in the nuclear weapons complex). The near consensus in the scientific community is that these are all trumped up charged by the FSB in order to fulfill their quotas and get promotions, though the alternate version that it is on account of paranoia over ethnic bioweapons is no less damning. Regardless, the unedifying conclusion is that Russia is a state in which the boorish thugs in epaulettes who make up the modern FSB – seriously, Russia’s spy agencies have had hundreds of identities leaked because they were issued passports with similar numbers and then used them to pay for taxis, something that is much harder to imagine happening in the Soviet period, when the KGB recruited actually smart people – enjoy far greater privileges than the dwindling numbers of Russian scientists and engineers willing to work for peanuts in sectors like the MIC, with the result that those who stayed there are either very old, exceptionally patriotic, or so talentless they can’t get a much higher paid job in the private sector. Either way in this context the twin failure of the FSB to subvert one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries, and of the MIC to produce mass modern weaponry during Russia’s biggest war since World War II, becomes much less surprising.

Apart from the dependence on TV and boot-licking reports from cronies, the final observation that I elided over in the past but must acknowledge as true now is that Putin is just really fucking weird. Respectful of Ivan Ilyin and seemingly hewing to his recommendations against federalism, he then proceeded to devolve core state functions such as epidemiology and war to the regions. Speaking of the former, Russia’s entire response to COVID was a very bad sign of things to come: There was no science-based central policy or even guidance, and decisions on lockdowns, mask mandates, etc. were all left to the regions with their highly divergent levels of wealth and governance competence, which left no scope for a coordinated response. Defying the odds, Russia produced Sputnik V – one of the most effective COVID vaccines in the world – and yet ended up having Europe’s highest amount of excess deaths after Bulgaria. Although one can’t blame Putin too much for this, because as I pointed out at the time it was the Communists/Neo-Bolsheviks who are the biggest anti-vaxxers, it is still valid to ask to what extent Putin fostered the overall atmosphere of low social trust and conspiracy-mongering that massively inhibited vaccination in Russia. Russian media organs criticized the Western vaccines on spurious grounds, with the main result being that Russians simply concluded, well if the Western ones are dangerous bioweapons/WEF control chips/etc., that what does that make ours? And Putin himself refused to agitate for Sputnik and set a personal example by getting publicly vaccinated like all the normal Western politicians did! Moreover, up to the present day, visitors wishing to meet up with him must go through a lengthy quarantine process while many or most of his public appearances happen with the same small group of FSB actors who accompany him to factories and church services. This is just so incredibly bizarre that I never even commented on it much but had I done so I might have realized just how fucking strange Putin was a lot earlier than I did. This either implies some extreme level of cowardice that’s made extra cringe in the context of his larping as a based conquering warlord. Or he is actually an anti-vaxxer himself and never even took Sputnik V, but pretended he did and doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to be open about it like many of his foreign based retard supporters.

Putin’s cognitive and personal deficiencies would not have been such a big deal had the authoritarian regime he built not been such a personalistic one. However, in a “power vertical”, it is the defects of the paternalistic Papa that percolate down to the power ministries. As a gray, indecisive, prevaricating, and possibly not that smart person himself, Putin needs to keep the people who have the guns from outshining him in charisma or intelligence. This explains the profound mediocrity and paranoia of the siloviks relative to the civiliki: Shoigu, the hero of dumb right-wing memes portraying him as a brutal avatar of Subutai in contrast to weak female European Defense Ministers, struggled to finish technical college and has together with Gerasimov hamstrung and sidelined the few competent Russian commanders who made them look bad by comparison; the semi-literate Zolotov, head of the National Guard; Patrushev, who has of late been fantasizing about Yellowstone erupting and punishing the Americans for their degeneracy as were the denizens of Pompei; Naryshkin with his rants about transgenders and biomechanoids replacing God in Europe, not that this stops his wife from shopping in Paris amidst those biohorrors even as Based Russia wages an “existential war” against them.

This phenomenon reaches its apogee in Ramzan Kadyrov, a dumb and brutal Islamist strongman who runs a de facto independent state and parallel legal system within Russia while provisioning death squad services to the regime. This makes him a trusted associate of Putin, as well as a veritable icon of worship to the very dumbest and most degenerate AngloZ rightoids. Almost as if Putin gets a kick out of validating all the most deranged Ukrainian nationalist psychosexual fantasies about everyday life in the PutlerReich, several months ago Ramzan Kadyrov proudly posted a video of his pudgy Uday/Qusay-cosplaying 15 year old son Adam Kadyrov assaulting and beating handcuffed ethnic Russian Nikita Zhuravel, a teenage prisoner from Volgograd who had been charged with burning the Koran. Instead of being released without charges like in a civilized country such as the US – or tried under hate speech charges in a less civilized one such as the UK – he was instead extradited to Chechnya to face what passes for Kadyrov’s justice, all under the explicit and public approval of Putin himself. Doubling down on the humiliation fetish, a couple of months later, a non-Chechen RF official awarded Kadyrov’s son with a medal for his “personal contribution to the development of interethnic and interregional unity and the strengthening of traditional Islamic values.” As I commented at the time, I am no longer even sure how one would go about classifying this as a political system. The Ottoman millet system had confessionally segregated justice systems for their coreligionists only – its sharia courts weren’t trying Christians. It’s not that the Putin system is uniquely evil, or dysfunctional, or whatever – well, it’s all that, but not unduly so by historical standards – its defining feature is that it’s just really fucking weird.

In line with the theme of Putin’s cognitive and personal deficiencies percolating down the power vertical, we continue, Human Centipede like, to the roster of prominent AngloZ influencooors – a gaggle of MAGA communists and sundry ideological oddballs, “redpilled” sex tourists, Argentinian housewives who are most definitely real people, and New Jersey-based petty fraudsters getting a kick out of pretending to be Donbass girls. Whenever one now sees sees the Russian flag, [Z], or ☦️ on a Twitter profile, it’s a safe bet that it’s accompanied by a rant about the WEF, the Great Reset, and very strong opinions on entomophagy. Wildly, hysterically amusing as all of this might be, what is more even more so is that Putinist tradlarp has made Russia into something of a mecca for all sorts of foreign freaks and deranged scumbags. My favorite such episode to date was this one Greek gay baiter who was making a propaganda film in Moscow featuring a Ukrainian Nazi assaulting a babushka over her St. George’s ribbon against the background of a random LGBT rally. This was supposed to showcase the horrors of everyday life under Zelensky’s gay Satanic Nazi regime. The Moscow police didn’t get the memo, mistaking the LGBT rally for the real thing and launching an investigation.

Amusing as all of this is, the problem is that it is very hard to win when you make your main bet on unvaxxed homeschoolers and sundry based retards who are very triggered by talk of Parent #1 and Parent #2. All of this is also in stark contrast to the USSR, which for all its many faults did manage to attract foreign spies and sympathizers of a decidedly higher caliber. Say what you will, but Jackson Hinkle, Andrew Tate, Sameera Khan, Scott Ritter, Gonzalo Lira “Coach Redpill“, and “Donbass Devushka” with their chequered biographies are quite the step down from the Rosenbergs, J.B.S. Haldane, the Cambridge Five, and Joel Barr. They create a phantasmagoria of significant “dissident” pro-Russian sentiment in the West,  but the reality is that this trad rhetoric is a cringe carnival show that otherwise appeals to nobody important or significant. Nor to most Westerners, especially the actually smart and influential ones who can actually effect social change, influence politics through lobbying, or even do useful espionage on Russia’s behalf.

Putinist tradlarp doesn’t just repel most Westoids – it doesn’t appeal to most of the rest of the world. In places like India, China, Latin America, and Africa, lingering pro-Russian sentiments, to the extent they exist, load not on the “traditional values” and homophobic rhetoric of late Putinism – it would be strange to expect otherwise, given that LGBTQ+ rights have become culturally hegemonic in most of the world outside the ex-USSR and the Islamic world! – but on the Soviet anti-colonial legacy, and the perception that Russia is one upping the US on the world stage for a change. Literally just running on a straightforward “anti-imperialist” platform of restoring the USSR, “multipolarity”, and taking the “Golden Billion” down a peg would have played far better in those places than this trad freakshow!!

Now to be sure, while it is hard to be corrupt, venal, and stupid, and to still win, it is not impossible – especially if you have nearly 5x the population and 15x the GDP. Ukraine is also a deeply nepotistic and in some ways even more dysfunctional state than Russia, and when Russia invaded, it didn’t magically cease being one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. There are scandals over suppliers price gouging the Army. Paralleling NAFO highlights from Russian Telegram blogs, Western media reports on Ukrainian soldiers having to pay officers bribes to go on vacation, and about MPs and elites cruising about in expensive vehicles and vacationing abroad while the military-aged normie male population remains barred from leaving. I still genuinely think Russia’s civiliki sector is more capable and developed than Ukraine’s, though Nabiullina vs. Kamyshin is “close” in a way that Budanov vs. Patrushev or Zaluzhny vs. Gerasimov is not. (Not that I have a high opinion of Zaluzhny’s generalship, but – again – everything is relative in life). Even so, this hasn’t stopped Ukraine from winning, at least to the extent that it is possible to win for a poor, corrupt state that has but a small fraction of Russia’s population and GDP, amidst what is ultimately a relatively modest level of military support from the West mostly consisting of Cold War era surplus. (Note that while Ukraine received 20 HiMARS systems and has used them to devastating effect against Russia, Poland is going to be getting 500 of them in the next few years; it received ~200 Bradleys, but Morocco is soon going to get ~500 of them). I think this ultimately comes down to Ukraine’s Culture of Lying not being quite as deeply ingrained and pathological as Putinist Russia’s. The results of Ukrainian elections are tallied fairly – Zelensky might have canceled them, but that is his prerogative as the President of a country at war who actually takes said war seriously. Ukrainian spokespeople can be dishonest, but they are never dishonest to the point of becoming a meme like Konashenkov. Or as @devarbol pointed out, if there’s one absolutely cardinal thing distinguishing Ukraine from Russia, it’s that “Ukraine even though a corrupt and poor country is ruled by corrupt but normal people, while Russia is a richer country that is ruled by completely magical people.”

What does he mean by “normal” vs. “magical”? It’s what Strelkov means when he writes about the “Land of the Magical Ponies” or what @devarbol calls the “Magical Kremlins” (“please gib normal dictatorship!” borrowing some earlier terminology from ROGPR). It’s this weird, illogical, cynical, postmodernist, delusional, non-commital attitude of complete “pofigism” – loosely translated as “whateverism” – which I have now come to believe is the true ideology of Putinism. It means grain deals and ammonia pipelines. It means Lukoil selling fuel from its Bulgarian refineries to Ukraine in the first few weeks of the war when Ukraine was critically short of it. It means allowing the professional army and its trainers in the first six months of the war to get depleted to critical levels in the first half year of the war, seeing the frontlines begin to collapse, doing a kneejerk mobilization with no time to properly train the new mobiks, and then continuing like before as if nothing happened, not changing anything, down to again depleting the current crop of mobiks in demented frontal assaults. It means spending 5% of GDP on an “existential war” against Gay Satanic Nazism. It means leaving the legal status of the SMO undefined to the present day; even within the context of Russian law, there is no legal basis to Russia’s presence in Ukraine to this day!! It means delegating the conduct of the war to mercenary companies and the equipping of the military to the regions, with all the attendant effects that implies for the state’s authority and monopoly on violence with predictable consequences. It means Strelkov’s 39 questions. It means Putin locking Strelkov up for his temerity in addressing those questions to him, for calling him out as a “cowardly mediocrity”, and announcing a Presidential run of his own. It means that the people compiling the legal case against Strelkov didn’t even bother making it a credible one despite what I am certain is more than sufficient actual “hate speech” across his very large body of writings and podcasts. Instead, Strelkov is being hauled up on absolutely absurd and insulting charges of extremism relating to advocacy on behalf of SALARY NON-PAYMENTS to the very DNR mobiks whom Putin’s generals murdered against fixed Ukrainian defenses in spring 2022.

This last episode might arguably the apotheosis of the “Magical Kremlins” meme in that it illustrates something very fundamental about about Putinism, namely, its hatred and suppression of all thymotic energy and individual initiative, even in cases where it serves the regime’s own ostensible interests. Strelkov might have ensured that the initial Donbass uprising survived; he might have loyally supported the legitimate Commander-in-Chief at the only moment when it mattered, when the Wagner mutiny was in full swing, Russia’s elites were keeping down low, and the National Guard were scattering like cockroaches. None of that mattered. The regime only needs dupes who faithfully tow the party line and sing paeons to Putin’s “clever plan” and it needs intellectuals and mercenaries whose services are purchased and minutely detailed in the contract; it doesn’t need ideological volunteers with a mind and a spirit of their own, no matter how capable or critical to the success of its own goals. This central observation crisply explains the consistently cannibalistic nature of the Russian state, and once one deeply internalizes this, many previously strange things become a lot clearer in retrospect. There is a straight line from the extraditions of pro-Donbass activists to the loving embrace of the SBU during the 2015-18 period, when they were hindrances to the kremlins’ attempts to shove back Donbass into Ukraine, to the unenviable fate of Russian mobiks who responded to the September 2022 mobilization, who have been punished for their conscientiousness and patriotism by denying them rotations and threatening their wives with criminal cases for highlighting their plight, all because Putin’s ratings are more important than relieving them with a second mobilization.

This is something that was in evidence from the very beginning of the Z War. At the start, there was a wave of patriotic fervor amongst Russian nationalists. Apart from broadly demanding the obvious things such as an early mobilization and harsher laws against SBU financial supporters – recall that in the early half year of the SMO non-war this went unpunished! – the Sputnik & Pogrom community started creating a visual aesthetics for the war centering around a narrative of Russian national liberation, an inspirational cause that would have motivated millions. But Putinism had no need for it and denied them all their proposed events and demonstrations. Putinist aesthetics is that of state workers ordered to astro-turfed corporate motivation seminar (logo “Z”) who proceed to complain about not getting paid for it and leaving early. And even this was superior to the subsequent degeneration into the Soviet nostalgia of dedy voevali, the senile Ukrainian babushka waving a Soviet flag but without Soviet-style mobilization and minimal competence, outright bribery aimed at poors, losers, and cuckolds (Lada for grandpa; iPhone for daughter) all culminating in pseudo-trad professional entertainers yelling “Goyda” at the biomass and shaking from getting triggered by the 666 gender which is all surely very amusing but just doesn’t attract a very smart or capable contingent.

Meanwhile, everybody who was anybody – that is, anyone who is a barin as per Prosvirnin, as opposed to the gray NPC mediocrities whom Putinism champions – has ended up in sidelined, in jail, or dead. Though they might otherwise despise each other, both Navalny and Strelkov are far more colorful and interesting than Putin. They are not afraid to debate each other or Putin. But Putin is afraid to debate them, and has jailed them on drummed up pretexts. Navalny in particular he has tried to poison, and demonstratively refuses to acknowledge by name. Libertarian nationalist and hero of the first Donbass War Vitaly Afrika, whose Diary of a Terrorist memoir is one of the premier exemplars of Ukraine war literature, is now in exile in Latin America hiding from extremism charges (he also happens to hate Putin and predicts Russia will lose the war). Russia’s least incompetent general, Surovikin – whose fortifications played a key role in the failure of the Ukrainian summer offensive – was dismissed because he made Gerasimov feel bad because his own strategic insights boil down to insisting that the troops shave daily.

Brutal psychopaths though they were, the Wagner “musicians” didn’t just have an objective record of success and relative competence at Bakhmut which in its degree of tactical finesse and respect for their own soldiers’ lives is many levels about the Russian military’s own current operations in Avdeevka. They also had an ethos of sorts, traditionalist Landsknechtism with a heavy side dose of death cult – “our business is death, and death is going well” – coupled with a post-modernistic aesthetics coupling skulls and sledgehammers with anime girls singing about slaughtering swine. (The traditionalism we deserve – Ukrainians like that aesthetic too).

And to Prigozhin’s credit he came up with what I suspect may in due course become the defining characterization of the Putin regime:

Wagner went unpunished for their murders of Russian servicemen and direct acts of treason during their mutiny, which incidentally makes all subsequent legal prosecutions for “discrediting the Army” absurd. In this case of all cases Putin didn’t even need a kangaroo court to have them convicted for crimes extreme and self-evident, but he was too scared or venal to ensure justice was done. Instead, he blew Prigozhin’s airplane out of the sky, casually murdering two civilian pilots and a stewardess without a bother. The Z freaks celebrated it as revenge served cold.

Consequently, while the ultimate outcome of the war is still up in the air, I can already say one thing with absolute certainty…

As @devarbol already observed last year the nature, memes, and poetic justice of Putinism all militate towards that scenario…

Jail is programmed for Z. 🚨🏃‍♂️🚓👮‍♀️ 

At some point, the Z War will cease being useful for Putin, and at that point, all its ideological champions will have to change their tune very quickly.

 

Putin’s Russia as the Land of the Unknown Fathers

To reiterate and summarize, I thought that I had identified some very positive trends in Russian politics from c.2018 – namely, a tilt away from the stultifying and “cucked” (to borrow the Alt Right lingvo) conservatism of the 2010s, towards something closer to the Russian nationalism Platonic ideal of the Russian National State; ethnic Russians de facto recognized in the Constitution, greater freedom of speech (repeal of Article 282), and positive trends with respect to repatriation of Russians and even biorealistic politics – which together with the observed functionality of the civiliki sector and Russia generally becoming a much better to place made me unduly euphoric about its place. I engaged in what are in retrospect delusions flights of fancy about Russia becoming a global Radical Centrist state, including a hub for the kind of HBD and broader genomics research that the SJWs sure seemed about to close the window on within the Global American Empire (GAE), that is, the US and its satrapies.

To be sure, there were some… disquieting developments on the sideline. Developments that I was quite cognizant of. Evidence of ever bigger and more brazen stealing. Institutional degradation ranging from Russia’s COVID response, which resulted in Europe’s second highest excess mortality rate despite Russia developing its own very effective vaccine, to the conduct of the 2021 Census, which Russian demographer Vladimir Raksha correctly identified as the worst and most unreliable one since World War II. However, against the background of otherwise seemingly “bullish” developments, I did not attach very great significance to the evidence of rapid degeneration within those sectors of economic and social life where civiliki influence was marginal. There were also some ominous foreshadowings. On Dec 27, 2021, Egor Prosvirnin, who more than anyone else made Russian nationalism cool and chic, and played a central role in my own conversion to it, committed suicide. (To address the rumors: Yes, it was suicide. Morbidly amusing though the ambulance with the 148B registration plate was, nobody in Prosvirnin’s circle of family, friends, and close acquaintances – many of whom are strongly oppositionist – claims otherwise, including his widow and mother). In retrospect, this – and the succession of deaths of other prominent Russian nationalists at the time, from Eduard Limonov to Konstantin Krylov – was a portent of things to come. Maybe the game was rigged from the start, and the anthropic shadow that rises above the Pattern as the Singularity approacheth had determined that Russian nationalism, as a rightoid ideology, was not supposed to make it if conscious observers were to survive past the Singularity. Idle, deranged thoughts trying to make sense of what happened.

But at the time things were clearer. The Singularity was speculative and a generation away at least. Russia needed to ward itself off from Woke virus and the world needed noospheric partitioning. Power is a function of population and national IQ. Russians and Ukrainians and Belorussians were one people, the Bolsheviks had stolen Russia’s future with German money and Latvian rifles, and by early January 2022 it seemed clear that Russia had committed to turning back the clock and in so doing actualizing the Russian National State far beyond what I had ever thought possible. There was also the fact that Russia is much smaller than the US or China or India or the EU so just as a poker player with a small stack has to play more aggressively in a tournament so it was obvious that Russia was also going to have to take greater risks if it was going to remain in this Civilization game, to revive Soviet economies of scale and to become an America of its own, much as how Gustav Stresemann intuited the same prerogative for Imperial Germany and which the Nazis took to its logical conclusion.

And when what happened, happened. I thought I was living in a country that had started out on the the road to national revival, making a bold if possibly quixotic attempt to turn back the clock on the multiple disasters of the 20 century, but what I had interpreted as this attempt to kickstart the Silver Age again, symbolically, almost exactly a century after 1917… was actually just really cynical idiocy beyond my wildest imagination, just really Inhabited Island tier stuff, in what’s now clear is just the very final death throes of the USSR.

I keep referring back to the Strugatskys’ 1971 novel, which was rather faithfully adapted into the two-part film Dark Planet directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk in 2008/2009 (amusingly filmed in a Crimea that was then still part of Ukraine). Even living in Brezhnev’s USSR, the Strugatskys foresaw everything. The parallels are uncanny and endless, and I should probably write a much longer post comparing Putin’s Russia as the Land of the Unknown Fathers. But for now I will provision the short summary.

The story follows a biological transhuman hero, the dashing Maksim Kammerer, from our future idyllic Earth. His spaceship accidentally crashes on a planet called Saraksh, in a militaristic dictatorship called the Land of the Unknown Fathers. The biggest constituent part of a great empire that collapsed a generation ago in the wake of an apocalyptic nuclear war that turned large parts of the planet into deserts, it has since been reconstituted by a secretive cabal of oligarchs and bureaucrats called the Unknown Fathers.

Who are the Unknown Fathers? Official propaganda portrays them as the selfless saviors of the nation who raised it from its knees after the orgy of looting in the post-nuclear war chaos. Dissidents take a more skeptical view, saying that in practice, the Fathers are mostly concerned with their own affairs; while some genuinely care and try to do some good for the people, most are corrupt, and preoccupied with their own hedonistic pleasures, while some are downright sadists. Their paramount leader is referred to only as “Papa” within his entourage [WSJ: “Junior officials and senior directors knew that to win plaudits and promotions they should exaggerate good news and play down the bad, for fear of upsetting “papa,” a nickname for Mr. Putin, once used for Russian czars.”]. The Fathers keep the population quiescent with a system of control towers that emit psychoactive rays, which they claim are necessary to defend the nation against mutant terrorists, the neighboring splinter state of Khonti, and the designs of the Island Empire – a far off superpower from across the seas that is said to be involved in gruesome biological experimentation and which seeks the Fatherland’s destruction. There is a struggling dissident movement that wants to overthrow the dictatorship of the Fathers. However, its ringleaders might not have the purest of motivations, and there are signs that they intend to merely replace the Fathers while retaining the system of control towers.

The capital city is a cyberpunk metropolis of oligarchic decadence for the elites and ample creature comforts for the proles that the nuclear war seems to have passed by. On state TV, propagandists wearing aggressive purple praise the achievements of the Fathers, and accuse Khonti and the Island Empire of undermining the Fatherland. Official heraldry is dominated by the V, the Z, and the eight-pointed Chaos Star of Eurasianism. Internal unrest is suppressed by an internal security force known as the Combat Guard. They raid and interrogate dissident meetups in futuristic armored vehicles, angular and red-black asmodean; is their resemblance to the FSB’s “Punisher” armored vehicles even coincidental?

In fairness, in February 2022 I only thought they were going to larp the purple ties, Punishers, and V/Z/Chaos Stars imagery of The Inhabited Island. Not “recreate” it in its entirety.

However, the single most prophetic scene was the one in which a council of the Fathers decide to attack Khonti, a splinter province of the old united empire, in order to have a small victorious war.

One of the more hawkish Fathers shows Papa fancy holographics of a gargantuan tank equipped with some futuristic heat shield technology, and boasts that 10 of them were being produced daily, before proceeding to argue in favor of a small, “delicate” application of force to knock out Khonti.

The State Prosecutor, who is vain and corrupt even by the standards of the Fathers, assures the council that rearmament is complete. In response to a question over how long they can sustain the war, the spymaster Father estimates 10 days, to which the hawkish Father replies that the “deep penetration” plan provisions for the defeat of Khonti within eight days.

“Good plan,” crows Papa.

Most of the Fathers approve of the proposal. Two of the Fathers are skeptical, including the spymaster, who is gently rebuked for it by Papa.

Anyhow, you can probably already intuit where this all is going.

Maksim, who has been arrested for dissidence, is coercively mobilized to fight Khonti along with the other cons.

“Amnestied. Mobilized!”

But when Maksim and his mobilized dissident friends get to their tanks they realize that the cake is a lie. In the Land of the Unknown Fathers, only elite units of the Combat Guard, which is tasked with regime security, has the nice, modern equipment. And the State Prosecutor needs his large and luxuriantly furnished palace.

The mobilized cons have to make do with “imperial rustbuckets“… “here are our coffins.” And retreat is not an option.

The fancy holograph with the mega-tank and its heat shield was only ever just that. A hologram presented to Papa.

The inevitable things happen, the tanks get destroyed by Khonti thermobaric weapons, and Papa gives the State Prosecutor an ominous phone call.

It is here though that fiction departs from reality. The punishment for severe failure amongst the Fathers is death – not that the State Prosecutor is interested in that, but I won’t spoil the denouement. Now Putin is just as adept as Papa at avoiding assuming personal responsibility for the war’s failure. However, he is a more merciful Papa, and under him, you can only ever fail upwards; Surovikin and Popov are out, Shoigu and Gerasimov are in control. Only disloyalty gets you the bullet.

Then again, I allow that the kremlins’ absence of any real ideology is a blessing in disguise, since in so far as they are too cynical, too postmodern, too magical to properly adopt the Theocracy policy they spare Russia and the world from what at least under them is guaranteed to be the most grimdark of dystopias – just imagine someone like Shoigu and Gerasimov in command of mobilized millions. Instead we “just” get a schizo blend of resentful Third Worldism (not even oriented towards the actual Global South per se but its most backwards rogue states and gay baiters like Uganda, etc.), World War II nostalgia that in its degree of gerontocratic senility would have been embarrassing to the Soviets, 1980s American/WCF conservatism based on hatred of homosexuals, the banal legal nihilism of sledgehammer executions and redistribution of confiscated foreign assets to members of the Kadyrov clan, PROGRAMMED jail for all liberals and genuine Z activists and non-Putinoids broadly, and a televised Hunger Games in which the most unprivileged members of Russians and Ukrainian society (the true ideologues are long dead or crippled now) compete for $3,000 a month for the snuff video entertainment of foreign NAFO and Z degenerates who “sponsor” their favorite teams and “airdrop” them items.

Even all considerations to do with AI timelines or biosingularities aside, the Land of the Unknown Fathers is not congenial to any good long-term outcomes for Russians. And it is in retrospect understandable why the denizens of Khonti, post-apocalyptic anarchic state as it is itself, fought the Fatherland even if it was in the interests and for the primary benefit of its sponsor, the Island Empire. It is time for Russia to make its peace with the fact that it lost this world’s game of Civilization. But this is not so bad, since almost all civilizations are losers – after all, there is only one winner. And it is not yet even too late to negotiate itself a relatively privileged position as the winner’s vassal.

 

Novgorod 2.0: Towards a Gay Merchant Republic

I will not here speculate at length on the final outcome of the Ukraine War or the precise way that Putinism ends. You can find that commentary on X by searching @powerfultakes timeline for relevant key words (“Ukraine War Update”, Russia, Ukraine, drone, GDP, military, Putin/other people, etc.), with the most recent update being this one; I will try to write a list of important Tweets for the historical record at some point. The default ending since late 2022 has long appeared to me to be a prolonged stalemate and a negotiated end to the war at more or less the current frontlines, but so much depends on a complex of interrelated, opaque, and non-linear factors such as Ukrainian manpower depletion, exponential growth in AI and drone technologies, Western aid provision, and the precise pace and scope of Russian (and Ukrainian!) industrial mobilization that it is very easy to see scenarios in which one side or the other eventually faces a cascading collapse. These are independent of public sentiment swings in which NAFO was crowing about “Crimea by summer” a year ago and Z are now announcing Russia’s imminent victory for the tenth time even as the reserves it spent many months accumulating are chewed up in a matter of weeks trying to take a couple of Donetsk suburbs. The one prediction that I will stand by here is that if the war continues much longer it will progressively get more and more ghoulish, as volunteer manpower and armor are replaced by coerced manpower and ever smarter drones in ever bigger swarms, and that many of the remaining hawks will come to regret their stance regardless of what even happens on the front.

As for Russian politics, my long-standing prediction from the very beginning of the conflict is that Putin will not survive a complete defeat in Ukraine, at least short of the regime going hardcore totalitarian. My logic was that it would complete the full trifecta of post-Soviet color revolution triggers, adding a lost war to falsified elections and long-stagnant living standards. In fairness, this looks considerably less likely now in the wake of the failed Ukrainian counter-offensive, though it was never very likely in the first place – my assessment of the likelihood of a Ukrainian breakthrough this summer was a modest 30% – though then again, with the magical kremlins nothing can be excluded. However, what I will say is that even in the event of a “Pyrrhic victory” – the pre-2014 territories plus the Crimean Corridor, which is also the outcome predicted by Russian data blogger @shangya just a couple of weeks into the war – the Putin regime will still face severe difficulties in answering a whole array of hard questions, such as whether ~100,000 deaths and Iran-tier sanctions were justified by the paltry territorial gains and the net negative human capital balance (1.5M mostly older and sullen Ukrainians vs. 1M skilled emigrants). I no longer expect the regime to respond to these challenges in any very competent or creative way beyond more conservative identity politics that alienate youth, and buffing up internal security budgets (a process already underway by late 2022). Consequently, @shangya‘s other prediction of “bad front – Putin until 2024; stable front – Putin until 2026” does not look hyperbolic to me. Even if that timeline surprises to the upside, I do not see how the Putin regime is very sustainable in light of the increasingly stark contrast between the what is still a well-educated population with mostly modern social views, and the stark realities of an increasingly decrepit mafia state that is no longer interested in maintaining even a simulacrum of political competition, and offers no interesting or inspiring vision for the future beyond a strange hybrid of Soviet-American trad larp only spiced up by trolling as state policy.

This is not to say I have any good conception of precisely how the regime ends, though they mostly don’t involve Ruzzia falling apart and getting decolonized from Ukrainian flags over Sevastopol to Kamil Galeev declaring the Tatarstan Islamic People’s Republic. But the endpoint seems much more obvious to me, and not only me – Metaculus gives a median prediction of March 2027 as the year when Vladimir Putin leaves power – than the precise path it takes to get there. And as such I would like to spend the rest of this section discussing my view of how Russians might try to pick up the pieces after the Putin camarilla departs the scene.

The Choice: Kocherga vs. Chudville

Advocating liberal democracy and post-national LGBTQ+ maxxing might sound like a strange and sudden reversal, but this is something I have been mooting on X for over a year now, and there is nothing incongruent about it even in the context of my conditional support for Putinism in 2018-22 as an alternative model to Western liberalism/GAE, and its singular failure at war – the strongest “proof of function” of a nation-state there is, and one that is especially relevant in the context of a regime that repeatedly championed its masculinity and supposed martial prowess relative to its gay, effete, and sissified enemies. Furthermore, the failure is so stark that even a major military reversal in the next 2-3 years and the conquest of Novorossiya wouldn’t cancel it out. The war has been fought in, destroyed, and depopulated Ukraine’s once most pro-Russian areas. Z propagandists crow about Ukraine becoming a ghost country. However, of its six million refugees, almost all of them are younger women and children, so the net result is that Ukraine has effectively become a literal “army with a country” with retirement home attached. Consequently, one of the few major strategic rationales for the war – accreting Ukrainian human capital – has already nullified itself, and this will remain true even in the extraordinarily unlikely event that Russia does end up occupying Kharkov and Odessa.

But most importantly, far from any pre-war fantasies about “nationalization of the elites”, the war has resulted in accelerating institutional degradation and human capital flight, bringing to the surface many inconvenient truths about the true nature of the Russian Federation and the elites that run it that had previously been papered over by the relatively competent civiliki and oil money.

Consequently, what I initially interpreted as a risky but not obviously doomed or irrational attempt to escape Russia’s 20th century Soviet legacy of shouldering the burden of the global proletarian cause and to finally start building a sovereign state for the benefit of Russians that would repair the repeated demographic catastrophes and indignities inflicted upon Russians during 1917-1947 and the 1990s, and provision it with the requisite economies of scale to sustain its own memetic ecosystem – the Russian National State of Russian nationalist larp that was to develop into a glorious Atomic Space Empire

Was in reality just its replacement with another, Western-derived ideological cause, that of Traditionalist Larp, the preserve of /pol/tards and sundry online weirdos in the West, elevated to supreme power in the form of a banana-obssessed Monke who somehow managed to get poisoned by American Facebook boomer memes despite not even using the Internet. We might call this the Based Shithole outcome.

However, I was never an enthusiast for Based Shitholes. Nor do I think Russians would benefit from living in one – be it Based Poland, Iran with Snow, or anywhere in between. Based Shitholes are doomed to collapse, after inflicting a great deal of suffering and humiliations on their denizens, at which point they just become biomass for the utilization of the advanced countries, like post-Ceaușescu Romania. Moreover, as we just found out, any forced attempt to build the Atomic Space Empire inevitably degenerates into a Based Shithole, and an unusually necrophiliac one at that.

From a series of 1914 Russian postcards envisioning 23rd century Moscow. A civilization and future that was never to be.

The timelines that could have ended in a Russian Atomic Space Empire were permanently cut sometime between 1917 and June 22, 1941, and now exist only as Worlds That Could Have Been. Now one can try to revive the Empire, and it might even appear to work – for some brief moment in time. But it would just a zombie, like the doomed attempts to resurrect Horus Lupercal before he was finally put out of his necromantic misery by Abbadon the Despoiler. As such, it’s time to seriously consider capitulating on the imperial narrative of the patrimonial Russian state in favor of the Novgorod Republic and its proto-democratic governance, high literacy rates, strong commercial ties to the Hanseatic League, and relative high level of social progressiveness, and to consider the true “third position” – democratization, liberalization, and transition to a Gay Merchant Republic.

First and foremost, there is no longer any real question that Western liberal democracy has become ideologically hegemonic – that is, there are no longer any intellectually consistent or defensible alternatives to it, as opposed to the midwit notion that geopolitical contests have ceased in principle. This was already true in 1992 when Francis Fukuyama first advanced the End of History thesis, and while for a small moment of time in the 2010s I thought that the Chinese and Russian models might be competitive after all as the Wokes threatened to derail that hegemony, I agree with Richard Hanania that 2022 put the kibosh on any such fanciful ideas. (This is not to necessarily to say that current advanced Western liberal democracies constitute some kind of evolutionary apex – indeed, my promotion of Open Borders and decentralized World Government runs counter to that notion – but that any more competitive models will emerge along a liberalizing and globalizing axis relative to liberal democracy, as opposed to a reactionary or regressive one). Therefore, while it would have been best for Russians to institutionalize liberal democracy the day before yesterday – in 1825, 1917, 1993 – the next best time to do that is today.

I now consider it extremely important, perhaps vital, for any post-Putin regime to go free speech maximalist, up to the point of embedding an equivalent of the First Amendment into the Constitution. Ever since the Russian Federation’s formation, different factions have used speech restrictions to own their enemies within a culture that lacked any strong tradition of free speech or fair play; most notably, the infamous Article 282 and sundry extremism/hate speech laws where initially pushed through by liberals to put nationalists in jail, which worked for some time and fueled nationalist resentment against liberalism, before it eventually boomeranged back on them as well under Putin. As I mentioned previously, I thought that the decriminalization of Article 282 in 2018 might have marked a turning point in Putinism, and indeed for the next few years that ceased being an occupational hazard for nationalist activists.

But a leopard doesn’t change its spots and that became increasingly clear the past two years. There was the utterly bizarre and absurd case of Nikita Zhuravel, which I already discussed. Just randomly browsing a Russian nationalist human rights account several months ago, I saw a report about a Russian activist who got locked up for 12 days over extremism for criticizing some Turkish development plans in his local village (Total Türkiye victory, doner kebab only legal food). As I mentioned previously, at one point, I was bullish about rebranding Russia as a Radical Centrist state for edgy, non-politically scientific research in fields such as HBD and psychometrics. Just a few weeks ago, I learned that a scientific colleague and Russian nationalist who had supported Z had gone into emigration to avoid extremism charges after a video of him doing a Hitler impersonation sketch at a private party several years ago surfaced online and went viral. At this point, I don’t even know or care under what particular laws all of this is happening, and I don’t think it even matters, because in the current atmosphere of legal nihilism any article can be found for any person for any reason or none and which constitutes the basis of my prediction that final stage Putinism will involve Z people going to jail because it’s gay to countersignal Based Shoigu. Considering the liberals’ record on freedom of speech – and I see zero evidence they even learned anything – I have no great confidence that any Constitutional freedom of speech guarantees will ever be on the cards, and I would sooner say there’s even a greater chance of vengeful cretinism in the form of bans on “justifying the Putin regime” or “Z propaganda” that will inevitably boomerang back on its creators as such things inevitably do. But we will see. Possibly the liberals and nationalists – the chances that Communists would commit are zero – will agree that owning each other with jail for saying things isn’t the optimal way to go through life, even if without the occasional torture-murders that the Putin regime appended to it, and will agree to adopt the superior American approach of canceling and deplatforming each other instead.

Second, one consistent lesson in geopolitics seems to be that if you cannot beat it, then you should join it. America has decidedly checked Russia’s attempts to become an America of its own while utilizing an insultingly and outrageously small percentage of its own materiel resources. There was no glorious Battle of Dnepropetrovsk and aerial skirmishes between the Russian Air Force and NATO no fly zone enforcers over the Dnieper. Mere access to American IST, simulations, and some modest share of its Cold War surplus was sufficient to stymie Russia’s last dash for empire. There will not be another one. Its Soviet stockpiled have been depleted, and as soon as normalcy returns, what human capital exists in the Russian Army is going to drain out momentarily. And in any case the regime will have other priorities then.

Consequently, a post-Putin Russia should reconcile with the banal fact that it is a middle-income Middle Power that permanently lost its chance to be a sovereign civilization-state sometime between 1917 and 1941, set aside its own parochial imperial ambitions, and reorient towards integration with the European Union (which I call to itself expand south into Africa and Tashkent, Tehran, and beyond in a glorious tsunami of color revolutions sweeping away Islamist and post-Soviet reaction). One of my primary concerns about advocating EU membership in my years as a Russian nationalist – even apart from the obvious ones of this displacing all of Russia’s own ambitions to become a sovereign civilization-state – is that labor mobility with the EU would lead to a major uptick in Russian emigration. But such “population equals power” considerations are relevant only insofar as you are engaged in such projects! Otherwise, it’s no big deal. Perhaps 5-10 million Russians will leave for work in the EU – more from the young ethnic minority republics than Russian ones at that – but they will send remittances back to Russia, improving overall living standards. Institutions will improve and convergence growth, on hold since ever since the collapse of the oil-driven growth model in 2014, will resume.

Finally, I don’t even think the migration waves will even be one-way – at least insofar as smart fractions and Elite Human Capital are concerned. Putinism has already provoked the emigration of 1 million mostly high skilled young workers in the IT and related industries. This hasn’t just affected the IT giants such as Yandex, but to an even larger extent all kinds of unicorns and startups at the very cutting edge of technology. One case I am quite familiar with is Gero, Russia’s leading life extension company, which decamped to Novi Sad, Serbia near in its entirety last year. Meanwhile, what remains of Russian “hi-tech” is increasingly just a story of weirdos and grifters, with the recent attempt by Alabuga – a special economic zone that has been found to be using indentured Russian and African labor to build drones (sic!) – to “own” Elon Musk by proposing to colonize Jupiter’s moons. At a minimum, a return of normality will draw many of these people back, while herding the freaks back into the closets from where they emerged. Moscow is after all a very nice city. Personally, I prefer it to London, Paris, and Istanbul – the only other European cities that match it on scale.

Third, there needs to be a genuine commitment to liberalism and human rights, and that includes LGBTQ+ rights as a necessary precondition both of its Western integration, this particular issue being a core GAE interest. Even more importantly, it would also be a strong and credible statement of its own commitment to personal freedoms, rejection of religious obscurantism, and cultural openness to the sorts of Elite Human Capital demographics that Putin’s based policies have been actively driving out even as his grifter associates go about trying to attract their cognitive and ideological opposites to Chudville [news: “Russian authorities will launch construction of a village outside Moscow for conservative-minded Americans and Canadians”]. In this rainbowpilled scenario, I would not even consider it excessively optimistic to predict that Moscow – as one of the most objectively pleasant big cities in the world, even now – will have an excellent chance of becoming a global coffee salon hub and Elite Human Capital magnet for hi-tech workers, AI people, transhumanists, surfers, crypto bros, vegans, and Indian Brahmins. Establishments like Kocherga Café will again host rationalist and transhumanist meetups.

It is an indisputable observation that all the objectively most successful and functional countries within GAE tend to be strongly liberal and unironically committed to GloboHomo. Even just traveling about this year, I noted that the density of rainbow flags is a remarkably good proxy of the quality of any European city. This was even true of Türkiye! Consequently, I have to recognize the intellectual bankruptcy of my past ideologically-driven critiques of Gay Merchant Republics such as Sweden Yes (cocooned under the American  while larping as a “moral superpower” and owning American rightoids), Taiwan (I take back what I used to say about it being “fake and gay”; it is real and gay), and the Netherlands (laugh at it all you went – but what does it say of Based Russia that even before the war, Yandex opted to make weed smoke-wreathed and rainbow flag-draped Amsterdam into its global HQ over Moscow?). I now view all of them as worthy models for a post-Putin Russia to aspire to alongside the progressive Blue American states.

Instead of catering to single digit IQ American rightoids, Russia can cement its commitment to the Elite Human Capital cause and begin its quest to become a moral hyperpower by throwing a five million strong Moscow Pride event just for starters (I am aiming for that number because it would be a world record). You think I am mad or sarcastic, but no, I am perfectly serious – and one might view my own embrace of a queer identity as a “thing” or “object” as an attempt to at once both front-run Russia’s “sissification” and provide a positive personal template for it. My thesis is that Russian homophobia is a mostly elite-created phenomenon to differentiate the Russian brand from the West, and hence while Russian homophobia is wide, it is also shallow and hence likely to rapidly dissipate in the post-Putin era. Indeed, the very fact of Putinism associating itself with homophobia at an ever more systemic level – from the extension of the laws against LGBT propaganda several months ago to cover adults (redolent of Dubya calling for same sex marriage bans in February 2004, a year into his failed war) and the cancelation of ballet performances to the recent blanket ban on LGBT that are now accompanied by police raids on gay nightclubs – might have a silver lining in that Putinism’s eventual discreditation might likewise lead to a parallel vindication of the causes and values which it suppressed, of which the “LGBT ideology” figures most prominently.

 

The Geopolitics of GAE Vassalage

Apart from attracting human capital, a strong Russian commitment to liberal democracy and LGBT rights would also ease its integration with GAE. Here we can cite the democratization of the East Asian tigers in the 1980s, which were not so much a result of bottom-up initiatives as a a top down elite decision made in order to maintain America’s security commitments to them in the face of a rising China. This was especially true of Taiwan, where Chiang Ching-kuo made the strategic decision to align the country with American values in the 1980s by adopting representative democracy, a legacy which I believe now continues in the form of Asia’s largest gay pride parades to ward off Chinese irredentism.

Furthermore, these policies would also almost certainly concretely improve the terms of Russia’s future integration with GAE, which I would argue is the only relevant issue at this point. Realistically, nobody is exactly waiting to roll out the red carpets for Russia, and there will be lingering bad blood for many decades to come between Russia and the limitrophe states of East-Central Europe. Conversely, Russia will hopefully not be coming in from a position of acute weakness – certainly not to the extent of Germany in 1945, at any rate – and Russians adopting the politics of liberal democracy, the language of human rights, and the aesthetics of “GloboHomo” will be sure to make a vastly more positive impression than continuing to cling on to their icons and vodka bottles, much like White Americans who cling to their guns and Bibles are very low status in the eyes of those who matter. This in turn would allow Russia to resolve issues concerning the human and linguistic rights of Russians and Russophones in its Near Abroad to a much better degree than under Putinism, which never viewed them as anything more than disposable material for its pseudo-imperial ambitions.

One of the primary challenges of the post-Putin era will be resolving the status of the Russian occupied territories in Ukraine. Now Z and many Russian nationalists (some exceptions) hate me radically and view me as a pro-Ukrainian traitor (churka, noviop, gay mutt, transhumanist-transgender, Zionist, Jew, etc.). The breakdown dates to May 2023 at the latest, when I wrote a “defeatist” post on my Russian Telegram account offering a pessimistic assessment of Russia’s military prospects, and a follow-up post suggesting a peace offer that in my view had a good chance of dividing Western doves and hawks while preserving Crimea and Donbass in Russia. This elicited an outpouring of rage and denunciations, because of course if someone no longer subscribes to Russian nationalist maximalism, then it means it must have gone over to the other side and is now a Ukrainian nationalist.

However, as anyone capable of thinking beyond tribal binaries would realize – so, that excludes rightoids – it doesn’t really make much sense for someone who rejects one nationalism to arbitrarily go and shill for some foreign nationalism. It especially makes very little sense in the context of someone who was explicitly only ever interested in “big” nationalisms that seemed to have some real civilizational prospects, as opposed to the petty and parochial “hobbit hovel” nationalisms of the smaller East European states. And while I have come to detest the Z movement for its idiocy, conspiracism (e.g. GDP denialism), and voyeuristic bloodlust, to the extent that has affected my perception of NAFO, it is only to the extent of drawing an equivalence between the two. Just as Z hates Ukraine, “piggers”, and Gay Satanic Nazism more than it loves Russians, so NAFO hates all Russians – just see their joyful glee over the shark that killed the Russian tourist in Egypt and sandwich jokes over Navalny’s disappearance – much more than it loves Ukrainians. Consequently, Ukrainian nationalists and NAFO activists who are waiting for me to decorate my account with sunflowers and shout “Glory to Ukraine!” will have to continue waiting for a long time to come.

The reasons I refuse to support Ukraine are threefold. First, although the Russian state unambiguously carries the primary responsibility for the Ukraine War, it is not an exclusive one; think Germany in WW1, not in WW2. Ukrainian nationalists played the key role in torpedoing the Steinmeier Formula for an OSCE-observed independence referendum in the LDNR that could have delineated the Russo-Ukrainian border along what was ultimately very close to the line dividing Ukrainian and Russian majorities back in 2019. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian state engaged in a concerted campaign of illiberal Ukrainization at home and anti-Russian provocations abroad. In addition to accelerating linguistic and religious Ukrainization, what you had in Ukraine was pro-Russian parties getting banned and politicians arrested, peaceful pro-Russian activists imprisoned or even killed (e.g. Oles Buzina), historical Russian statues dismantled and no I am not talking about the mass produced Lenins, and pro-Russian and even Russia-neutral media outlets were shut down. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians cut off water to Crimea, its intelligence services attempted kidnapping operations on Russian soil and in international airspace, and even provided an official roof to the Dnepropetrovsk crooks who became infamous for scamming Russian pensioners on an industrial scale. In April 2021, they engaged in threatening military maneuvers next to Donbass (it is alleged Putin made the final decision to invade that summer). Most importantly, Ukraine remained set on NATO membership, and the Americans never disabused them of that notion or even insisted on the necessity of resolving their territorial issues with Russia before it could go forward.

Now my point here isn’t a “moral” one; the spiteful pettiness of some actions aside, these are all mostly things that a nationalist Ukrainian state that wanted to distance itself from Russia would be doing anyway. Nor were they even all that strange or irrational in the context of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the kremlins were always delusional to expect anything else, as Russian nationalists like Igor Strelkov said from the start. However, the problem is that those same kremlins still thought of Russia as a military superpower and were drinking their own Kool-Aid about the  “world’s second strongest” army, and they must have observed this threatening trifecta – accelerating political and cultural Ukrainization; the final collapse of the Minsk process; and a sustained Ukrainian commitment to join NATO – with growing trepidation and dismay.

So quite apart from Romantic notions of regathering the sundered Russian lands or esoteric considerations about the economies of scale needed to assure civilizational autonomy, I assumed just before the war began that the primary factor were hard power dynamics and the kremlins realizing that they only had a limited “window of opportunity” to solve an otherwise intractable long-term security dilemma:

Now yes, conquering Ukraine would have been much easier back in 2014, when the Ukrainian Army had virtually ceased to exist as a coherent force for a few months. Conversely, it is much easier now than it likely will be in another eight years, in 2030. Due to nationalist pressure in domestic politics, any hypothetical Ukrainian regime will remain committed to recovering the Donbass, and the growth of its military potential will force Russia to commit more and more of its own military power to safeguard the Donbass over the next decade or two. This is not a pleasant situation in a world in which Russia’s own relative military capabilities are likely to decline vis-a-vis the two leading superpowers.

Now to be sure, given what we subsequently learned about them, the idea that concepts like “relative power balance” even figure in the kremlins’ vocabulary must now be viewed with some degree of skepticism. Perhaps all of this had more to do with Monke chimping out over the arrest of his dear friend Medvedchuk. Nonetheless, although the primary responsibility for the war lies on the Russian Federation, it cannot be said that the security issues it faced in Ukraine were non-trivial, and they were actively stoked by both Ukrainian nationalist maximalism and the American politicians and diplomats who led on Ukrainians on to believe that NATO membership was on the table. Meanwhile, Russia’s own unholy trifecta – the Culture of Lying in the Russian military; the FSB hawkishness that drove them to overstate the degree of subversion they had achieved in Ukraine in order to get the war they wanted; and Putin’s own confirmation bias-driven credulity towards both – resulted in what we have now.

Second, even if one disagrees with the analysis above, one has to make peace with political and military realities. Any prolongation of the war is programmed to be an unmitigated negative sum horror – this was clear to me this time last year, and it even more true now that the war is degenerating into the cyberpunk man and drone equivalent of the Early Modern “push of pike” that will programmatically involve ever more brutally coerced manpower now that the early ideological volunteers, convicts, and losers have already been “utilized”. Tribalistic land skirmishes over the amusing particulars of post-Soviet borders is for dumb nationalists, most of whom are now dead or without limbs. (The smart nationalists like Arestovych have left). Normies on both sides do not want to participate in this ghoulish charade. There are 1.5 million people remaining in the Crimean Corridor, and even though Russia has no legitimate grounds to be there – several more 100,000s of deaths, with edge case catastrophic scenarios involving nukes – don’t justify their inevitably bloody liberation in the context that those of them who are truly unhappy can leave (Russia hasn’t closed its borders). It is unethical to force increasingly unwilling Ukrainians to martyr themselves against the Surovikin Line which is what dumb, empty, and maximalist slogans like “Putin can end the war any day by withdrawing from Ukraine” inevitably boil down to. This is not a reasonable demand in the context of the military reality. Putin cannot accept it. And even on the freak chance that Putin is overthrown soon it’s probably not even something that any post-Putin government can realistically fulfill, including any liberal democratic one that is actually beholden to the electorate!

Incidentally, this returns me to the peace treaty proposal that precipitated my second ejection from the ranks of Russian nationalism (the first being my COVID stance). It centers around an internationally observed referendum throughout the entirety of the Russian-occupied territories, coupled with some give and take – Ukrainian freedom to pursue own alliances; Russian compensation for Crimea/LDNR that Ukraine can call “reparations” if it so wishes; a Kaliningrad-like corridor to Crimea – whose details will presumably depend on the battlefield situation when the armistice is signed. This is the central idea behind the sketch of a potential peace treaty that I outlined back in March 2023. Now one may view this proposal with suspicion in that it conveniently came before the Ukrainian summer offensive, when Russia’s ability to defend the Crimean Corridor was heavily questioned in the public narrative. However, my support for a peace treaty along these lines remains unchanged today, at a time when this same public narrative now proclaims Ukraine to be on the back foot against Russia.

At this point, the main tragedy is that the respective sides are incentivized to keep the war going when they are doing well on the battlefield. But the time when they are doing well is also precisely the time when they can get the best possible peace deal. Consequently, as fortunes wax and wane – and in the absence of any capacity for second-order thinking (kremlins) or ability to say no to nationalist maximalists (Ukraine) – the default game theory outcome trends to indefinite, mutually ruinous attrition. Consequently, I believe it has become ethically incumbent on the international community to impose such a peace deal on Russia and Ukraine, with aid flows to Ukraine being the carrot and stick insofar as modulations of Western aid determine Russia’s victory or defeat.

Unfortunately, the optimal game theory move in turn for Western politicians is to publicly endorse maximalist Ukrainian aims, which is rhetorically cheap, but without provisioning them with the necessary level of support to accomplish it – which is politically costly, and carries very bad tail risks (Monke has a nuclear grenade). This is just enough to keep Ukrainian morale sufficiently high to keep fighting, while also annulling any Russian incentives to seriously seek peace. I suspect that if you wish to make any productive contribution to resolving this war in an equitable fashion, the best use of your mental energy is in how to square this circle. At any rate, it’s certainly less undignified than dreaming of OdeZZa and demanding “as many as necessary” Russian deaths that would involve, or calling for “Western civilization” to stand strong by enabling Kiev to kill 100,000s more Ukrainians trying to take back territories where the locals don’t even want them.

This brings me to the third point, which is that it is very likely that the inhabitants of Crimea and Donbass do not want the return of Ukrainian rule. That is, Ukrainian maximalism stands in opposition to what is commonly understood to be the principle of national self-determination. Now just to be clear, this doesn’t apply to the Russian-occupied territories of Zaporozhye and Kherson, where sentiment is almost certainly overwhelmingly anti-Russian even after most of the most pro-Ukrainian people left, and in any halfway just outcome they would be returned to Ukraine – even if fighting for them, as per above, is now an ethically dubious proposition. However, those territories have just 1.5M people between them. Crimea has 2.5M people, and the LDNR had 3.5M before its formal annexation by Russia. Although Ukrainian propaganda claims Crimean viewpoints have been invalidated by post-2014 annexation Russian “population replacement”, the reality is that polling preferences consistently suggested overwhelming Crimean support for joining Russia well before 2014 (e.g. 73% in a 2008 poll by Razumkov, a Ukrainian pollster). The opinions of Donbassers have been less well polled, but there was overwhelming support (>80%) in Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts for federalization and integration with Russia in a mostly forgotten 1994 referendum. (Though I am obviously not going to cite the sham referendums under the LDNR). In any case, following eight years of Ukrainian artillery shelling and self-selective migration, there’s little doubt that a solid majority of Donbassers would opt to stay within Russia under a free and fair vote. However, this just reinforces the case for determining all of this under UN/OSCE-observed referendums.

This does not mean that I consider that Russia “deserves” the Donbass in any real sense. Nation-states, in my view, do not “deserve” anything per se except insofar as their individual denizens deserve something. And I would not say that even Russians “deserve” the Donbass in light of their mass indifference to Donbass welfare between 2014-22, allowing the Russian bureaucracy to extradite pro-Russian activists back to Ukraine, enabling widespread banditry and criminality within the LDNR, and treating it as an internal “Ukrainian” issue that didn’t concern them. This remained true even during the course of the SMO. Beyond the world of online memes and cheerleading, and a small volunteer community, the vast majority of Russians are uninterested in this “existential” war – according to a Levada poll, not even a majority are prepared to give away 1,000-2,000 rubles per month ($10-20) on the needs of the SMO (I suspect Balts and Poles have donated more to Ukraine per capita than have Russians).

Nonetheless, even though Russians do not deserve Donbass, the people of Donbass do deserve Russia. Just because I despise the Putinists who killed the revolutionary, anti-oligarchic, and futurist promise of the early Donbass Rebellion, let Donbassers stew under their own hand-picked mafia stewards for eight years, and then genocided their mobiks against Ukrainian fortifications at the war’s outbreak doesn’t obligate me to endorse the parallel psychopathy of Ukrainian nationalists, who have long castigated Donbassers as “Donbabwe” and “Lugandon” in a most amusing combination of racism and ultra-nationalism, and were recently mocking Alexey Navalny’s – happily temporary – disappearance with the Russian prison system just because he once said that Crimea “is not a sausage sandwich to be passed back and forth”. The implication is that this is exactly how they see Crimea and Donbass, and I do not think it is ethical to leave them at the mercy of people like this. If there is one group of people who have been fucked over by literally everyone over the past decade it is the Donbassers, and to the point that I retain any emotional investment in this conflict, I hope that their story at least has a happy ending.

Aside from the principle of self-determination, there is the obvious factor that “shoving back” Donbass or Crimea into Ukraine, to say nothing of their bloody “liberation” if it comes to that – the apostrophes are appropriate in light of the stated plans of the Ukrainians to ethnically cleanse 500,000 people and conduct widespread reprisals against “collaborators” in the context of a region where as many people as a percentage of the population came out against the Maidan as came out for it in Kiev – serves nobody’s interests in the long-term. Folded back into Ukraine, they will be depopulated and resentful husks, a drain on public finances and a source of political instability. Consequently, the more thoughtful Ukrainians privately admit it would be best if they were shorn away permanently, and in any case, while the ethics of progressively more coercive mobilizations in order to liberate Zaporozhye and Kherson is dubious enough, it would be downright ghoulish in the context of reconquering peoples who resent and don’t actually want the return of Ukrainian rule.

Regardless of the precise course of the war, and returning to the main theme, a Russia that embraces liberal democracy will be able to make the case for Donbass and Crimean self-determination far more credibly than a Putinist Russia because liberal democracies are truth machines in a way that post-modern dictatorships where “nothing is true and everything is possible” are not. In particular, they do not engage in vote rigging. Especially not to the extent of claiming results like ~99% support in Donetsk and ~90% support in Kherson and Zaporozhye for joining Russia, which made a post facto mockery of the mostly legitimate results from Crimea in 2014. (Yet another illustration of the truism that authoritarian regimes are dumb as fuck and screw over their own supporters). Liberal democracies also have strong civil societies, which amongst other things allows them to punish politicians who would otherwise prefer to ignore the will of the people for reasons of political expedience. Just as a strong civil society in the context of competitive elections would have had a much better chance at preventing Putin from extraditing Donbass activists to Ukraine during the 2015-18 period or in paying the surviving DNR mobiks their salaries in 2022 – complaining about which was the formal reason for which Strelkov was officially charged and imprisoned – it will likewise have a good chance of checking a President Mikhail Khodorkovsky who decides to go ahead with his commitment to give Crimea back to Ukraine. (Incidentally, this might explain why Khodorkovsky in his new book states he would prefer to cooperate with elements of the old regime, including the siloviki, while keeping the population at large in a state of passivity. So, just as in The Inhabited Island, this “dissident leader” just wants to replace the Unknown Fathers, not dismantle the control towers.).

Moreover, while the previous point is most directly relevant for the post-war settlement with Ukraine, it also touches on Russia’s place in Europe and the linguistic rights of Russians stranded in the Baltics and elsewhere in the Near Abroad. This issue has been a constant source of tension and recrimination in the post-Soviet era. However, a Russia that is a liberal democracy will be a country that is far better able to look out for ethnic Russian interests abroad by dint of a much more vigorous civil society and a mentality that treats human rights as something worth pursuing for its own value, as opposed to something that should be weaponized and used to score political points against geopolitical irritants; it will be a Russia that is much more integrated into European institutions, and consequently able to utilize them for the benefit of its co-ethnics; it will be a Russia in which soft power institutions such as Rossotrudnichestvo function as they are supposed to instead of being feeding troughs for Peskov’s former wife and sundry venal parasites; it will eventually be a Russia that will be much richer than could ever be possible under Putinism, and as such, it will be a more prestigious and influential Russia. True sovereignty is ultimately just a function of the global GDP share and at some inflection point even in “Russophobic” countries like the Baltics will be incentivized to flip and start making Russians feel welcome.

Finally, a Russia that is genuinely committed to liberalism can accelerate its journey to European integration by making common cause with progressive “Old Europe” and the United States against the intransigent populists and nationalists who might well temporarily flourish in East-Central Europe in the wake of the Ukraine War. These forces, at least outside Hungary, are likely to be anti-Russian to boot, on the principle that people adore the strong horse and hate losers. (I even proposed an amusing scenario in this vein in September 2022. Now to be sure, this prospect has become rather less likely since even the Poles are starting to tilt liberal, but that is all for the good regardless – liberals are less vengeful than rightoids, and tend not think in predatory winner/loser binaries).

As regards Russia’s relations with Central Asia, they are currently upheld near exclusively by the constantly depreciating late Soviet culture of their ageing Russophone elites, as well as the exploitation of its cheap unskilled labor. But as I wrote in 2019, this is not a sustainable long-term equilibrium: “As [those elites] age and die off, these countries are going to drift farther and farther away from Russia as the ethnic draw of Turkey, the religious draw of the Islamic ummah, the economic preponderance of China, and the cultural preponderance of America make themselves fully felt on the youngest generations and on the intelligentsia. This is already happening and there is no absolutely no reason to expect that Russia’s alternative, the Great Patriotic War victory cult – in which Central Asians played a marginal role anyway – is going to be a competitive one.” Smart, secular Kazakhs or Uzbeks are no longer going to Moscow. Probably not even the smart Tajiks, despite large numbers of new Tajik citizens. Their smartest people are mostly aiming for Europe, Korea, and the US. That is not an optimal exchange for Russia.

As regards relations beyond the West and the Near Abroad, there is no reason that a post-Putin Russia cannot continue leveraging the progressive anti-colonial aspects of its Soviet legacy to continue and deepen “multipolar” ties with regions like Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and especially India. For all Putin’s lip service to multipolarity, all these projects – much like AI, which he has also championed rhetorically, but destroyed in practice – are undermined by the practical realities of a state that has scant interest in funding science or attracting intellectuals. For instance, I wrote about the sad state of Russian Sinology in 2018. In that context, the fact that China-Russia ties remain predominantly state-to-state affairs – despite their “strategic partnership” – becomes far easier to understand. (It is amusing that China now allows visa free travel to Europeans while Russians can only visit it visa-free as part of tour groups). Russia has excellent relations with India and an excellent shared heritage from Afanasy Nikitin’s travels to India in the 15th century to the Soviet Union protecting it against American threats of military intervention in 1971. But despite the best of intentions, the scope for truly deep relations between a rapidly rising India and a Russia retreating into obscurantism – including elements of degenerated Islamophilia – cannot be anything much more than smart Russian just decamping to Goa.

 

Elite Human Capital Rejects the Rightoid International

Now I am somewhat self-aware, and I realize that the above comes off as a preemptive capitulation, if not a mental breakdown. “The Geopolitics of GAE Vassalage”. Karlin has gone insane. The buck has been broken. A disturbing glimpse into the dark Z future. But the question I want to ask is, even under the Right’s own terms – that is, preserving some degree of cultural autonomy in a GAE hegemonic world – is the right-wing “sovereigntist” ideology even the most adaptive one?

This is the conventional view. This notion is so widely accepted that even liberals are usually OK to concede this to the conservatives. However, is that really true? In France, it is well known that it is the low class people who give their children Anglo names. And it is Kev who votes for the Front National, while Jean-François votes for the liberals. I haven’t seen quantified studies about this, but I suspect there’s a similar dynamic in Russia. The simple people want “Evroremont” and “English Kitchens”. EHC make pilgrimages to the Abramtsevo Estate, a shameless celebration of Russian Revival founded by the industrialist Savva Mamontov, or to Nikola-Lenivets, Russia’s analogue of Burning Man. I have long found it amusing that Kriorus, the world’s second oldest cryonics company after Alcor, has its main facility with the cryonic pods in Sergiev Posad, the center of Russian Orthodoxy. The urbanists who have helped transform Moscow into one of the world’s best and most livable megapolises, and are now uplifting provincial centers, are almost invariably liberal hipsters. Conversely, just as the America conservative heartlands are a dystopian hellscape of strip malls, highways, and petrol stations, so the Putinist heartlands are a rustbelt of commie blocks, industrial pollution, cigarette butts and empty beer cans (at least they’ve upgraded from vodka).

This is all ultimately a function of the g nexus being real and tilting towards liberalism. Consequently, since duller people with very rare exception lean towards conservatism and tribal politics, it should make sense that the products catering to them would be more simpler and more standardized, and – in light of American global dominance in this sphere from McDonald’s to Apple – we can predict that it should also be heavily Americanized. And so we indeed see that even in the realm of political ideology, the Rightoid International increasing comes off as just local branches or franchises of its flagship institutions – the Republican Party, evangelical Zionism, /pol/, The Daily Stormer, etc. – that are centered in the US in what is surely one of the most ironic and total triumphs of American soft power.

I have already written about how most of Putin’s tradlarp is just an adaptation of American conservative talking points and Facebook boomer memes, with the persecution of LGBT in particular possibly coming not even so much from the Soviet prison culture that is is most often ascribed but from Lawrence Jacobs/World Congress of Families through railways oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, Malofeev, and Elena Mizulina to Putin. But this is not even specific to Russia. Across the entire world, populist blowhards are compared to Trump by default (Bolsonaro,  the “Trump of the Tropics”), rightoid brigades come with frog avatars, and all native right-wing meme ecosystems from Latin America to India have been pretty much eaten by American Alt Right/4chan/groyper/incel memes (@HMBrough_ has made the case strongly for India).

What “national” culture are you even fighting for at this point? To own your local libs at Ian Miles Cheong’s command with “cope and seethe”? The most amusing thing is that right-wing ideology has just become this very commodified and standardized product tailored to low IQ consumption – the global rightoid typically embracing a “package” of misogyny, conspiracism (esp. vaccine/COVID related), obsession with “globalists”, Soros, and glorified conference manager Klaus Schwab (even the Japanese are at it!!) – is that I now view it as innately less authentic and less national than even explicitly cosmopolitan neoliberalism or the International Left, who at least do not pretend to be anything other than rootless cosmopolitans and standard-bearers of the International Proletariat, as opposed to copying all their memes from /pol/ and pretending they are any more autochthonous for doing so.

Apart from all its other many defects, the Rightoid International also increasingly tends to be useful idiots for American neocons – especially amongst the newer generations of Anime Nazis/groypers. Their psychopathy and low IQ makes rightoids easy dupes for projects that do not benefit them, such as wars in the Middle East. (Incidentally, there is a symmetry here with Islamists – another low IQ identitarian faction – that has spent the past decade getting “utilized” trying to remove Assad and de facto serving US interests, a parallel that is especially amusing in light of rightoid Islamophobia).

I reiterate, the problem with Steve Sailer’s slogan “Invade the World, Invite the World” is that it is just too high IQ for the slobbering rightoids who are his core audience, in the real world, we again and again that from the United States to France that support for dubious interventions remains highest amongst the based right-wingers who vote for Trump and the Front National. Now in connection with the Gaza War we see European rightoids who were demanding pro-Palestinians be locked up for terrorist speech are now going to have fun with a raft of new EU legislation to “combat hate speech” against both Muslims and Jews just as I said would happen, even as Republicans are foregoing Richard Hanania’s smart if cynical suggestion to weaponize instances of Left/Woke overreach on pro-Hamas speech in order to dismantle DEI are instead calling for the expansion of DEI privileges to encompass Jews. (As I said above, the Party has no need for Syme). Many of the rightoids are raging, racialist Sinophobes whose hatred goes well beyond any legitimate revulsion against the CPC. Hence my prediction that their ultimate destiny is to serve as useful meat to safeguard LGBT rights in Taiwan.

Incidentally, this would also be a war that I would much prefer that Russians stay out of. And this relates to one final reason why it would be in Russians’ own best interests to adopt GloboHomo, insofar as it burns all remaining bridges connecting them to the Rightoid International. Liberalism and LGBT Parades would not only promote foreign investment and attract Elite Human Capital, but would also be an antidote to aggressive militarism. The idea of using new, poor, rightoid-adjacent entrants to the Western club as their cannon fodder has a long pedigree dating back to at least George Soros in 1993. (I consider this to be the only actually dangerous Soros conspiracy that pertains to Russia). If this militarism is married to a pro-American geopolitical orientation, it threatens to become downright lethal for Russia in the event that the US and China come to blows, since it’s not much of a puzzle where the primary land front would be and who would be the prime cannon fodder. And although I have mooted it repeatedly, I want to emphasize is this is not even my own exclusive vision, but something that smart American neocons like Edward Luttwak have explicitly mentioned as a rationale for why Russia should not be decolonized. Amusingly, both Strelkov and Kamil Galeev have independently come to a similar conclusion.

Even on a less catastrophic scale, one of the risks of a post-Putin transition is that Chechnya declares independence, and Russia tries to quell it by force. The result would be another bloody SMO, renewed Western sanctions, and quite possibly a farcical re-run of all the processes that led to Putin; nor is even a particularly far-fetched scenario in the context of the deep respect many Russian liberals have for the post-Soviet borders (e.g. see Khodorkovsky’s amusing insistence on confronting Chechen separatism while returning Crimea to Ukraine). However, in the context of a Russia that abandons its imperial visions, it no longer makes any sense whatsoever to try to hang on to resource sinks like Chechnya in the event that Chechens express the wish to leave. Hopefully, a Russia ruled by Russians who are Woke, queers, and cognizant of their privilege relative to Caucasian POC will be happy to read the room, listen, and grant them their wishes. There is a good chance, given the 1990s precedent, that the new leaders will be dumb freaks who will take their newly independent polities nowhere good, but even that will be but temporary growing pains until Chechens (Ingush, Dagestanis, etc.) learn that there can be no prosperity without rejection of religious fanaticism, anti-Semitism, and toxic masculinity.

 

Russia’s Next Experiment in Survival

The final question I want to address is whether there is space for any strand of Russian nationalism in a post-Putin world. After all, it’s not like it is entirely infected with imported rightoid brain worms. Even if we were to agree to stuff back the low IQ cringe that is Duginism, groypers and Male State incels, and the “hobbit hovel” rightoids who would be happy to kill themselves against China in defense of White Europe and Judeo-Christian values back into the closet where they belong… What about that entire 2010s world of Sputnik & Pogrom hipster nationalism and its allies and descendants, of the Listva coffee salons, and of the saner right-wing politics represented by Society of the Future? Besides, isn’t it unfair to calumny Russian nationalism just on account of Putin’s historically brief association with it in the 2018-22 period, in the context of a regime that had spent years persecuting Russian nationalists before that time, and is now showing signs of going back to its old habits?

The immediate objection would be is that there is no guarantee that any emergent post-Putin nationalism will be represented by politicians like Society of the Future’s Roman Yuneman, the telegenic, multilingual, HSE graduate whose socially centrist, economically neoliberal, and war-skeptical but patriotic positions – i.e. “the war was a bad idea but now that we are in it we have to win it” – essentially translate into a more “based” version of Alexey Navalny. However, the problem is that normie liberals prefer to vote for mainstream liberals, while the really based nationalists consider him a German or Jewish liberal plant. And there are frankly considerably more “really based” nationalists than there are “based liberals” aka moderate nationalists. Nationalism in Russia, as in most places, has most often been a low status movement that attracts the poorly educated – in Moscow, the dulls vote for Putin and the nationalist LDPR, the smarts vote liberal, and the mids vote Communist. Consequently, even if Russian politics was to open back up sometime soon, it will be a minor miracle if broad nationalist sentiment congregates around a Yuneman as opposed to some new populist-entertainer like Zhirinovsky, who in retrospect presaged Global Trumpism.

I am obviously not going to go over all the ways in which Russian nationalist factions and individuals are wrong or deluded about particular issues. That would required a book, and in any case even as the incidence of wrongness increases as one ventures out beyond the Sputnik & Pogrom cognitive elites, so too does their intellectual influence. Who cares what Dugin thinks about African traditionalism or the late Orthodox nutjob Vsevolod Chaplin thought about how based FGM is.

However, this is not to say that even the Sputnik & Pogrom “intellectual nationalists” don’t have their own issues and blind spots. And I am not even talking about the strange conspiracy ideas that are popular even in their circles, such as the cult popularity of Dmitry Galkovsky, who has argued that the Middle Ages were invented (shades of Fomenko), the world is mostly ruled by the House of Windsor, and the USSR/Russia is its cryptocolony. Now to be fair, I think Galkovsky treats all this as an intellectual game, and his smarter adepts account for that and interpret his texts with the appropriate hermeneutics – that is, our elites couldn’t possibly have been this dumb; this is so incredible that Russia being a literal cryptocolony of the British Queen makes more sense. “People are working” (“люди работают”). Do you get it now? Probably. Prosvirnin did once force me to listen to Galkovsky’s long lecture on why the American Moon landing was a hoax into the early hours of the morning before somehow connecting it to Putin being a gray non-entity and NPC loser while Yeltsin for all his faults was a barin, a master of his domain. I don’t remember the exact logical chain because I was drunk, but in retrospect that seems a fair observation.

But even speaking of more concrete matters, many of these nationalists also share their American counterparts’ racially tinged Sinophobia. This also included Egor Prosvirnin, who basically viewed China as this completely un-aristocratic ant civilization that only cared about the GDP and test scores, and could be trivially conquered by any smaller but much more thymotic European force (amusingly Bronze Age Pervert-adjacent in this respect). I was one of the few Sinophiles in the movement, arguing in a live stream with him and then in an article Russia that could not hope to enter a prolonged confrontation with the West – and such a confrontation would be inevitable in the event that the Sputnik & Pogrom irredentist program was to be implemented – without a friendly China to secure its access to machinery, technologies, and consumer goods. Although Putin did many things wrong, arbitrarily annoying Russia’s one major “strategic partner” was not one of them, and I have no confidence that a “true” nationalist regime would have avoided that error. In the context of failing to win the war in Ukraine quickly that might have become truly catastrophic for the home front.

Incidentally, would such a Russian National State have won? One with Empress Tessa as head of state, Strelkov as Defense Minister, Prosvirnin as Propaganda Minister… myself as Foreign Minister? I unironically think so. There’s no real doubt that almost anyone would have done far better than the Magical Kremlins, and that certainly includes committed larpers who have their fair share of strategy games and WW2 history appreciatooors. Though we would have probably started purging each other soon afterwards.

Be that as it may, at the end of the day, Prosvirnin got high on drugs and jumped out of a window, and it was a banana-hoarding Monke who was at the wheel during Russia’s last attempt to turn back history, and history doesn’t have a subjunctive mood” as the Communists like to crow about the Bolshevik Revolution. Consequently, Russian nationalism will have to deal with the logical and inevitable implications of an injunction of one of its own leading intellectuals, the late Konstantin Krylov: “If one capitulates before Ukraine, one can to anything at all to him.

 

Although I came to Russian nationalism through Egor Prosvirnin and the Sputnik & Pogrom sphere, the other Russian nationalist who most influenced me is Russia’s one-time most popular ultra-nationalist blogger, yarowrath (Vladimir Frolov). Intermittently a Putinist and a Neo-Nazi, an Islamist and a pro-American “National Democrat”, biohacker and transhumanist, a meme creator and troll master whose performativity I myself can only aspire to, his central ideology of “Emergence” consisted of technological accelerationism merging with occult practices, an aesthetics of ziggurats and centipedes and Eldritch swamp creatures, the propaganda of psychedelics, and biological mutations beyond the anthropic carapace. He dueled with Prosvirnin, forging a blood brotherhood with him in the process (incidentally, this is the esoteric lore behind Prosvirnin’s prominent Chaos Star arm tattoo). At another point, he was locked up in a mental asylum for attempting a government coup. During the first crypto bull run, he made a shitcoin that went to a market cap peak of $300 million and subsequently mostly vanished from the public scene.

The comprehensive account of the myriad ways in which yarowrath influenced the evolution of the Russian nationalist memesphere – for instance, you know the Ukrainians referring to Russians as Orks? That was yarowrath’s Orkism-Volkism of a decade’s yore – and the parallel evolution of Russian cyber-accelerationist subculture – redolent of CCRU, Nick Land through to Milady – that now continues at Space Morgue, is well beyond my scope here, constituting enough material for a major longread or research paper.

However, what he wrote in a 2014 post Space Monkeys With Blasters in particular, in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, seems both very relevant and very prescient in light of present circumstances:

When we try to play “Christian traditionalism” or “Neo-Nazism”, it is YOU who we try to mimic. Just look at “Neo-Confederate” flag of Novorossia. “To survive, we need to overcome America, and to overcome America we need to out-America America”. It’s just experiments in survival. Today we’re outlawing LGBT and are outraged that LGBT person won Eurovision – but first LGBT team on Eurovision was sent by us too, and back then we were outraged that Europeans are archaic prudes that consider underage lesbians to be “inappropriate”. In the Ukraine, we’re both “condemning Neo-Nazi revival in Europe” and invite European Neo-Nazis to fight for us, together with European Far Left – we don’t discriminate. I myself switched political ideologies so many times that I hardly remember, inventing weird political hybrids to seize the day, some of them (like Krokodilism/NazDem) being approved by America to be used against Kremlin, while others (“purple” Neo-Eurasianism) approved by Kremlin to be used against America.

We’re cynical and selfish munchkinists, we use whatever gives the most plusses here and now. We want to survive and we want to live good, and if the way to get it is to mutate into something, we’ll mutate into it immediately and without hesitations. So, you aren’t dealing with political reactionaries, but with intelligent hungry monkeys that decided to capitalize on modern reactionary wave in YOUR home countries. Just like when we were “Marxists” what we really did was hijacking popular European political movement for our ends, and when we were “Democrats” we actually tried to gain survival points by making an alliance with America.

If anything, that should upset you more. Reactionaries are limited and predictable. Monkeys are not. Eventually we’ll find a way to mutate into something cool. Until then, we’ll just keep trying. Current “Soviet/Orthodox” revival is reactionary dead-end, IMHO, but we wanted to try it since 90ies, and we have to try everything at least once before moving forward.

What is there to say?

The “Soviet/Orthodox revival” – epitomized by the the Soviet flag waving babushka and the fake and gay “existential” war on Gay Satanic Nazism – has indeed confirmed itself a reactionary dead-end.

So it’s time to flip ideologies yet again, to stop worrying, to mutate, and to learn to love the GloboHomo. Ooooo it’s TIME! 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

Recentering Russian culture around Tchaikovsky and the early Tatu girls to underline fealty to Elite Human Capital.

Another memorable yarowrath observation that has stayed with me is that the only really Russian philosophies are nihilism and cosmism.

There’s a reason why Russia is the birthplace of both terrorism (Nihilist movement) and transhumanism (Cosmist movement), and why we are perpetually in state of constant revolutions. We have no “tradition” to revert to (we have half-a-dozen of them, which means no true one), no “society” to protect (our “country” is technically younger than most of us, and hasn’t built anything of value yet), and no reason to like the world as it is.

And it is perhaps on this transhumanist note where it would be most appropriate for Russia to conclude its experiments in survival.

When I was in Serbia this summer I heard of a local nationalist – blackpilled on the Z War and what it implied for any lingering Serbian aspirations in meatspace, and resigned to the sad realities of terminal loserdom – who was propounding ideas about building a “Cloud Serbia” instead. Now perhaps one is tempted to view these visions of network states to be but an exercise in digital escapism, at once sad and pathetic. However, I do not consider this an impossible dream. Instead, I view it as the optimistic future in which we launch a Biosingularity and have a lot of time to think about what to do with an aligned superintelligence and whether we should ever even build it. It also happens to be a future in which even the nationalists whose states supposedly “won” history, but whose people have lost by their own definitions of success – say, a French identitarian or American White Nationalist coming to terms with becoming a minority in their own country this century – will have the opportunity to do something productive and to build something lasting, as opposed to the “business as usual” scenario in which they spend the rest of their non-radically extended lives wallowing in cycles of zrada and peremoga, seething online, and waiting on the next Based Führer to save the nation and own the libs once and for all.

There’s a good chance that currently extant nation-states will not survive the 21st century, and I am not even talking of just the paperclips. There is no escaping the inexorable logic of the coming Great Replacement through Open Borders and the brave new world of network states. But cultural elements from the current era will be preserved, and if anything developed to much greater heights. The primary units of human political organizations will come to revolve around the shared values, aesthetics, and targeted geno-modifications that will define the network states, which will resemble the transnational phyles of Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, as opposed to the arbitrary lines on the map that we call states that loosely correlate to the genetic and linguistic clusters that we think of as nations. It is absurd to mourn their passing. There will no longer even be an RF or a Ukrainian state, nor a United States, and nobody will even think to mourn their passing. However, there will be a Cyber-Moscow, an Azov Reich, and myriads of other network states that own properties and perhaps a district or two across the world’s cities and beach resorts, and will carry on their ancestor cultures and aesthetics in forms much richer than today.

 

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.

 

Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.

 

Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.