Does Vladimir Putin face a challenge, not from cuddly, West-looking liberals, but from even sharper-toothed nationalists? Certainly this is suddenly the message coming from loyalists.
Oleg Matveychev, a parliamentarian and spin doctor, who also has a widely-read blog, has made waves by claiming in an online video that ‘2023 will be very dangerous,’ because of the threat of so-called ‘turbo-patriots.’ Discounting the liberals (who ‘have all run away’), he warned that the turbo-patriots had become ‘the only danger to our state.’
His scenario was that after some new reversals in the war, a combination of disgruntled nationalism, anger at corruption and ‘a light dose of leftism’ could trigger some rising. Looking to next year’s presidential elections, he also predicted that the turbo-patriots could put forward their own candidate and, when he loses, claim that the election had been rigged and use this to mobilise a national rebellion.
This said, we need to treat such alarums with some caution. Matveychev is a member of Putin’s United Russia bloc and a former staffer in the presidential administration. Sanctioned across the West, he has already demonstrated his delicacy of approach and tolerant views by fantasising about ‘liberal bastards’ being sent to uranium mines, when, that is, they are not being run over by tanks, Tiananmen-style. In May 2020, he announced that even in retirement he would ‘choke opposition whores.’
In other words, he is both a loyalist and of that stripe who seek public attention through hyperbole and hype. Nonetheless, his words do betray a growing concern within the ruling elite and may have been encouraged by the regime as a way of signalling that it is beginning to take the turbo-patriot threat seriously.
After all, various figures who could be put in this camp have certainly been making waves of late. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the ex-con turned modern-day condottiere behind the Wagner mercenary army, has been attacking everyone from defence minister Sergei Shoigu to Alexander Beglov, governor of St Petersburg, and presenting himself as a radical, even revolutionary patriot. [Continue reading…]