Today’s Orthodox Daily Reading

The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea; His stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things.”

The Mink Coat Protests

2012 was a big watershed for Putin. That was the year when the Russian “mink coat protests” happened. The upper middle class wanted to become Westernized and was embarrassed by the clunky, outdated imperial pretensions of Putin and his low-class supporters. They came out to protest.

These were the largest peaceful protests in the entire Putin presidency. And the participants were all chi-chi fru-fru, hence the name “mink coat protests.” Society ladies, fashion bloggers, mistresses of mini-oligarchs (known as pocket crocodiles in Russia). They are a small minority, incapable of street fighting, so the protests failed.

But what happened during the protests is that the truth about Putin’s arrangement with Chechnya came out. When Putin first came to power, nobody in Russia knew his name. He was a complete non-entity, appointed to the job by the 7 leading oligarchs. At that time, Chechen terrorism was a major problem in Russia. Putin made warmongering, aggressive statements about Chechnya. People ate it all up. Massive support, huge popularity.

And it seemed to work. Putin pacified Chechnya, his strongman tactics bore fruit.

But the reality was different. Putin had entered into the agreement with the Chechens. They’d be exempt from Russian laws on their territory. They’ll have their Shariah law. And in addition, Russia would pay them vassal duties so that they wouldn’t have to work. Since then, Chechens are Putin’s biggest fans.

As the mink protests were being crushed, the highly educated mink-wearers who constitute the majority of the chattering class got distracted from their European vacations and yachts and started investigating what had really happened in Chechnya. Numbers were published and massively publicized, everything.

Putin was humiliated. His rankings were in the toilet. He cried on TV. He got booed at a sports match. This is not a guy who deals with public humiliation well.

Then, a few months later, Ukraine rises against their Putin-puppet president and throws him out. The entire chattering class goes, “yay, Ukraine!” And the oil prices start to drop. Putin’s popularity by that time was at the lowest point.

So what to do? How to reassure the 90% of the population that isn’t upper-middle class? Putin does what always works and invades Ukraine in 2014. Immediately, the ratings shoot up.

People say he’s irrational. But is it irrational for an elected leader to do what his electorate wants?

Yes, Putin is a bad dude. But there’s a whole story here that happened over 20+ years. The simplistic narrative of “dictator Putin” doesn’t explain anything. There’s a trajectory. The public grows jaded, needs bloodier entertainment, so he provides it. Then the public gets inured again, so he escalates. This isn’t a tyranny. This is something much worse because you can’t solve it with the removal of the tyrant. The tyrant is 130 million people strong. Putin is simply their errand boy.

About Putin

Everybody is fixating on big, bad Putin who supposedly tyrannizes the sweet, innocent Russian people, making them do bad things. But it’s the other way round. I’m not saying Putin is a victim here but he’s still in power because he keeps invading. He invades like clockwork when his approval ratings dip. After a pile of corpses, the ratings go up.

Putin was quite different in 2002-5. Not a great statesman or a brilliant intellectual but he was looking for other things and achieving them. But he started losing support. Since then, he ratchets up whenever the public appetite for blood spikes.

God, if only Putin were the problem here. If only. Obviously, I despise him but he’s not the problem. He’s a tiny pimple on the left buttock of the problem.

The real problem is that people need a purpose. They need a story that they tell themselves about who they are. For large groups, a shared story is crucial. Ukrainians were going to hell in a basket when they came up with the story of “we are going to become part of the Western civilization.” Then they rallied up around that, and you see the results. The Russians’ shared story is “we are misunderstood and nobody likes up because we are too superior.” It’s a massive, collective pouting fit.

Everybody knows how Germans reacted to the humiliation of WWI and the Weimar Republic. Russia is experiencing the same feelings but they are much older and, consequently, go much deeper. And by much older, I mean much MUCH older.

History Repeats

A huge snowstorm is moving towards the Eastern part of Ukraine. Up to 20 cm of snow and icy winds up to 50 km per hour. I don’t have the energy to do inches and miles right now but it’s a serious winter storm.

In 1941, the Nazi advance on the USSR ran into serious trouble because of record-low temperatures and deep snow.

Side Effects

In positive news, I’ve been able to force half an apple down my throat and it didn’t come back up, so that’s good. After work, I’ll head over to the grocery store to get some of those applesauce pouches. They’ve got to be easier to get down.

I haven’t been able to eat since the bombing of the Freedom Square in Kharkiv. The only other times in my whole life when I had this problem was when I gave birth to Klara and when I had COVID. Even in the midst of a gallbladder attack I was hungry.

I’m fairly certain that I neither gave birth yesterday nor have COVID (weekly testing). So it’s on the Russians.

War Intensifies

Russian bombs hit downtown Kharkiv. My university in Kharkiv is burning.

And this is a small city near Kyiv:

In positive, heart-warming news, there’s this:

Six thousand Russian soldiers are dead so far. Of course, Putin is happy because he deeply dislikes ethnic Russians. But almost no ethnic Russians have managed to notice it in the past 22 years, so it’s on them.

Faithful Lapdogs

The countries that supported Russia at the Human Rights Council of the UN are Cuba, Venezuela, China, and Eritrea. I know nothing about Eritrea but the other three are faithful lapdogs of Russia. Venezuela’s Maduro called Putin on the phone to express undying support for the invasion.

Again, aside from Eritrea, please observe the shared ideology of the Russia supporters. In Spain, only a few politicians refuse to condemn the war. As far as I’ve been able to ascertain up to now, they are all far-left. I’ll keep investigating but for now the picture is clear.

Cultural Differences

Russian protesters:

Ukrainian protesters:

It has always been this way. We used to joke about this but now this stuff of jokes has led to serious consequences.

The only real, serious protests against Putin were those of the Russian nationalists in 2005. Since then, bupkes. They come, wave white baloons, and scooch away feeling proud of themselves.