Russians are, I think it is fair to say, typically not prone to English-style under-statement. Especially in the current geopolitical snit-fest, I suspect they have (over-)compensated for feeling under-appreciated and misunderstood by the outside world by dipping into an extraordinarily brazen and vainglorious vein of nationalist propaganda. I confess I have a soft spot for it, it is redeemed by its irredeemable crassness, appealing for the depth of its unappealing unsubtlety. I was reminded of this yesterday when coming upon this mug:
Some things are so terrible that, if you are anything like me, you just have to have them. Anyway, it is not as though this is a one-off. There is a whole industry and socio-geopolitical meme: From the Crimea murals liberally dotted around Moscow, to the whole cult of the “polite people” (as the “little green men” who seized Crimea were known over here), to the t-shirts exalting everything from the ruble to Foreign Minister Lavrov, to Putinka-brand vodka (can you imagine Auld Cameronian whisky or Obamania hard cider selling?).
Most of this is not inverse-chic for the tourists; you find the worst/best examples in little out of the way metro underpass kiosks and the like. And it presumably sells, else why so much of it around? In part, I presume it does represent genuine patriotic enthusiasm, delight in Putin’s manly rule. But the over-the-top tone of so much, the desperate need not just to exalt all things Putin’s Russia but actively to cock a snoot at everyone else, that to me suggests something at once depressing and encouraging.
I can’t help but feel that it speaks to a deep-down knowledge that of late Russia has taken a wrong turn, has lost its moral compass and geopolitical surety. The need to shout patriotism and defiance so loudly is, surely, more than anything else to drown out that quiet voice of doubt?