Surkov himself is the ultimate expression of this psychology. As I watch him give his speech to the students and journalists, he seems to change and transform like mercury, from cherubic smile to demonic stare, from a woolly liberal preaching “modernization” to a finger-wagging nationalist, spitting out willfully contradictory ideas: “managed democracy,” “conservative modernization.” Then he steps back, smiling, and says: “We need a new political party, and we should help it happen, no need to wait and make it form by itself.” And when you look closely at the party men in the political reality show Surkov directs, the spitting nationalists and beetroot-faced communists, you notice how they all seem to perform their roles with a little ironic twinkle. Elsewhere Surkov likes to invoke the new postmodern texts just translated into Russian, the breakdown of grand narratives, the impossibility of truth, how everything is only “simulacrum” and “simulacra” . . . and then in the next moment he says how he despises relativism and loves conservatism, before quoting Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra,” in English and by heart. If the West once undermined and helped to ultimately defeat the USSR by uniting free market economics, cool culture, and democratic politics into one package (parliaments, investment banks, and abstract expressionism fused to defeat the Politburo, planned economics, and social realism), Surkov’s genius has been to tear those associations apart, to marry authoritarianism and modern art, to use the language of rights and representations to validate tranny, to recut and paste democratic capitalism until it means the reverse of its original purpose.
― Peter Pomerantsev,
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
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