Putin is a demigod: his airstrikes help some Russians to live out, vicariously, their dreams of taking revenge on the mockingly cruel world. Putin’s lieutenants and footsoldiers are not octoroon-gods, however: their place is at the receiving end in the compensatory daydream of the downtrodden.
When a gang known as the “maritime partisans” was killing cops in the Far East in 2010, I felt – from conversations, online forums and opinion pieces – that reactions ranged from understanding to satisfaction. According to a June 2010 poll, 25% of Russians and about half of Muscovites either empathized with or supported the “partisans.” Also, 47% of Russians and 60% of Muscovites saw the gang members either as people driven to desperation by lawlessness or as “the people’s avengers.” While 37% of Russians believed that the “partisans” were actually criminals and bandits, the number was a strikingly low 4% in Moscow.
When Amiran Georgadze, a Georgian-born real estate developer, shot and killed a deputy head of the Krasnogorsk district near Moscow together with the general manager of the local electricity distribution company, I found little sympathy for the dead in online comments, personal conversations and radio talk shows. Rather, I sensed disappointment that Georgadze failed to also deal with the head of the district administration.
(Inspired by David Kopel’s post about President Obama’s claim, “this just doesn’t happen in other countries,” referring to mass shootings. Not in the First World, perhaps. In the Third World? Consider Kenya, says Kopel. Naturally, I thought about the Second.)