This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Russia’s Descent into Absurdity,”
A rather hilarious petition, “Check E. B. Mizulina’s mental health” is circulating around RuNet. If you don’t know who Elena Mizulina is, you should. She’s the preeminent cultural warrior for Kinder, Kirche, Kuche in Putin’s Russia. Mizulina is also better known as the force behind the anti-gay propaganda law as well as, according to the petition, “more and more absurd laws.” “We clearly see that this person,” the petition reads, “is living in a imaginary world (which is one of the signs of schizophrenia), she accuses anyone who doesn’t agree with her with collaborating with the “pedophile lobby” (paranoia), and possess an immense inferiority complex, for example, she demands that the phrase “gays are people too” be recognized as extremist (her demand, too, is in and of itself extremist).” The petition goes on to ask that the “best specialists” examine Mizulina’s mental health as the “mentally ill have no place in the Duma of the Russian Federation.” It’s no wonder so many believed Ksenia Sobchak’s tweets that she saw Mizulina on TV saying that the anti-gay propaganda law would include banning oral sex. “Is that so? Will it be illegal to publicly eat an Eskimo Pie?” she asked. Then the It-Girl sent another: “Mizulina’s next law will be connected to the adverse effect lollipops are having on the country’s demographic situation.” The tweet went viral, resulting in several major Russian news outlets reporting the fellatio ban as truth. But truth is the first thing to go in the “world of fantasy and fairy tales.”
As Peter Pomerantsev urges us to consider, the absurd and the phantasmagoric have come to govern Putin’s third term. The specter of enemies from within and without, the clumsily managed trials, staged raids and thinly disguised trumped-up investigations, and the litany of foolish laws, of which Mizulina stands at the center, all speak to a Russia that has descended into a dark comedy with an infinite ensemble, limitless budget, and boundless stage. Perhaps most unfortunate, this gallows humor appears to have eternal air-time. The off button has been scrapped off the remote. It’s as if the Kremlin and its adherents, which were so adept at managing democracy, are now only capable of managing Putinism’s descent into nonsense.