ITAR-TASS: MOSCOW, RUSSIA. FEBRUARY 28, 2012. TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov hosts a live TV debate between presidential candidates Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Mikhail Prokhorov on Rossiya (Russia) 1 TV channel. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Artyom Korotayev)Россия. Москва. 28 февраля. Ведущий Владимир Соловьев во время предвыборных теледебатов кандидатов в президенты РФ Михаила Прохорова и Владимира Жириновского на канале Россия 1. Фото ИТАР-ТАСС/ Артем Коротаев
Photo ITAR-TASS / Artyom Korotayev

A number of events in recent days, Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko says, suggest that the Putin regime is now running “amok,” a state the American Psychiatric Association defines as “an unprovoked episode of behavior which threatens murder, bodily harm or destruction, after which come amnesia and exhaustion.”

In today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Yakovenko notes that for a long time, many thought that this kind of behavior was “characteristic only for Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia and was produced by an excessive use of opium.” People there were said to run amok when they faced “unbearable shame” (

“Considering the Malaysian origin of this, one cannot exclude” the possibility, the commentator says, that what is happening in Russia is in response to Moscow’s denial of any responsibility for shooting down the Malaysian airliner a year ago. But it is important to recognize, he says, that the Russian “amok” has certain specific characteristics.

One recent episode is sufficient to show that: Russia’s Navy Day was to be celebrated with the launch of a missile to show Russia’s indestructible strength. But the rocket simply fizzled and fell at the feet of those who launched it. This led to much black humor and shows that “the Russian amok is not only senseless and ruthless but also hilarious and provocative.”

Consistent with Uvarov’s trinity, the Russian “amok” is Orthodox, autocratic, and popular, according to Yakovenko, and he comments on each of these in turn. The Russian Orthodox “amok” on public view this week: Patriarch Kirill’s statements on the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Vladimir and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin’s discourse on business and banking.

The patriarch outdid himself, Yakovenko says. On the one hand, he declared that the anniversary of the death of someone was a holiday, an innovation even for him. And on the other, he asserted that “the church had never been as free as it now is.” He said Russians should ignore those who say otherwise.

But Chaplin, who frequently speaks for the patriarchate on important matters, went even further. He told a meeting of the Russian Central Bank that banks shouldn’t charge interest and that companies ought not to pursue profit, although he did not explain just what either should do instead.

The “autocratic amok” was on display, the commentator continues, at a meeting of young political leaders with some of the country’s top officials. There seemed to be a competition among the latter over who could say the most outrageous and absurd things at a meeting called “The Territory of Meanings.”

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the LDPR, for example, “gave a master class in foreign policy by explaining that because a war is going on in Ukraine, [Russians] need to learn the lessons from the mistakes of previous wars” and launch an attack on it before it has the opportunity to attack Russia.

And “the popular amok” was on display in the pages of “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” the Russian paper with the largest print run and an outlet that “really not only forms but also reflects and directs certain attitudes of a large part of the people,” according to Yakovenko.

The paper reported the sad case of a Russian “volunteer” who had fought in the Donbas only to return home and find himself in financial difficulties because he could not get a job, a situation that prompted some to suggest that Russians should send money to people like him rather than to children or others who have suffered as a result of government cutbacks.

It is quite possible, Yakovenko suggests, that those engaged in such acts of “running amok” – and he provides many others as well — “do not understand that by promoting in Russia the atmosphere of Orthodox-Autocratic-Popular amok, they are pushing the country toward the self-destruction which is the inevitable end of such a state.”

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia