Vladislav Surkov, the “Aesthete” of the Shadows

A great expert on post-Soviet Russia, Professor Cécile Vaissié offers Desk Russie the beginning of her series “They made Putinism”, and the first part is devoted to one of the key figures of the regime, Vladislav Surkov. When Ukrainians say that not Putin alone wages war on them, since he is not the one, or not the only one, killing people in Bucha and bombing Mariupol, they are not entirely wrong. Other people than Vladimir Putin have, with him, conceived and built Putinism, and make it work. One of them is Vladislav Surkov, and his role has been decisive, both in the transformation of the Russian political system and in the beginning of the war against Ukraine.

Creator of Russian post-modern politics

Before emigrating to Germany several years ago, Russian sociologist Igor Eidman worked as a “political technologist” (specialist in political communication), and he explained in January 2020 that Russian politics had gone through two phases under Putin: the time of games and the time of blood. The latter began in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea, although blood had been spilled as early as 1999. During the first phase, the Russian economy seemed to be growing at a rapid pace, and “political technologists” were inventing “all sorts of manipulative techniques and shows” to make their candidates win, to get rid of others, and to distract voters from their problems: “It all looked like a relatively safe show,” said Eidman. But, as he pointed out, these “political technologists” and their sponsors in the Presidential Administration had been involved since 1995 in the destruction of the democracy that existed in Russia between 1990 and 19931.

And then came the time of blood.

For Igor Eidman, “Surkov, the aesthete”, was at the beginning of the two phases, the time of games and the time of blood. This statement needs to be nuanced: Surkov did not initiate the first phase, but he undoubtedly supervised and shaped it from 1999, when he became the number two in the Presidential Administration, and he did play a decisive role in the transition from game to blood. Designated in 2005 by the German Spiegel as Putin’s “main strategist” and the “second most powerful man in Russia”, he has been, according to the journalist Joshua Yaffa, “the architect of post-modern politics”, which consists of cultivating appearances at odds with reality, adding and juxtaposing incompatible elements, and multiplying dirty twists. All this, with the greatest cynicism and from behind the scenes, because Surkov likes staying in the shadows.

A slightly distracted observer could believe that Surkov and his teams simply put back in place the tools necessary to monitor society in an authoritarian, even semi-totalitarian mode: the control of the media, of political parties, of Justice, of social mobilizations; the recruitment in youth organizations, etc. But they also wanted to deprive discourses of their meanings, or, rather, to multiply contradictory actions and discourses, so that meanings disappeared. Atomized and disoriented, society would thus become unable of acting, especially since it did not have a long tradition of social mobilizations, not organized “from above”. An example of this deliberate confusion? Surkov claims to write “post-modern” novels, but as early as 2002 he was organizing “happenings” to destroy “post-modern” novels in public, this double approach seeming to be the peak of Putinism’s post-modernism.

The child of a Russian-Chechen couple

Vladislav Surkov was born on September 21, 1964, and his real name seems to be Aslambek Doudaiev: he preferred his Russian mother’s last name to his Chechen father’s name. Several versions of his childhood circulate, with many mysteries and controversies. It seems that, after high school, the young man did his military service in the special troops (spetsnaz) of the GRU, and, two or three decades later, many claim that he remains linked to these military intelligence services. This modulates the image of “aesthete” that he cultivates, and/or the image of the GRU. In 1982, he began studying at the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys — like the future oligarch Mikhail Fridman and, in the previous class, the future propagandist Vladimir Solovyov: all three attended the same club of English language. But Vladislav Surkov soon switched to a theater faculty, which he did not complete either.

It is probably during these unfinished studies that he started working for the future oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky: as a bodyguard, it seems. Then, in 1987, at the age of 23, he was appointed head of the advertising department in the structure headed by Khodorkovsky, which was still attached to the Komsomol (the Communist Youth) in a Moscow district. Here, several remarks are necessary. It was the Komsomol that, together with other official organizations — the KGB, first of all -— initiated the economic and political reconversion of the USSR, and gave to Khodorkovsky — and to a few others — the means to build his immense fortune. Fifteen months younger than Khodorkovsky, Surkov belonged to the same generation and, at a much lower level of responsibility, to the same team: those to whom the transformation, then the disappearance of the USSR, would offer career opportunities, inaccessible to most Soviet people. Surkov held then several management positions at Khodorkovsky’s, but later, as number two in the Presidential Administration, he would supervise the State propaganda unleashed against the arrested oligarch, and — as Vladimir Solovyov noted in 2006 — would never speak publicly about this arrestation.

Surkov speaks at the 5th congress of the Nachi movement, April 15, 2010 // Public domain

Between 1991 and 1996, Surkov was, as a specialist in public relations (PR), one of the senior executives in the Menatep bank created by Khodorkovsky. Then, between 1996 and 1997, he directed the PR department at RosProm, a structure linked to Yukos (Khodorkovsky’s group). After a quick passage in Alfa-bank — whose owner, Mikhail Fridman, he knew —, he was hired in 1998 by the oligarch Boris Berezovsky at the television channel ORT as deputy to the general director, in charge of PR. In this function Surkov — who did not participate directly in the 1996 presidential campaign — developed frequent contacts with “the Kremlin”. In 1999, he was recruited by the Presidential Administration (PA) and became its number two in August. That same month, Vladimir Putin was appointed prime minister: the decision to make this unknown Chekist the future Russian president had already been taken by those close to Boris Yeltsin.

The turning point of 1999

In a bar of a non-Russian, but formerly Soviet, capital, one of the experts who collaborated with this Presidential Administration explained me the milieu of “political technologists” and constantly mentioned “the Kremlin”. I asked him to clarify: “Who is ‘the Kremlin’?”“The Presidential Administration,” he replied. Created in 1991, it is therefore far from being a simple administration: essential decisions are taken there, policies are defined by the permanent staff, helped by “political technologists”, then they are validated by the Russian presidency.

Surkov concentrated first on domestic politics and created from scratch a first party, “Unity” (Edinstvo), headed by Sergei Shoigu, the current Minister of Defense, and this party was supposed to support the government in everything. It obtained surprisingly good results at the parliamentary elections in December 1999, and Yeltsin was asked to step down, so that his prime minister could replace him as acting president and win the elections more easily. The Presidential Administration was working to create Putin’s image.

At that time, Surkov was known only to specialists and, as the journalist Elena Tregubova wrote, he claimed to be “one of those rare kinds of bacteria that die in the light”. However, he was brilliant when he felt appreciated, and he read a lot, which was not the case for anyone else in the Kremlin. His favorite book was Dostoyevsky’s Demons, and in 2003, Tregubova ironized that the small group of revolutionaries at the heart of this novel seemed “a parody of the current narrow circle of ‘revolutionaries’ in the Kremlin”. In 2020, Surkov even intervened, through a video, in the theatrical adaptation of The Demons by Konstantin Bogomolov, and his fascination for this novel — coupled with a profound misunderstanding, it seems, of what it warns against — is probably more revealing than any other analysis of this man’s psychology and systems of reference.

Surkov also wanted to become a writer, before admitting that he was not a genius in this field, and he became “an aesthete in life”, who, as Tregubova wrote in 2003, had tailor-made suits sewn for him and admitted to liking money “a lot”. He was surprised that the young journalist refused to write articles on political orders: “Don’t you like selling yourself?” At the time, Tregubova added, he “categorically refused any form of tyranny and violence, from, of course, an aesthetic point of view,” and considered “primitive” to force anyone to do anything. But he already hated journalists, whom he saw as “professional provocateurs who should be isolated as far as possible from the place where decisions are made”. Therefore, Tregubova described this apparently shy man as a “killer”. Using the English word.

Vladimir Putin was elected president on March 26, 2000. Almost immediately, he got rid of the national anthem adopted by Yeltsin, and returned to the music of the Soviet anthem, accompanied by lyrics written by Sergei Mikhalkov, who had already signed those of the 1944 and 1977 anthems: a return to Soviet references was thus affirmed. But Sergei Mikhalkov was 87 years old and, according to rumors, Surkov was the real author of the new lyrics of the Russian anthem. He also wrote songs for the pop group Agatha Christie.

The former advertising executive also set up a first youth movement, which appeared in July 2000 and quickly reached 100,000 members: a social demand existed. This movement – which prefigured today’s highly militarized ones – was called “Those who march together” (Идущие вместе), which expresses — in line with “Unity”, but also with the Soviet discourse — a desire for unity, which is not self-evident in a country that is actually extremely divided. This movement became very well known in 2002, when its young members offered “patriotic” books in exchange for Karl Marx’s or post-modernist Victor Pelevin’s books, that were declared harmful. A few weeks later, “those who march together” tear up novels by Vladimir Sorokin, a talented contemporary writer, and threw the debris into a huge toilet bowl in front of the Bolshoi. Surkov’s style is evident: a sense of spectacle and contradictions. Even if, at the time, this action propelled — or maintained — Sorokin at the first place in sales.

In addition, the Presidential Administration had its allies (notably Gazprom) buy media outlets, strengthened its control over information and intensified its manipulations. The journalist Peter Pomerantsev recalls that, from an unspecified date, Surkov met with the heads of the television channels once a week in his office and gave them instructions: whom to attack, whom to defend, who was allowed to appear on television and who was not. Surkov also supervised the creation of new parties, which were supposed to give an illusion of pluralism and to occupy the political field from which the opposition was increasingly excluded. Thus, “United Russia” replaced “Unity” from December 2003, and the nationalist bloc “Rodina” (Fatherland) was set up, with the active help of Marat Guelman, already a gallery owner, but still a political technologist. According to the academic Karen Dawisha, Surkov had already started to pay Duma deputies $5,000 a month on top of their salaries: for their loyalty.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on October 25, 2003. On that day, says journalist Mikhail Zygar, Andrei Illarionov, Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser, met Surkov in a corridor and said to him: “Slava! What should we do now? What are you going to do?” The former Khodorkovsky executive reportedly replied with a smile, “You know, Andryusha, there are no limits to human flexibility.” Since then, Illarionov, Zygar and Khodorkovsky have emigrated from Russia. Aware of the meaning of this turn, Alexander Voloshin, number one in the Presidential Administration, resigned on 30 October 2003. He was replaced by Dmitry Medvedev, who had been close to Putin since Leningrad’s times, but, according to Zygar, it was Surkov who, “shortly afterwards, became the Kremlin’s main ideologist”. A redistribution of roles had started, and most of Yeltsin’s former close friends were replaced by Putin’s friends.

Between Beslan and the Orange Revolution, the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s second term

Vladislas Surkov was appointed Vladimir Putin’s deputy in March 2004, while remaining the number two in the Presidential Administration. The same year, in August, he joined the board of directors of an oil company, Transnefteprodukt, and quickly became its chairman. From then on, the boundaries between the executive power, its civil servants and the very large Russian companies have blurred, which allowed many to become extremely rich.

On September 1, 2004, Caucasian terrorists took hostages in a school in Beslan. The police intervened two days later and 333 people were killed, most of them children. Emotions ran high, and Vladimir Putin took advantage of the situation to talk about “external enemies”, to increase his control over governors and local presidents, and to make it more difficult for small parties to enter the Duma. In addition, an interview with Vladislav Surkov was published on 29 September by Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular newspaper, not highly regarded by intellectuals, but widely read. In it, Surkov explained that certain Western decision-makers were trying to “destroy” Russia and “fill its immense space with innumerable formations, quasi-State-like and unable to act”. Did he mean the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) against which the attacks would be relaunched a few months later, or the governments that manage the “immense space”, not of Russia, but of the former USSR? In any case, he assimilated all of them to Russia’s enemies and to terrorists, while the fear of the foreigner was again used as a force that was supposed to unite society.

Surkov also claimed that the external enemy had internal supporters, who were “child killers and kidnappers”, mainly in the Caucasus. But he also referred to other enemies: a “fifth column of radicals from the right and the left” — members of the National Bolshevik Party created by the writer Eduard Limonov, and some members of the liberal and democratic Yabloko party. The political opposition was thus equated with supporters of terrorism, on the basis of concepts and procedures that had been implanted in people’s consciousness at least since the Soviet period. On the basis of threats too. Thus, Surkov invited or summoned to his office deputies from “United Russia”, some of whom, as the journalist Valery Panyushkin noted, were still sometimes voting against laws proposed by the Kremlin. He forbade them to express any personal opinion: “Decisions are made without you. And those who don’t understand should look at the Yukos affair.” These deputies bended.

Portraits of Surkov and Putin at the Loussiné Djanian exhibition in Moscow, 2013 // Courtesy phototo

Furthermore, the first Orange Revolution had started in Ukraine in December 2004, and Surkov convinced Putin that they needed to fight against the “orange danger” in Russia and in the neighboring countries. With his collaborators, he analyzed the participants of the Ukrainian events, in order to be able to “work” with their Russian counterparts: the cultural circles, the already very controlled media, the youth and the NGOs. Thus, in April 2005, he organized a secret meeting with the most famous rock musicians in Russia — “to recruit them”, wrote Mikhail Zygar, using the verb designing recruitment by secret services. An operation aimed at seducing, controlling and instrumentalizing culture workers had begun. Surkov also met with Russian businessmen on May 17, 2005 and did not hide his hostility to the Ukrainian revolution, which, according to him, was supervised by Westerners. Associating the Color Revolutions with “the activity of humanitarian institutions,” he developed an amalgam between the latter and foreign spies. It did not take long: in the spring of 2005, the Memorial association was subject to a tax audit; it was closed down by courts in December 2021, just before Russia attacked Ukraine. The last Russian humanitarian associations disappeared in 2022. At that time, Surkov had gone underground, so as not to be devoured in his turn by the monsters he had contributed to create.

In 2005, he launched another pro-Kremlin youth movement, the “Nachi” (“Ours”), as an extension of “Those who walk together” and with the same leader, Vasily Yakemenko. The name of this movement evokes the desired unity and implies that, in front of “Ours”, there are “Others”, i.e. the enemy. The whole idea was to oppose, if necessary, these “Nachi” to other young people who would demonstrate to require changes. Yakemenko was clear: “As long as I exist in Russia, the ‘oranges’ will not come to power. And I am not going to leave the country under any circumstances”. In 2012, however, it turned out that Yakemenko bought a house in Bavaria for 16 million euros. These “Nachi” harassed the opposition, encouraged Russians to vote for the Putin clan, and carried out actions in which the Kremlin did not want to appear: for example, they threw eggs on the facade of the Georgian embassy in Moscow during the crisis of Russian-Georgian relations, harassed the British ambassador after Alexander Litvinenko’s poisoning or besieged the Estonian embassy, when a memorial conflict broke out between Russia and Estonia. The Russian state generously financed the “Nachi” and promised them superb careers, while the most important State figures, including Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladislav Surkov, spoke several times at the camp organized by this movement every summer near Lake Seliguer.

Increasing control of the political field

In addition, the Justice was once again under control, and Surkov pretended to complain about it in 2005: “But what can we do if they are by nature dependent. If the people there are purchasable or fear the bosses’ phone calls. What do you advise to do with them? And who will resist the temptation to subject them to his power?” He would not. As for the media, they were so much under control, that in 2006, Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Union of Journalists, declared that the five federal television stations did not inform viewers of real events, but offered a mixture of “propaganda and show business”. Surkov’s style.

In 2006, the former advertising executive invented the notion of “sovereign democracy” to define the Putin regime: democracy could not be more important than sovereignty, and he thus justified the disappearance of certain freedoms. Dmitry Medvedev pretended he did not like this expression, but, according to sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, it was part of the “theater” that Russian politics had become: each actor recites the formulas that another has written and attributed to him, while “the impression is created that a kind of debate exists between Surkov and Medvedev”.

In the same logic, Surkov created new parties before the December 2007 legislative elections: “Fair Russia” and “Civic Force”. The goal was still to set up a fake opposition, to capture the available votes and occupy the political field. These parties show that the “Putin system” is not based on ideas or ideologies: what counts is allegiance to the leader. And even Vladimir Solovyov — not yet a raging propagandist, but not an opponent — noted in a book published in 2007: “Everyone understands that in our country any new political party is created in one of the Kremlin offices.” Shortly afterwards, still on Surkov’s will, “Civic Force”, “SPS” and the “Democratic Party” announced they were dissolving to create “Just Cause” (“Pravoe delo“), that would also be supervised by the Presidential Administration. This operation allowed to get rid of a previously independent party: “SPS”.

Surkov also organized campaigns to discredit opposition figures and intervened in the appointment of governors. He may have gone even further. In 2014, neo-Nazis from the BORN organization, already convicted in 2009 of killing anti-fascists, claimed in court that the Presidential Administration was behind the creation of BORN. And they mentioned Surkov’s name, with whom the creator of BORN would have had a fairly direct link. Should we believe it? In any case, Zakhar Prilepin told a similar story in his novel San’kia. In a very similar way, as Peter Pomerantsev points out, Surkov, on the one hand, created NGOs supposed to defend human rights and, on the other, supported nationalist movements that accused these NGOs of being tools of the West. On the one hand, he sponsored festivals showing provocative artists, and on the other, he encouraged Orthodox fundamentalists who attacked daring exhibitions. As the journalist explains, the Kremlin wanted “to own all forms of political discourse, not to let any independent movement develop outside its walls”. It thus spread the idea that everything had the same worth and was manipulated.

The Medvedev mandate (2008-2012)

When Dmitry Medvedev became Russia’s president in 2008, he again appointed Surkov as the second in command of the Presidential Administration, then put him in charge of innovations, and gave him a free hand in domestic politics. Surkov then accentuated his policy of seduction towards artists and cultural figures. He wanted them to express their public support to the Russian leaders and to give Russia a positive and creative image. This form of soft power corresponds to his tastes: Surkov likes experimental theater, regularly flied to Salzburg to see an opera, and displayed in his office, next to the photographs of Putin and Medvedev, Che Guevara, Obama and Bismarck, those of John Lennon, Jose Luis Borges and the poet Joseph Brodsky.

As a result, when the “United Russia” Congress was held in April 2008, several important cultural figures were present, including the director Kirill Serebrennikov, whom the West would later perceive as a “dissident”, and the gallery owner and political technologist Marat Gelman, who would later emigrate to Montenegro. The temptation was palpable: to get closer to the power in the hope of using it, including for creative purposes. As if the 20th century had not already amply demonstrated, and not only in the Soviet Union, what such rapprochements entail. Medvedev’s presidency became therefore the period in which, thanks to the money of the State, of several municipalities and of some oligarchs, Russia gave the impression of encouraging avant-garde creation, especially in the theater and in the graphic arts. But under the control of the Presidential Administration.

The novel Surkov published in the summer of 2009 gives an insight into the ruling elites’ complexity. Entitled Okolonolia (gangsta fiction)Close to Zero (gangsta fiction) — it appeared in a special issue of the Russian magazine Pioneer, whose editor-in-chief was Andrei Kolesnikov: the journalist who, along with two others, was commissioned in 2000 to write the book in which the candidate Putin, unknown to everyone, presented himself to the Russian people as he wished. Okolonolia was attributed to “Nathan Dubovitsky” — Surkov’s wife is called Natalia Dubovitskaja… — and the newspaper Vedomosti stated that the novel had probably been written by Vladislav Surkov, a hypothesis that was confirmed shortly afterwards by the writer Victor Erofeev. The secret was no longer a secret, but this identity mask was also part of the book’s career. Especially since Surkov neither confirmed nor denied anything.

Vladislav Sourkov et Dimitri Medvedev en décembre 2011 // kremlin.ru

Obscure and pretentious, this novel revolves around the relationship between reality and appearances, and around the questions of authentic or usurped identities, and it tells of swindles and murders in a context where money is flowing. The Russian elites are shown as corrupt, but an even more detestable image is given to the liberals — those committed to freedoms and rights. Cynicism reigns supreme, and the title seems to be a nod to Less than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis’s first novel, from which also seem to come both the description of the rich and famous (but “Russian style”) and a “snuff-movie” story. The Kremlin’s “grey eminence” writes “gangsta fiction” — written in Latin characters in the title —, publishes it in a magazine with a very Soviet title and draws inspiration from American literature for a novel where — in line with Soviet themes — people are not what they seem to be.

Kirill Serebrennikov, the theatrical idol of liberal Moscow, adapted this novel for the stage. A very public rapprochement was thus displayed between two worlds, the Kremlin and the artistic beau monde, and the premiere, on January 15, 2011, was surrounded by the flashy glamour that then characterized Russian power circles. Eleven years later, Serebrennikov emigrated to the West, and his closest assistant now claims that he didn’t know that Close to Zero had been written by Surkov. This is impossible: at least since 2010, everyone in Moscow was talking about it.

The spiral towards the “era of blood”

The replacement of Medvedev by Putin as president of Russia was announced in September 2011, at a congress of “United Russia”. Three months later, Surkov left the Presidential Administration, and one of the reasons for his departure could be that his “Nachi” did not prevent the demonstrations against Putin’s return. Juggling paradoxes, Surkov even proclaimed that these protesters were “the best part” of Russian society. However, the former advertising executive was not excluded from the ruling circles: he was appointed Russia’s deputy prime minister on December 27, 2011, and, after Putin’s re-election, also took over as head of the government apparatus. As if the system could not (yet) do without his skills and even if Vladimir Putin was turning to a conservative ideology, which advocates family values, and no longer avant-garde art.

Was it a part of a palace struggle? Rumors of embezzlement circulated around Skolkovo, which was intended to be a Russian-style Silicon Valley and was supervised by Surkov. An investigation was opened and, in May 2013, Surkov had to leave his post as deputy prime minister. The time of games was almost over.

The former PR-manager was appointed on September 20, 2013, as an adviser to Vladimir Putin on socio-economic development in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Georgian territories whose self-proclaimed independence is not recognized by the majority of the international community. This position was “rather modest”, confirms Igor Eidman who adds that Surkov very quickly extended his functions to Ukraine. The attack on Crimea took place in February 2014, and in November 2015, Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, thanked Surkov for the help provided “from the first minutes” of the armed conflict. When the illegal annexation of Crimea was underway and the Russian-initiated unrest had already begun in the Donbass, the Russian Pioneer magazine announced on its website that “writer Nathan Dubovitsky” had written a story titled Without Heaven: “A story about the Fifth World War, the first non-linear war, where everyone fights against everyone.” This war is supposed to have taken place thirty years earlier and has left enormous trauma to the survivors who are now planning a riot against people more complex than themselves. No doubt this game amuses Surkov: his literary texts not only reflect, but could also announce the coming changes; he creates, in his own literary way, a new reality for his Russian compatriots and for former Soviet people, as he created parties, slogans and youth movements.

However, he met competition in Ukraine where his men rub shoulders with those sent by Konstantin Malofeev. Ambitions and greed clashed, conflicts of persons and influences were revealed, while Putin played the referee. And it was Surkov who, with a smile on his face, represented Russia in the Group of Four on the Minsk agreements, then led the Russian delegation that negotiated with the American administration to, supposedly, try to settle the Russo-Ukrainian armed conflict. However, he stepped down as a president’s advisor on February 18, 2020 — and no clear explanation has been given for his departure. His political career appears to be over, and sanctions are supposed to prevent him from traveling to the West, including to attend operas. Vladislav Surkov was therefore no longer in charge, even behind the scenes, when Russia attacked Ukraine on the morning of February 24, 2022.

Surkov at a literary event organized by Russian Pioneer, in June 2021 // The Russian Pioneer Facebook page


A rumor ran on the Russian-speaking Internet on April 11, 2022: Vladislav Surkov had been arrested, put under house arrest, and even, according to some, imprisoned. Afterwards, he was not seen anywhere for months. When asked about this in September, some Russian journalists burst out laughing: Surkov had not been arrested, but he was not getting out of his house because, they said, he was threatened by Kadyrov’s Chechens. No one asked why Chechens would be after him, and if such questions no longer arise, it is also the result of Mr. Surkov’s two decades of work to blur the relationship between causes and consequences. However, the former adviser shortly reappeared in February 2023: he said in an interview that, when he was negotiating the Minsk agreements, he did not expect them to be respected. So much for the Kremlin’s supporters who, in the West, are claiming the good faith of the Kremlin in this matter!

The journalist Peter Pomerantsev reported as early as 2014 that, when he was working for Russian television, he kept meeting people who seemed “completely European” but produced the propaganda that suited the power. They explained that they had never believed in communism, had experienced democracy, a mafia state and an oligarchy, and realized that it was all an illusion: “Everything is PR,” were repeating these colleagues who did not understand that one could fight for ideas. Surkov’s objectives had been achieved, and they undermined from within an already fragile Russian society, which partly explains its credulity, disarray and passivity. Some of these cynics have since emigrated. Or died. But the war against Ukraine is raging.

To be followed in the next issue…

Political scientist, historian, Slavic studies specialist, professor at the University of Rennes II, director of the Russian department at Rennes II, and researcher at CERCLE (Nancy II). She primarily focuses on power-society-culture relations in 20th and 21st-century Russia and issues of influence from 1920 to the present. Her recent works include Le Clan Mikhalkov. Culture et pouvoirs en Russie (1917-2017) published by Presses universitaires de Rennes in 2019, Les Réseaux du Kremlin en France published by Les Petits Matins in 2016, and La Fabrique de l’homme nouveau après Staline. Les arts et la culture dans le projet soviétique published by Presses Universitaires de Rennes in 2016.


  1. EIDMAN Igor, Das System Putin. Wohin steuert das neue russische Reich?, München, Ludwig, 2016, p.65.

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