zizek13_OLGA MALTSEVAAFP via Getty Image_russian soldier OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

Death or Glory in Russia

The Russian state’s ideological madness and reversion to warlordism have been abetted by a religious fundamentalism that openly celebrates death in the name of achieving a god-like status. As Vladimir Putin’s propagandists are telling Russians, “Life is overrated.”

LJUBLJANA – Rumors are flying about veiled jockeying within Russia over who will replace President Vladimir Putin, now that his war of aggression in Ukraine has gone so disastrously wrong. Such a struggle cannot fail to expose the morbid pathologies of Russian politics. The key players are not organized political parties but rather gangs of oligarchs who preside over various informal nodes of power.

This explains why Russia’s most effective military force on the front line in Ukraine, the mercenary Wagner Group, is not even a part of the Russian army. Russia is now a land of warlords, something one generally associates with rogue and failed states. Its current and aspiring leaders are trafficking in fever dreams of battlefield glory. Implicit in this martial culture is a Hobbesian view of life as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short – and increasingly cheap.

The rise of private armies in and around Russia has led to some genuinely funny developments. For example, last year, former members of US and other Western armed forces organized a voluntary military unit to fight on the Ukrainian side. With pitch-perfect irony, they call themselves the Mozart Group – a direct riposte to the Wagner mercenaries (both names being of a German composer). One can only hope they will bomb Russian army positions with weapons more powerful than chocolate Mozartkugeln.