People appeared inside the government claiming to represent the interests of the Red Guards: back in the spring, Duma Committee on Culture Chair Elena Yampolskaya wrote an article
about how bookstores were still selling books of ideological enemies and how it would be good to have publishers and booksellers answer for that. The head of RT Margarita Simonyan actively promotes a group of poets who extol the special military operation (and complains that publishers don’t want to print their collections, and bookstores don’t want to take them – yes, even now).
Meanwhile, the statement from the Ministry of Culture quoted at the beginning of this article is rather eloquent.
So, have the Red Guards won?Shadow of failure
It’s not so simple. First of all, recall that for this milieu, politics is totality. Yet there is still no total ban on alien (“degenerate” – in the language of the Third Reich) art. The state is finally promising to cut off funding for “incorrect” people but isn’t promising to destroy them.
And there’s more! Putin press secretary Dmitri Peskov refuted
the Ministry of Culture statement: “There is no trend in Russia to remove books or erase the names of Akunin and other authors from posters and there can’t be one.” And Putin himself stood up
for a man who was arrested for listening to a Ukrainian song in his car.
Big state officials have repeatedly emphasized: we won’t become like the totalitarian West, where cancel culture reigns! Yes – they say that with a straight face.
There is no unity in the ranks of the Red Guards either. While they were on the sidelines, there was a feeling that it was a single stratum. Yet as soon as they felt they were in vogue and believed that there was an opportunity to gain influence and money, cracks immediately started to appear, with marginal groups fighting with each other. Denunciations, curses, revelations
. It seems that they’re now paying more attention to their internal squabbles than to the struggle against the “incorrect” – the state has finally taken up that matter, and now finding out who is the most correct among the “correct” is more interesting. The intraspecific struggle is always tougher than the interspecific.
The Red Guards are convenient for the state, but not needed. They are convenient because they create a lot of noise and formulate extremely radical positions. That noise (both in politics and in culture) can be passed off as public opinion, while by curbing the radicals a little they can show what can happen if the state lets up control. The state still doesn’t need volunteer helpers. It needs underlings. It is the mobilized who are to fight on the cultural front – not volunteers.
The Russian conservative Red Guards have created demand for a repressive cultural policy. That demand is already being met, albeit without the desired comprehensiveness (this is what I had in mind when I called the Ministry of Culture's statement about the prohibition on Akunin's name a milestone). But the Red Guards themselves will not gain anything from this. Nobody is waiting for them where real power, real influence and real money are meted out.
The activists won’t get anything besides perhaps moral satisfaction from the repression. Yet there is already grief at the fact that the repression is both mild and not total, and often targets the wrong people. Meanwhile, on the next turn the Red Guards themselves could become victims: excessive enthusiasm in Russia is punishable, even if it is pro-regime.