Alexander Nevzorov: World Cup 2018 plays into the hands of Putin and Kremlin to hellish, insane extent
Whether the World Cup will help to improve Russia’s reputation
The more totalitarian the regime, the greater importance it places on sport. Sport is a uniquely powerful tool. It was under general anesthesia produced by the World Cup that the rise in pension age, the brutish and tragic change for millions of people, was suddenly announced by the Russian government.
Those in power wouldn’t even lift a finger to do something for their own citizens, but when we see how many efforts, passion and money have been invested in football, it becomes clear that football is this government’s main priority.
It’s a great method of influence, and it knows how to employ it. And when the government knows how to serve sport straight to the mouth of the people, the latter forgive everything. It’s no coincidence that the screws of censorship of the state TV channels providing match commentaries have been tightened to the maximum. Every remark is censored, regular discussions are held with all commentators. All news reporters who discuss the World Cup have compulsory consultations on a daily basis to keep them in the loop since the situation changes constantly.
At the present time, one can say anything about Crimea, Medvedev, Rogozin, even Putin, but everything football-related that isn’t included in the governmental canon of how this celebration is meant to be seen by others is totally off-limits.
All authoritarian and totalitarian regimes have a weak spot for sport. Russia wasn’t first to discover this. It is well-known how passionate Nazi Germany was about sport as well as all Asian despots, including Chairman Mao.
In theory interest in sport should be a private matter for every citizen. Everyone is welcome to watch how some random people kick a ball for some reason, if they want to. It’s quite another matter though when the sport is turned into a full-blown religion involving its own pilgrims, relics, holy places, iconography, worshipping and performing various gaming and fan rituals. Football has almost all characteristics common to religions.
However, as is known, religions hardly ever emerge out of nowhere, all by themselves. When it happens, they usually quietly rot on the fringes, as is the case with Pentecostalism, Adventism, Ryabinovtsy and the religion of voodoo. If we witness the triumph of a particular religion, on the public squares, in the mass media, it means that it was nurtured and is actively perpetuated by a government.
Everything that happens at the World Cup now plays into the hands of Putin and Kremlin to hellish, insane extent. Their calculations are absolutely right. Those intellectuals and outliers, who see it otherwise, perceiving signs of despotism, disaster and troubles lying ahead, are just a voice in the wilderness. Whether we like it or not, the excitement of people who are allowed to wave flags, run around in wild hats, shout, blow air horns, be emotional and share experiences, turning a blind eye to the real problems and the situation in the country, translate into the credibility of those in power.
As Ivan Pavlov’s brilliant experiments on other animals have shown, there are ways to solidify the worship of certain objects. When particular acts are performed, sympathy and positive reaction appear to be the responses to those who perform them, not to the acts themselves. The attitude towards those who perform these acts changes for the better, and thus the worship solidifies.
Thanks to this World Cup Kremlin will score more points and acquire more influence, opportunities and luster than it did in the last few years at least. As for FIFA and doping scandals, they don’t spoil the pleasure people get from primitive emotions caused by football.
In human history there were Popes who robbed, killed and copulated with boys in the fountains of Vatican with women’s jewelry on. Pope’s Court was the very epitome of all vices and nonsense, but this state of affairs in no way affected the religious feelings of the whole Europe. Naturally, over the course of time iniquities of Vatican, among other things, triggered the emergence of explicit atheistic ideas, but there was a time when the excesses and debauchery of popes and the utmost piety in Europe have coexisted nicely.
Whether the World Cup will affect the exchange of Oleg Sentsov and other Ukrainian prisoners
In its current euphoria Russia doesn’t care about Ukrainian prisoners. All these Donbass affairs hold no interest for Kremlin anymore. It has had enough of it and as of now, Donbass has no political or informational value. If it was gone, Moscow would be greatly relieved.
Having taken this gamble, it failed to carry it forward and, more importantly, to find the right people who wouldn’t turn against Russia afterwards or run their own game. Now it’s forced to appoint as heads of these republics people who require urgent hospitalization. It doesn’t necessarily want an idiot at the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic. It isn’t intentional. If Moscow had the right resources, the Donbass affair could look rather different right now.
The Russian government is enthralled by itself because of the world recognition it achieved. Millions of football fans who arrived here and now buy souvenirs and take photos of themselves with dubious modern Russian sights in the background will then bring back to their countries a positive attitude towards Russia. They understand who feeds them this World Cup and are thankful for the objective worship it awakened in them. By and large, the kind of people who are passionate about football are quite easily misled. It’s precisely this non-intellectual crowd that will carry away in their heads respect and admiration for Russia.
Despite the noises Merkel, Macron or nice English politicians make, Russia managed to change the minds of many in the media and millions of people. It hid the rusty claws of its militarism and, for the time being, looks positive, cheerful, almost civilized.
And the world has gratefully accepted this phony, masterfully constructed image. OMON, Cossacks beating students, the outrage caused by Russian Orthodox priests, people kept in detention without trial won’t attract any attention. Nobody likes these ugly, harsh facts of life.
People are fed on celebrations to their hearts’ content and it will turn them into Kremlin’s supporters. Once established in the primitive minds, the stereotypes will not go away soon, and the hangover from these celebrations might last for some time afterwards. So, by and large, Putin has won this time.