Letter From the Editors: Aug. 7 - 13, 2017

Author: Matthew Larson

Tsar’s Youthful Indiscretion Comes Back to Haunt Him, Russia.

Young Nicholas II briefly had a thing for Mariinsky Theater ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska before his espousal to Princess Alix of Hesse and his coronation as tsar. The exact nature of the relationship is unclear, but a new film about it leaves little to the imagination, creating a stir among faith groups and Russian officials who say it insults the memory of the last monarch and offends religious sensibilities. State Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya wants the film banned, calling the relationship fabricated - fake history. And Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, one of the film’s most vocal critics, accused the Russian Culture Ministry of financing unpatriotic and immoral films that corrupt young people.

Tatyana Stanovaya says there is a whole lot more to Kadyrov’s response to the film than meets the eye. His outburst is a backlash to shifts within the Putin regime: the advent of technocrats in the government; the erosion of the old political center and its ideology; the return of establishment liberals. These changes, plus the giant question mark looming over the Putin system, are making conservatives like Kadyrov edgy. "Not knowing your patron’s fate is worse than waiting for the end of the world," Stanovaya writes. The uncertainty is driving conservatives to try to bolster their positions at the local level. Kadyrov’s outburst is his way of showing ideological strength where he sees the federal center showing weakness: Putin is not weighing in on the film? I will! Stanovaya says even a small issue like this controversy over "Matilda" could "set off a fight to the death," politically speaking, under the current circumstances in Russia.

According to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the federal center’s inherent weakness is now becoming increasingly apparent due to the current situation in Russia. He says Russia’s isolation is taking a toll on the regime and its ability to sustain ...

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