Putin's Philosopher

Ivan Ilyin and the Ideology of Moscow's Rule

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with journalists after a live broadcast nationwide call-in in Moscow, April 16, 2015. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

In the last days of April, Russian television aired a 150-minute documentary about Vladimir Putin’s decade and a half as the leader of Russia. Shown around the anniversary of his first inauguration (May 7, 2000), the movie offered a blunt message: in the 15 years of Putin’s rule, he had saved Russia from the forces of destruction, both internal—Chechnya and the oligarchs—and external—insidious Western influence. He, the movie repeatedly reinforced, is the only thing holding the country together.

According to the film, moreover, Putin is not just a political savior: his leadership has also been important for the spiritual revival of Russia and its people. Fully six minutes of the movie were dedicated to a recounting of his work to repatriate the remains of White Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin.

Ilyin was unknown to the wider public before Russian filmmaker and conservative activist Nikita Mikhalkov brought him back from

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