The long shadow of Leningrad

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to: Judith von Sternberg


With his mother, Maria Ivanovna in Saint Petersburg, circa 1970. © Imago

Why Putin became a ruthless war criminal? Childhood trauma – an attempt to explain from a psychoanalytic perspective – may be to blame. By Wolfgang Lochner.

Putin is rightly called a ruthless, liar, mass murderer, calculated and unpredictable war criminal. Therefore, many demand that he be prevented from escalating the war with counter-violence. In the event that he gets militarily on his knees and is expelled from Ukraine, he, in turn, threatens to launch nuclear war. As if they can see Putin in the head, some dismiss it as mere rhetoric, threatening gestures, propaganda and fear-mongering. If he balances the risks of nuclear war to himself and his country, he will surrender and withdraw from Ukraine.

Thus, Heart Kanti would bring someone who had just been deemed “insane” to their senses – an ancient psychotherapy that never worked? Anyone who argues this way plays va banque and risks drowning.

Is there a way to know if Putin is serious about his threat? True, it seems that the current situation, which has been systematically planned and practically prepared for decades, is under control. But what if the process slips away from him, if he finally falls into childish reactionary thinking under external pressure and before destruction even includes nuclear war? When he is mired in delusional thinking, though so far seemingly devoid of emotional lability or “affective incontinence”, that he is still shrouded and knit in the character armor of a semi-ordinary character?

Even if classic psychiatric diagnoses do not apply to him, this does not prevent one from approaching understanding if one assumes that he is a repeat offender; Then repeated crimes can be analyzed for the occurrence of archetypal patterns or central scenes, which can be understood as reframing of important and unconscious past experiences. Then, he has to look for the important personal and collective events in his life, which he must continue to organize violently and almost reflexively, since, obviously, he cannot get rid of them in any other way. By interpreting his warlike mind, which does not come from military manuals, one can get to the depth of his thinking, his motives for attacking other peoples and his tendency to lose control. So the key to a certain behavior is in his life story. Putin’s public statements today are somewhat irrelevant.

All reports on this subject remarkably stereotypedly emphasize Putin’s origins in Leningrad and the suffering of this city at the time of the German occupation in World War II. Apparently, biographers also doubt that a decisive explanation for Putin’s thinking can be found here.

Today’s Saint Petersburg was not invaded by German forces from 1942 to 1944, but was encircled and then completely impoverished. People were deliberately killed by starvation. More than a million people lost their lives. It can be assumed that all survivors suffered psychological and physical damage forever. All that Vladimir Putin did in connection with world history can be a summation of the Leningrad catastrophe and its end in 1944: events press on him with great anxiety, as if the victory over Hitler’s Germany had not really been achieved.

At first glance, this claim seems far-fetched because it does not relate to the personal experiences of Putin, who was only born in 1947. Nevertheless, the personal significance of the deadly siege of this city is clearly enormous for him: only he is seemingly assured of the subsequent victory over Hitler’s Germany, frankly motivated by the possibility of a similar recurrence to this day, and what he fears he must. It is now actively seeking to replicate the dissolution of the Soviet Union in various forms as an attempt to self-heal from a historically based turmoil that can be described as the “Leningrad trauma complex”.

In order for Leningrad to produce these consequences, something so personal must happen that Putin sees himself as the hungry “Leningrad Man of 1943” and thus the representative of the struggle to revive and save the old. Leningrad Russia can feel. The cycle of the blockade of Leningrad must finally and forever be broken in the wars with the new enemies – Georgia, Chechnya, Syria, Ukraine and NATO.

We know from all of the survivors’ stories what devastating psychological damage such true families’ destinies do to their grandchildren and how their impact continues. Children born later inevitably become, in many ways, surrogates for the dead. They are never free beings, never quite meant to be, but shadows of others, mourners, mourners, and avengers.

Important evidence for this assumption can be found in Putin’s life, and especially in his family. The German blockade of Leningrad hit him hard, somewhat in the arms of his deeply traumatized mother, who, together with the French psychoanalyst Andre Gren, can be described as a “psychologically dead mother”. In the end, she nearly starved, and was pronounced dead, but her husband then took her from a mortuary and brought her back to life. During this time, two of her sons, Putin’s brothers, died or died of starvation.

From his birth, little Putin had looked into his mother’s face, which was always frightening. One can be sure that as a result of her suffering she did not really “exist” for him internally, emotionally, facially and gesturally, inaccessible, unshakable or only to a limited extent. Her inner absence and closeness to death must have had a lasting effect not only on her own nature, but also on Putin, his self-image, his character and pity for him. This makes him what is now known as a traumatized “second generation child”. So the boy was a victim of war.

Putin turned this into an activity, deriving from it the mandate to handle and dispose of the subsequent burdens of the history of family, relatives, friends, neighbors and the city of Leningrad. From here he must have derived his inner message, to become a surrogate brother, to modify and, above all, avenger, his dominant idea, which he has made a work of his life and which he has always had to bring to the fore. Where.

Precisely because he has always been blind to these somewhat unconscious sources that have shaped him – at least their enormous extent – and left this story unscathed, they have retained tremendous power: the story of his family has become a curse, and, as is evident today, a curse and then also fate for our time and perhaps for all mankind. For Putin, this resulted in a compulsion not to relinquish an ancient major crime committed against his family or his country, perhaps to prevent it later or undo it. What he does not leave inside is primarily not the old Soviet Union, but Leningrad.

Details from his life show that he linked this to a lack of confidence with megalomaniac and very aggressive tendencies early on, for example when he was known as a boy obsessively hunting and destroying mice. Soon, these inclinations were no longer directed solely at private work. Instead, they became his political and professional goal, first to discover everywhere and then to fight everywhere the deadly siege of Leningrad and Russia. This includes the fact that as a young man he joined the KGB and thus “fight all enemies of Russia”. He made it his job and his career at the same time. In the end, he managed to integrate the Russian intelligence and the entire state apparatus.

If World War II was about starvation in Leningrad, the war against Ukraine could subconsciously provide the antidote. The occupied country as the “granary of the world” would protect from this forever and ever.

If Putin has been repeatedly recorded in astonishment that Putin, despite his war crimes, was “applauded” by a large number of Russians, it is also because he espouses old collective Russian fantasies of fear and rescue, as well as a desire for submission with which Russians are often accused It, which has always been and is in Russia a malicious under the surface. He saves his brothers, mothers, fathers, Russian Leningraders, and a whole people from enemy encirclement and from starvation. So now he realizes himself as a great liberator and leader, instilling in the national community a form of emotional grandeur, grandeur and cruelty. This is what distinguishes his ‘Scheme of Action’. Ultimately, it is this fantasy that makes him lazy in the face of the devastating consequences of this war and presumably immune to the consequences of the nuclear catastrophe it caused.

By doing so, he ironically becomes a “siege”, criminal and destructive of foreign peoples, now Ukraine, then Europe, and thus a “rat” himself. In using some tactics, he took over the activities of the German Wehrmacht, thus becoming similar to the former Nazi besiegers in Leningrad.

With all this, it should be clear here the sources of pathological shock from which emerged Putin’s policy in Ukraine and Russia, what makes him so fatal and ineffective. This also means: no matter how justified the resistance of many peoples to the war of conquest in Ukraine (Chechnya, Syria), anyone who wants to persuade Putin to get out of it, militarily “defeat” him or even “destroy him like a rat”. He should be clear about it, because his inner impulses have been notoriously ‘personalised’ since the early days of life and are still about to express themselves again in actions. So you have to realize that he is psychologically dealing with a ‘giant bomb’. The rules of international law are of no value to him – it is also a form of inability to grieve.

However, in NATO’s approach to constraining it through sanctions, there is still a certain chance of ending the war and ultimately avoiding nuclear war. After all, it will also be up to Putin to end or weaken sanctions. This way, as an active designer, he can “make a compromise”, presenting himself as the savior in this way. What is more, in this way he can, so to speak, rid himself of his own psychopathology, and of his compulsion to repetition.

On the other hand, a relentless military defeat would be unbearable for him, so it “passively implied” that he would not be able to admit it. It would be his “death” for him and his mother. If Putin’s abnormal behavior makes sense, it will be through the repercussions of history. In his “war interventions” the old is transferred to the new. Cruelty, cruelty, and acceptance of the intense suffering of the victims and their soldiers finds form in it.

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