How I Became a Kremlin Troll
By The Saker
With the kind permission of Phil Butler, here is the full text of my contribution to his book Putin’s Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls:
By birth, experience, and training, I truly had everything needed to hate Putin. I was born in a family of “White Russians” whose anti-Communism was total and visceral.
My childhood was filled with (mostly true) stories about atrocities and massacres committed by the Bolsheviks during the revolution and subsequent civil war. Since my father had left me, I had an exiled Russian Orthodox Archbishop as a spiritual father, and through him, I learned of all the genocidal persecutions the Bolsheviks unleashed against the Orthodox Church.
At the age of 16, I had already read the three volumes of the “Gulag Archipelago” and carefully studied the history of WWII. By 18 I was involved in numerous anti-Soviet activities such as distributing anti-Soviet propaganda in the mailboxes of Soviet diplomats or organizing the illegal importation of banned books into the Soviet Union through the Soviet merchant marine and fishing fleet (mostly at their station in the Canary Islands). I was also working with an undercover group of Orthodox Christians sending help, mainly in the form of money, to the families of jailed dissidents. And since I was fluent in Russian, my military career took me from a basic training in electronic warfare, to a special unit of linguists for the General Staff of the Swiss military, to becoming a military analyst for the strategic intelligence service of Switzerland.
The Soviet authorities had long listed me, and my entire family, as dangerous anti-Soviet activists and I, therefore, could not travel to Russia until the fall of Communism in 1991 when I immediately caught the first available flight and got to Moscow while the barricades built against the GKChP coup were still standing. Truly, by this fateful month of August 1991, I was a perfect anti-Soviet activist and an anti-Communist hardliner. I even took a photo of myself standing next to the collapsed statue of Felix Derzhinsky (the founder of the ChK – the first Soviet Secret police) with my boot pressed on his iron throat. That day I felt that my victory was total. It was also short-lived.
Instead of bringing the long-suffering Russian people freedom, peace, and prosperity, the end of Communism in Russia only brought chaos, poverty, violence, and abject exploitation by the worst class of scum the defunct Soviet system had produced. I was horrified. Unlike so many other anti-Soviet activists who were also Russophobes, I never conflated my people and the regime which oppressed them. So, while I rejoiced at the end of one horror, I was also appalled to see that another one had taken its place. Even worse, it was undeniable that the West played an active role in every and all forms of anti-Russian activities, from the total protection of Russian mobsters, on to the support of the Wahabi insurgents in Chechnya, and ending with the financing of a propaganda machine which tried to turn the Russian people into mindless consumers to the presence of western “advisors” (yeah, right!) in all the key ministries. The oligarchs were plundering Russia and causing immeasurable suffering, and the entire West, the so-called “free world” not only did nothing to help but helped all the enemies of Russia with every resource it had. Soon the NATO forces attacked Serbia, a historical ally of Russia, in total violation of the most sacred principles of international law. East Germany was not only reunified but instantly incorporated into West Germany and NATO pushed as far East as possible. I could not pretend that all this could be explained by some fear of the Soviet military or by a reaction to the Communist theory of world revolution. In truth, it became clear to me that the western elites did not hate the Soviet system or ideology, but that they hated Russian people themselves and the culture and civilization which they had created.
By the time the war against the Serbian nation in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo broke out, I was in a unique situation: all day long I could read classified UNPROFOR and military reports about what was taking place in that region and, after work, I could read the counter-factual anti-Serbian propaganda the western corporate Ziomedia was spewing out every day. I was horrified to see that literally everything the media was saying was a total lie. Then came the false flags, first in Sarajevo, but later also in Kosovo. My illusions about “Free World” and the “West” were crumbling. Fast.
Fate brought me to Russia in 1993 when I saw the carnage of meted out by the “democratic” Eltsin regime against thousands of Russians in Moscow (many more than what the official press reported). I also saw the Red Flags and Stalin portraits around the parliament building. My disgust by then was total. And when the Eltsin regime decided to bring Dudaev’s Chechnia to heel triggering yet another needless bloodbath, that disgust turned into despair. Then came the stolen elections of 1996 and the murder of General Lebed. At that point, I remember thinking “Russia is dead.”
So, when the entourage of Eltsin suddenly appointed an unknown nobody to acting President of Russia, I was rather dubious, to put it mildly. The new guy was not a drunk or an arrogant oligarch, but he looked rather unimpressive. He was also ex-KGB which was interesting: on one hand, the KGB had been my lifelong enemy but on the other hand, I knew that the part of the KGB which dealt with foreign intelligence was staffed by the brightest of the brightest and that they had nothing to do with political repression, Gulags and all the rest of the ugly stuff another Directorate of the KGB (the 5th) was tasked with (that department had been abolished in 1989). Putin came from the First Main Directorate of the KGB, the “PGU KGB.” Still, my sympathies were more with the (far less political) military intelligence service (GRU) than the very political PGU which, I was quite sure by then, had a thick dossier on my family and me.
Then, two crucial things happened in parallel: both the “Free world” and Putin showed their true faces: the “Free world” as an AngloZionist Empire hell-bent on aggression and oppression, and Vladimir Putin as a real patriot of Russia. In fact, Putin slowly began looking like a hero to me: very gradually, in small incremental steps first, Putin began to turn Russia around, especially in two crucial matters: he was trying to “re-sovereignize” the country (making it truly sovereign and independent again), and he dared the unthinkable: he openly told the Empire that it was not only wrong, it was illegitimate (just read the transcript of Putin’s amazing 2007 “Munich Speech”).
Putin inspired me to make a dramatic choice: will I stick to my lifelong prejudices or will I let reality prove my lifelong prejudices wrong. The first option was far more comfortable to me, and all my friends would approve. The second one was far trickier, and it would cost me the friendship of many people. But what was the better option for Russia? Could it be that it was the right thing for a “White Russian” to join forces with the ex-KGB officer?
If that old-generation anti-Communist hardliner who, unlike me, had spent time in the Gulag, could take Putin’s hand, then so could I!
In fact, the answer was obvious all along: while the “White” and the “Red” principles and ideologies were incompatible and mutually exclusive, there is also no doubt that nowadays true patriots of Russia can be found both in the former “Red” and “White” camps. To put it differently, I don’t think that “Whites” and “Reds” will ever agree on the past, but we can, and must, agree on the future. Besides, the Empire does not care whether we are “Red” or “White” – the Empire wants us all either enslaved or dead.
Putin, in the meantime, is still the only world leader with enough guts to openly tell the Empire how ugly, stupid and irresponsible it is (read his 2015 UN Speech). And when I listen to him I see that he is neither “White” nor “Red.” He is simply Russian.
So, this is how I became a Kremlin troll and a Putin fanboy.