Narcissism is a risky luxury in Russia

Russia provides a rather hostile environment for people too full of themselves.

In Russia’s millennium-long winner-takes-it-all history, the country has produced surprisingly few famous narcissists. Those who caught the public limelight, were brought down rather swiftly: Emperor Pavel I, Alexander Kerensky, Lev Trotsky, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Berezovsky.

It looks like the hammer and anvil of Russian self-doubt and imperial despotism kept weeding out the kindreds of Trump, Sarkozy, and Berlusconi in our neck of the woods. If you insist on putting your head high above the parapet, sooner or later the wrath of Russian gods takes you down. That’s the wisdom most Russian babies absorb with their mothers’ milk.

Stalin, for decades living in the sweetest spot of unrestrained glorification, never seemed to be relishing the moment. He just used it as a torchlight for spotting hidden enemies—those who either admired him too much, or too little.

The same is true for Putin. Watch Putin’s facial expression when someone tries to dissolve themselves in humility and awe before the Russian President: “Was that Judas’ kiss?”.

The brilliant Germa philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” It seems, in Russia, you don’t need to stare into the abyss to get noticed. All it takes is to be full of yourself. If you bask in your own impossible awesomeness long enough, at the end of the day the abyss will find you.

In a recent Russian TV series about Trotsky, his alleged narcissism is shown as one of the major reasons he lost the power game against Stalin. The creators of the series also hold his narcissism agaisnt him as something that revealed his uncompatibility with Russia’s culture and hate of our country.

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