Putin puts Russia's nuclear forces on 'high alert'

With the ever-evolving situation in Ukraine dominating headlines over recent weeks, people have been looking back to try and understand how we got to this situation in the first place.

Now, people are revisiting a clip from Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe, which sees the revered political documentary maker Adam Curtis take a deep-dive into Russian politics and explore the role one man played in Vladimir Putin’s regime.

That man is Vladislav Surkov.

Surkov, as HyperNormilisation filmmaker Curtis explains, was the First Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011.

He was one of the key figures in the heart of the Kremlin before being removed from this duty by presidential order in February 2020.

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And if Curtis is right, he changed the way regimes used confusion as a tool to strengthen their positions.

Back in 2014 when the clip first aired, Russia had annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula after the country’s Moscow-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power by mass protests.

Adam Curtis Wipe 2014 on Vladislav Surkovwww.youtube.com

Russia also backed an separatist insurgency in the east of the country, which eventually saw the pro-Russian rebels declare the DPR and LPR independent states.

Discussing the conflict and the state of the political climate at the time, Curtis said in the clip: “So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing and above all confusing, to which the only response is ‘Oh dear.’

“But what this film is going to suggest is that this defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control.”

He added: “To understand how this is happening, we have to look to Russia and a man called Vladislav Surkov who is a hero of our time.

“Surkov is one of Putin’s advisers and has helped him maintain power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.”

Surkov was close to Putin until his exit in 2020Alexei Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking about his impact, Curtis added: “He came originally from the avant garde art world and those who have studied his career say that what he has done is import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.

“His aim is to undermine people’s perceptions of the world, so they never now what is really happening. Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theatre. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to Putin.

“The key thing was, that Surkov then let it be know that was what he was doing. No-one was sure what was real or what was fake. As one journalist put it, it’s a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused - a ceaseless shapeshifting that is unstoppable because it is indefinable.”

“Which is exactly what Surkov is alleged to have done in the Ukraine this year (2014).”

Curtis went on to say his “aim wasn’t to win the war, but to use the conflict “create a constant state of destabilised perception in order to manage and control”.

While Surkov is no longer close to power in Russia, Curtis believes his impact over the last few decades can't be understated.

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