Russia: the country of the victorious Juche ideology

Vladimir Malenko
6 min readFeb 15, 2024
Friends and allied forever

A short analysis of Russia’s success going toward pollical, economic, ideological, military and diplomatic self-reliance. North Korea has a lot to learn from Russia.

* I do not use the term “Juche” is any derogatory sense. Juche is a form of a pollical and state philosophy that may or may not be applicable to different countries. I believe that some of the key principles of Juche were successfully implemented in the 2020s Russia.

In short, Juche (주체) states that solving one’s own problems is one’s own responsibility under all circumstances. This means “holding fast to an independent position, rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance…” (Grace Lee “The Political Philosophy of Juche”).

Juche calendar

“It seems that we are being strangled and pressured from every side, but still, we are the largest economy in Europe. We left Germany behind and climbed to fifth in the world [in terms of GDP at purchasing power parity]: China, the US, India, Japan and Russia. We are number one in Europe,” (Vladimir Putin).

Number 1 economy in Europe (Vladimir Putin)

The Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs agrees… that under 1 out of the 5 accepted methodologies of GDP calculations (namely, absolute value of GDP, PPP — Purchasing Power Parity, current 2022 US dollars), Putin’s claims are correct. Well, that’s plenty enough, given that this information was mostly produced for domestic consumption.

Juche is a curious mix of ideology, personality cult and economic policies. The term ‘Juche’ was first mentioned officially in a speech given by Kim Il-sung at a ‘Propaganda and Agitation’ Congress of the Korean Workers Party on December 28, 1955, entitled “On establishing self-reliance and eradicating dogmatism and formalism in ideology projects”.

Developed and expanded the Juche now includes the following categories each of which applies well to the current Russia’s strategy:

1. Ideological indepence. Since 2006 Russia professes the concept of “sovereign democracy” — the ideology that refutes any interference from outside the country. Coined by Vladislav Surkov, the assistant to the President Putin, and expended by another famous philosopher, the Defense Minister of Russia Sergei Ivanov, the “sovereign democracy” encompassed the “Triad of National Values” — sovereign democracy + strong economy + military might.

Vladimir Putin and Surkov, the creator of “sovereign democracy”

2. Economic independence. Juche philosophy states that economic independence (Charip — Korean) is the material basis for political independence (Chaju — Korean). According to the Great Leader Kim Il-sung the economy must be based on heavy industry which would equip light industry, agriculture, transport, etc. This is precisely the angle that post-sanction Russia is taking. With limited import opportunities the country had undertaken the program of “importozamashchenie”, or substitution of imported goods for domestically produced ones. Surprisingly enough, this program worked in many industries. Still, Russia is yet to show any progress in semiconductors, aircraft, cars and complex pharma.

Juche stresses particular significance of independent food production. In fact, nowadays, many countries subscribe to the national food security policies that emphasize the increased reliance on domestically grown and produced food. Well, just like the old Soviet Union, Russia is over 80% self-sufficient in food. The forced absence of Norwegian salmon, Spanish jamon, French foie gras and Italian parmigiano motivated local farmers and food companies to expand their product lines. Last month I tried and excellent Russian roquefort while on a trip to Moscow.

The foreign foodstuffs are destroyed in Russia

Unlike North Korea, Russia is able to build a true self-sufficient economy. It has plenty of natural resources — oil, gas, iron and non-ferrous ores. It also produces sufficient electric energy to power the entire economy.

The Western sanctions had had a peculiar effect of redistribution of ownership in Russia. Many foreign companies had to sell (very cheaply) their production and distribution facilities to Russian investors loyal to the Kremlin. Among the global brands that left Russia and thus suffered substantial losses are — Siemens, IBM, Caterpillar, PepsiCo, Mars, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Philip Morris, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, McDonalds, KFC, Marriott, Hilton, Procter & Gamble, Henkel, UPS, FedEx, and many others. McDonalds restaurants have been rebranded “Tasty, Period”, Ford car plant now manufactures Chinese vehicles, and numerous Coca-Cola plants now pour our Dobry (Nice) Cola.

Tasty, Period — formerly the largest McDonalds restaurant in Moscow
Dobry (Nice) Cola — formerly Coke, Sprite and Fanta

3. Political independence (Chaju — Korean). The principle of political independence is one of the central tenets of the Juche ideology. Unlike in North Korea, Russia’s political isolation that lead to a complete political independence was not self-imposed. The Western countries initiated abolishment of Russia and the Russians from many political and humanitarian organizations — f.i. Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or Council of Europe (CE), Human Rights Council (HRC) or International Labour Organization (ILO). At least, as a founding member, Russia can’t be kicked out of the United Nations (UN).

Presently Russia does not enjoy any substantial political support even from its temporary substantiative allies — China, India and African countries — whose tacit agreement with Russian political moves are dictated by economic self-interest — most of them are getting cheap hydrocarbons from the Russian Federation.

Domestically, the nation’s leader enjoys substantial support from the population which is now assured that Russia is facing the entire Western world and is destined to save the world’s civilization.

As was originally designated by the Great Leader Kim Il-sung, the nation rallied around the Leader in internal unity of support for any actions he undertakes. Vladimir Putin’s personal power is supreme and unshakable.

A rally in support of Vladimir Putin

4. Military Independence (Chawi — Korean). Kim Il Sung: “We do not want war, nor are we afraid of it, nor do we beg peace from the imperialists.” The implementation of this self-reliant defense system would involve the mobilization of the whole country and the complete inculcation of ideology in the armed forces. This bodes very well with the Russian economy moving onto “military rails” to fight the combined supply of NATO’s collection of armaments.

Most of Russia weaponry is Russian made. Photo — supersonic Zircon

5. Diplomatic self-reliance. In his 23 years as Russia’s President and Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin visited 72 countries with official visits. Some countries enjoyed his presence a lot more than the others: Ukraine — 21 visits; Germany — 18 visits; China — 17 visits; France — 17 visits. Even the US saw Vladimir Putin 7 times.

In 2023 Russian President was welcomed only in China and some former Soviet satellites — Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus. The only exception was his spectacular 1-day spurt to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh mirrowed by Russian military aircraft.

Russia has a few allies. So, it is generally free to conduct any foreign policy it sees fit. Its foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is now used to stay alone in most foreign leaders gatherings where he usually represents the Russian Leader.

Foreign minister Lavrov — mostly alone

6. Establishing a “Monolithic” System of Thought. This originally referred to the completion of a political transition to a one-man rule in the person of the Great Leader of Kim Il-sung. In Russia, the clear leadership of Vladimir Putin can be easily observed since early 2000s, even and especially during the “presidency” of Dmitry Medvedev. This way, the President of Russia never suffers from the “lame duck syndrome” (famously associated with the US presidents that lost elections or retire) and can continue Chinese style long-term political and economic policies.

In the world integrated by trade, Self-reliance and self-absorption are not for everyone. Abundant natural resources, large population and semi-capitalist economy will allow Russia to build a true Juche-centered country.