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Putins Popularity Masks an Uncomfortable Reality

Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)


It has become increasingly common tohear even from opposition politicians that it is inRussias best interests forPresident Vladimir Putin toremain inpower as long as possible. Otherwise, they say, things could get even worse.

I agree with that argument, but with one caveat: If Putin loses power, things could get even worse forthe West as well. That might sound like heresy tosome, but just hear me out onthis.

According toa recent Levada Center poll, Putins approval rating has dropped slightly since thebeginning ofthe month, probably due tothe recent food imports ban. Despite this, his current approval rating of85.5 percent is still impressive.

Observers typically ascribe theastronomically high approval rating torecent events inUkraine andthe Western sanctions that act onmost Russians theway ared flag acts ona bull.

That explains thesurge inPutins popularity, but it does not explain why his ratings have remained consistently high ever since he served as prime minister inthe late 1990s under former President Boris Yeltsin. It is rare forany politician inany country toenjoy such support forso long.

One ofthe reasons forthe initial rise inPutins popularity lies inthe traditional mentality ofthe Russian people, who tend tobelieve less intheir own strength andmore ina national hero or savior.

After alitany ofdisappointing Soviet leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev, who was senile; Yury Andropov, who was only half-living; Konstantin Chernenko, who was already half-dead; Mikhail Gorbachev, who spoke well but led poorly; andpower-hungry but drunken Boris Yeltsin theRussian people hoped tofinally win thelottery andland aleader inwhom they could place their full confidence.

Most Russians were sincerely convinced that Putin was theonly man capable ofimplementing national projects, getting fifth- andsixth-generation combat aircraft into theair, raising pensions toEuropean levels, resolving thedemographic problem, eliminating corruption, commencing thedrilling ofArctic oil andso on.

Inthe face ofsuch expectations, most leaders would not hold thepublics trust forlong. So what exactly is his secret? Contrary towhat some liberal opposition leaders claim, most Russians do not support Putin out ofsheer stupidity. Its just that theold set oftraditional priorities still remains.

During his tenure as leader, Putin has achieved agreat deal that Russian citizens value. He continues tokeep atight hold over thecountrys affairs anundeniable sign ofprogress inthe eyes ofmany, given thechaos ofthe 1990s.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphotos exhibition On Both Sides, chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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