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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

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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