Vladimir Putin as Russia’s national idea


“The person I am needs to personally know and see how it happens” – according to Kommersant, this is how Vladimir Putin commented on his flight on the Pavel Taran strategic bomber.

The president told journalists about successful testing of a new high-precision missile and the pilots’ performance, and noted: “I think this is how people fly in dreams.”

Kommersant’s correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov noted: “Mr Putin announced practically all reasons, which can make a person fly on a strategic bomber.”

However, the newspaper asked officers and politicians: “Whom is Vlaidmir Putin fighting?”

The answers were ambiguous.

Sergei Menyailo, acting commander of Novosibirsk military-sea base, Counter-Admiral, stated that “he does not wage war, he controls the Army and the Navy. Regular trips of the President inspire soldiers, increase discipline. The more we occupy ourselves with preparations for such visits (let it even be window-dressing), the higher level of training is.

Marshal Dmitry Yazov’s commentary was very similar: “No one fights anyone. We must be prepared for any incident. The president is the high commander-in-chief, and seeks to personally check the technical state and fighting efficiency of the Army.”

Eduard Vorobyev, head of Moscow Union of Right Forces branch, first deputy of the Commander-in-Chief of Land Troops in 1992-1994, noted that “the president must have sense of proportion. Why should he earn the authority, demonstrating health and bravery, showing that he is not afraid to fly and to swim on submarines? He has big rating. To all appearances, his environment sets incorrect tonality.”

Sergei Ivanenko, deputy chairman of the Yabloko party, stated: “The aim of such actions is to demonstrate that our President is still the same Tough Guy with healthy blood pressure whom people voted for and elected.”

Viktor Alksnis, Duma member (bloc Motherland), former inspector of Air Forces of the Baltic military region, commented on Putin’s flight very strictly: “I think that he has inferiority complex and he wants to play war, like a child. Though, being a head of the state, he must bother, whether these arms were in the army.”

Vladimir Kashin, Communist Party Central Committee, announced the shortest diagnosis: “This is not preparing for the war, this is window-dressing. The head of the state must occupy himself with defense, but he only performs for the public.”

Vedomosti published the results of an opinion poll done by Levada-Center. According to the poll, Putin is fight in the rating of “contemporary heroes.”

The president’s rating is 17% – more than Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu has. Only 5% of respondents voted for Shoigu. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is also on this list. In addition, there are strange coincidences – 2% of respondents voted for singer Alla Pugacheva and prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Alexei Volin, who previously was I charge of public relations in the Cabinet, told Vedomosti that the president accomplished three types of feats.

Firstly, it’s a psychological feat – “the majority of Russian citizens currently have a feeling of stability.” Economic – “consumption has increased substantially under Putin.” Political – “extermination of oligarchs.”

Historian and writer Roi Medvedev noted in an interview with Sobesednik that “Russia has a new national idea. This idea is our president because he managed to drag Russia out of the abyss to which it was driven by his predecessor.”

In fact, VTSIOM held an opinion poll, which showed how Russian citizens’ attitude to Yeltsin’s coming to power as a result of a coup in 1991 changed.

Novye Izvestia says that the people revised their attitude to the August coup – 47% of respondents said that this was one of the aspects of the struggle for power within government. Around 39% of respondents noted that they do not sympathize with the conflicting sides. At the same time, the share of respondents who would have supported the organizers of the coup has increased from 13% to 18%.

Only 13% of respondents would have supported Boris Yeltsin in that coup. In addition, only 15% of respondents said that they would have voted for Yeltsin.

Leonid Byzov, chief analyst at VTSIOM, told Novye Izvestia that “the people revise their views proceeding from the current situation. New life has not been created.”

In addition, the Levada Center reports (the results of the poll were published by Novye Izvestia) that Russian citizens are interested in the economy, not politics.

The sociologists state that struggles of different parties for power, infringement of political and civil rights, do not trouble ordinary citizens. At the same time, almost three-quarters of respondents (71%) are worried by constant growth of prices. The second problem in importance is “impoverishment of society” (53%). At that, 27% of respondents mention the gulf between rich and poor.

The growth of unemployment is in third place (39%). The economic crisis and setback in production are on the fourth place. And only the fifth line, with a significant gap, is occupied by not economic but social problems, such us growth of criminality and drugs addiction, inaccessibility of mane medical services, though only 29% are worried by them. The Chechen war is not even in the first ten of Russian fears. And the infringement of civil rights and liberties, for instance freedom of speech, does not disturb our citizens at all.

According to experts’ opinions, such results speak about low level of social development of the society. “When respondents place monetary problems on the first place, that proves the fact that our country is an economicly developing state,” analyst of VIKA Alexander Generalov told us. “The same results were shown in China, as well as in several countries of the former socialist camp.”

“The Last Chinese Warning” – this is the title of Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s article concerning the left opposition’s open letter to the president published in Pravda. The CPRF and 20 left-wing parties warn the national leadership about negative consequences of social reforms. The stated in the letter: “It’s obvious that the essence of the reforms boils down to releasing the government from the necessity of funding the social sector. The UN reports that two-thirds of Russian citizens live below the poverty line.”

The left asked the president: “Why did you increase ministers’ salaries to 100,000 rubles a month while rural workers receive less than 2,000 rubles a month? Do you know that in some regions doctors and teachers do not receive wages on time? The main question is why the Russian president who enjoys the imperial powers has driven the country with huge hard currency reserves and strong scientific and industrial potential to misery.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that this time there were no information causes, which would make the CPRF address government using such specific method.

Oleg Kulikov, a member of the CPRF, explained the position of the left wing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta: “We draw the people’s attention to problems and those who are responsible for these problems.” In addition, the Communists state that “Russia is not prepared for winter, and we want the people about it.”

In the meantime, the Communists’ criticism does not look strange against the background of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s article “Left Turn.”

Khodorokovsky states that only Gennady Zyuganov could answer the questions, which Russia faced, ten years ago.

Khodorkovsky said that 13 large businessmen signed a joint letter on the eve of the presidential election in 1996. Khodorkovsky said: “The idea of the letter was very simple. Boris Yeltsin had to remain president as the guarantor of stability and freedoms. At the same time, we wanted to make the leader of the CPRF the prime minister.” Lenta.ru reports that Khodorkovsky states that only the left turn can reconcile freedom and justice.

Meanwhile, Zyuganov did not become the prime minister, and the policy chosen by Russia has led to the authoritarian model.

Khodorkovsky noted that the people will not believe in a new bluff, which is why the destiny of Project Successor 2008 is not very simple.

Moskovskie Novosti states that “the leader of capitalistic construction has announced the failure of the capitalism built in Russia.”

The former oligarch states that “the left will win anyway.” They will win using democratic tools. “The left turn will take place.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky says that the CPRF and Motherland will come to power. As far as left Liberals are concerned (Yabloko, Ryzhkov, Khakamada and more) should decide if they will join the socio-democratic coalition.

Khodorkovsky asked Democrats to create an alliance with the left wing – “this will prevent the creation of another authoritarian regime in Russia.”

Government’s re action to Khodorkovsky’s article was very specific. Lenta.ru reports that the administration of the Matrosskaya Tishina detention cell immediately relocated Khodorkovsky to an ordinary cell. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers stated that this is government’s revenge for their client’s “Left Turn.”

In other words, persecutions in jail also contribute to Khodorkovsky’s political image.

Novoye Vremya reports that Boris Berezovsky also concluded that the Communists’ coming to power is inevitable. The magazine states that it should be acknowledged that the Communists – not Democrats – are the actual rival of government (the Communists take second place in the parliamentary and presidential elections).

However, the magazine notes that history shows that the Communists consider agreements and coalitions as a tactical maneuver aimed at reaching their goals. If the democrats unite with the Communists Russia will remember Putin as a liberal.

Anyway, the idea to extend the president’s term in office becomes more popular. Izvestia published an interview with Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak who thinks that “the president needs two terms seven years each. Four years is not enough.”

Prusak said that this may happen as a result of territorial changes: “For instance, this will happen if Russia unites with some country and create a union.”

Izvestia states that this is not the first such idea. The legislature of the Ivanovo region asked the Duma to prolong Putin’s term in office from four to seven years. President Nikolai Fedorov of Chuvashia announced this idea in 2004.

Member of the United Russia faction in the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Igor Rimmer delivered to the public the news that he had worked out an amendment to the Constitution about the third presidential term. The aim was to prolong the term in office of Putin. Let me remind you that last week Primorye parliament member Adam Imadaev also declared that there was a contradiction in the Russian Constitution. He called the two articles mutually exclusive – article 32 about every citizen’s right of electing and being elected, and article 81, pointing out that one and the same person cannot be the president of Russia for more than two terms.

Rimmer told Novye Izvestia that in Russian politics there is no alternative to the figure of Vladimir Putin.

President of the Contemporary Politics Institute Vladimir Lysenkov believes that the legislators may have various motives. “Still, it’s most likely that they’re motivated by simple brown-nosing. Provincial lickspittles don’t miss a chance to demonstrate their loyalty to the leadership,” Lysenkov told us.

At the same time Novye Izvestia’s experts do not deny the attempt of different forces to give the president’s environment an opportunity of demonstrating that the Head of State is still powerful and is not going to leave. InDem Foundation President Georgy Satarov stands up for this version, believing that this technique was successfully tested in the final stage of the Yeltsin era: “As there has been formed yet no normal bureaucratic system in Russia, in the officials’ circles the desire to find in advance a new leader and play up for him remains strong. The president’s weakness or his intention at this moment to fix in advance the resignation time may have a rather harmful impact on the overall effectiveness of the authorities.”

Satarov says Putin may happen to face a similar problem. “If so, and the definite floor initiatives of prolonging Putin’s powers have been inspired by the Kremlin, it provides some opportunities for maneuvering,” says Satarov. “On the one hand, in that case the presidential administration gets an excellent opportunity to strengthen the visibility of firm government; on the other hand, to present Putin as the most liberal and law-abiding politician. Because he will keep refusing suggestions of staying on for a third term.”

Nevertheless, it seems that “national hero” Vladimir Putin has not determined his position yet.