author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
Putin’s image, especially in Russia, is intense. Almost Stalin-esque.
Ah, Vladimir Putin: the most polarizing figure in the world of 2000s and 2010s. A person whose very name being mentioned in public can give an almost Voldemort-like response, especially in eastern European countries that aren’t Russia.
Recently the President of the Russian Federation won the 2018 Russian elections, securing his fourth presidential victory, and prolonging his position until 2024. If you are thinking, “Wow! Putin has been president so long. Isn’t there a term limit in Russia?” In fact, yes, there is, even if you don’t believe it. In the Russian constitution, an active president is not allowed to have more than two consecutive terms. Yes, Putin has been president since 2000, but he took a four-year hiatus and served as the prime minister so that his buddy and all around cool-but-not-as-intimidating Dmitry Medvedev could serve a term in between.
Putin has become an enigma, a person who, in the eyes of many passionate supporters, is larger than life and the ultimate roadblock of the west. The contradictor to the ideas of western civilization, the annoying rock in the shoes of Angela Merkel, Theresa May or Justin Trudeau. His fanatics put him so high up on a pedestal that he blocks out the sun. Putin’s image, especially in Russia, is intense.
There are valid reasons as to why people, specifically Putin’s opposition, have made the comparison, but frankly, Putin will never be Stalin, even if he tried his damndest to be so. The main difference is that Stalin did not have opposition. He never did because the KGB removed those that worked from ever existing. No matter how hard Putin may try something similar, the presence of the Internet just doesn’t allow for people to be removed from history like that anymore. But the critical part is that he has tried before.
Which is why Putin is a fascinating figure in modern history, if not completely and utterly terrifying. Russia has historically always been the place of strong man/woman (shout out to Empress Catherine in leading the Russian Empire through a golden age) politics and leadership. The Russian people genuinely hate the idea of a weak or unimposing leader. For example, look at how they disposed of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Because of Khrushchev’s tactics, his opponents backed him into a corner until he finally conceded power. His final words about the matter were, “Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn’t suit us anymore and suggesting he retire?”
I share similar thoughts about Putin. Could anyone with a brain in their head go up to Putin, look him straight in the eye and tell him, “You are too old to lead. You must retire.” He is a formal KGB agent and the formal leader of the Russian Federal Security Service. Whether the world likes it or not, that is the type of leader that the Russian people have always wanted and always preferred, whether they accept it or not.
However, most do, and frankly, that is all that Vladimir will ever care about, because why would he care about those in other countries? All of his main business partners are in the Russian Federation, the only people that he looks after are the ones in his country and the ones that support him, and anyone who opposes him can easily be taken care of. There is never any incentive to care about what the world says about him.
As of right now, Putin has a reputation of saving Russia from some of the most turmoil time in its history. During the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, the country was in shambles, mainly due to the increase of domestic terrorism and gang violence. Putin comes in, seen to have cleaned up the state, and is credited with making the country a superpower again. As long as he opposes the NATO countries, Putin will be popular in Russia.
As for what this means, it is that everything we are used to seeing come out of Russia will continue for the next six years. His supporters will be just as vocal as ever, and his enemies will continue to drop dead like flies. He will continue to attempt to lead Russia to become the global superpower of the world and will continue to try to delegitimize the West.
That’s his job, that’s what he was elected to do: the hacked elections, the ever-imposing persona, the Stalin-esque fear that he possesses over people, which is what people want out of him. Putin is expected to be the villain, to be the most hated person in the West.
People want Vladimir Putin to be the harsh, villainous, strong-arming leader of the other world, the world that doesn’t agree with Western civilization. Russia is different; Russia is the opposite of the West. And Putin knows that, which is why he is still in power.
Putin isn’t going away, and he doesn’t care that you hate that fact.