So it’s a done deal – Vladimir Putin will be president of Russia for the next six years. The reactions on RuNet are predictable in substance and baffling in how personal, almost intimate, they are: despite first-hand accounts of falsifications pouring in from election observers, most agree that even though the numbers have been tweaked, Putin did get the majority of the vote. His camp celebrates a teary-eyed victory.
Journalists and political commentators face the grim prospect of covering Putin and his government for the foreseeable future. Opposition protesters are hauled to police stations from all over Moscow by the hundreds. “Internet hamsters” wallow in having achieved zilch since the protests started in December: “the gray mass called ‘Russians’ doesn’t deserve any better,” they say in fits of temper. The political spring is over having barely begun. Disheartened voices in the blogosphere deliver an obituary for Russian democracy and the struggle for fair elections. “The worst-case scenario is coming true” is the most frequently cited phrase on Facebook, followed by real-time accounts of post-electoral mayhem. Enter “the tightening of the screws.”
“Everything is the same on the streets, snow is falling, sad people drag themselves about, and for me this country is dead. I turn on the TV, see the 65 percent, and cry, because I realize that the lie wasn’t even that big. Because I spent the day in the company of 13 hostile, mean Electoral Committee members, and they are ‘the people.’ Our nuthouse does really vote for Putin, and our people do really deserve their government,” wrote user Olga Feigina, who volunteered to monitor the elections, on Facebook. “I came to Bolotnaya Square, to Prospekt Sakharova, to Yakimanka, to the polling station. I am not coming again.” “We are the insulted and the humiliated. I have no questions. I have knowledge, and nobody can take it away from me. They will always be with me now – knowledge and shame,” wrote actor Maksim Vitorgan, who also monitored the elections, on OpenSpace.ru. “I can only state the obvious,” wrote opposition leader and anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny in his LiveJournal blog. “From this day on, Russia is without a legitimate, lawful government. The crooks who’ve occupied the Kremlin admit it themselves, that’s why they are carrying out a real military operation in Moscow. The city hasn’t seen this many soldiers since 1993.”
The country now seems irreconcilably divided between those who voted for Putin, those who were forced to vote for Putin, and those who voted against Putin. Compared to the number of the former two, the latter seems minuscule: the Internet has not yet proved to be a game changer in Russian politics. But from the cacophony of lamentation, optimistic voices can be culled too. “So you’re disheartened? As if you expected something else. No, I am not very jolly myself when I get a stinky f**k stuck in my face. That all makes sense. But the ‘woeful labor’ wasn’t in vain, I know that for sure. Everything is just beginning. I wish us all resoluteness. Consistency. Patience. Let’s build up some contempt, some bile, if you will. We don’t exist for them? Ok. They don’t exist for us. Freedom is inside all of us, and nobody can take that away. Everything is fine, guys, don’t hang your heads. I tell that to myself as well,” wrote writer Lev Rubinstein in The New Times. “Only a very naive person could think that the opposition protests would result in a political coup or a drastic change in government in two to three months. The opposition only held four (!) massive rallies. These four rallies buried the pro-Putin consensus in society and made a ‘lame duck’ out of Putin no matter what numbers the simpleton Churov awards him,” wrote political analyst Kirill Rogov in Novaya Gazeta.
I’ve never really been the hands-down optimistic type, but I do refuse to believe that this is the end of democratic changes in Russia. I don’t think the “fair elections” movement, helped along by the spread of the Internet in the country (with some 70 million users and counting), is going to simply back down and disappear altogether even if (when) the screws get tightened. Sure, many will lay down their arms if the standoff gets violent: it’s one thing to make provocative statements online and another to confront an OMON officer. Sure, all kinds of liberal media outlets, including Echo or Moscow, Dozhd TV, Snob, the New Times, Novaya Gazeta and OpenSpace.ru can ostensibly be shut down or forced out of business. Even LiveJournal and Facebook can be banned in the country, heck, Internet access can be blocked off completely if need be. But the changes that have started taking place in some parts of the Russian society (and we can argue for days about how substantial this part is) can’t be banned, blocked or reigned in. The protesters weren’t around ten, five, even one year ago. And yes, they can be silenced, but at a price Russia simply can’t afford to pay and with a weapon the current regime doesn’t have. It’s a Herculean task to reverse the maturing process of a society: even though it was achieved in 1917, ultimately the number of those who want to return to totalitarianism in the form the country knew it for 70 years is even smaller.
No matter how efficiently the state machine churns out propaganda in support of the stagnating regime, it will never match the creativity and inspiration in the hearts of those looking to change things for the better – and they will, in turn, put out a version of their own. And then there is that unassailable sense of humor that helps us get through the hard times: the so-called emerging “creative class” is keeping it alive and well. Take the long-running joke: “Do you mind if Putin becomes president again? [ ] Yes, I don’t mind. [ ] No, I don’t mind.” Or this: “Democracy trial period had expired. Please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy for the full version.”
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- firstname.lastname@example.orgI understand Anna's grief with Putin re-elected17:46, 06/03/2012The younger generation was hoping for change in a younger more charismatic president.
For several years Dmitry Medvedev was allowed to be that change.
Now it is back to the old guard of Vladimir Putin.
I have always thought of Vladimir Putin as the enforcer. The supreme policeman of Russia. This may or may not be an accurate description of him but it is my image of him.
And to be honest this may not be such a bad guy to have in control during the next 6 years leading up to 2018.
The next 6 years are going to be very eventful as the United States runs out of its domestic oil reserves by 2019.
This is one of the reasons that the United States refuses to sign legally binding international documents stating that it will NOT point the European Missile Shield at Russian military targets.
Russia needs a very strong experienced leader at the helm who has very strong connections politically and with the Russian defence industry.
He needs to know how Russia works. He needs the experience of both domestic and international politics. Vladimir Putin is that man.
I firmly believe that the Russian people have selected the best candidate for the job.
The next six years are not going to be easy for Putin. And they are not going to be easy for Russia.
While Vladimir Putin takes on the Presidential position, it is my hope that Dmitry Medvedev will take on the role of Russian Prime Minister.
Dmitry Medvedev's skill as a Russian leader will continue to grow as Vladimir Putin takes control to set up a strong defence around Russia.
The years 2015 - 2020 will be critical for Russian National Defence. Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev know this.
The years 2020 - 2030 will be years of international conflict as the United States and Europe fight for the last of the world's last oil reserves.
By 2030 the oil age we know today will be effectively over. The goal is for Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev is to get Russia through this period of dramatic change as unscathed as possible.
Vladimir Putin is the right leader at the right time to be Russia's President. He has the skill set and he has the experience.
Mean while in the wings Dmitry Medvedev is continuing to learn and develop his political skills to continue on as Russia's next president.
- BalzerCitizens and Subjects14:57, 11/03/2012This well-intended column reflects centuries of subordination to an all-powerful ruler and his administration. The President, and he alone, is responsible for everything, so his subjects protest against him – and him alone. The tsar is Russia – right? Right.
Putin has scored many virtually impossible achievements, like restoring Russian’s political and economic independence, or the creation of an environment in which a middle class could arise. Not everybody with “interests” in Russia likes him for that – “Who lost Russia?” was a common headline after he came to power.
Critics from Europe and the USA would be more credible if these places weren’t nearly bankrupt (due to populism!) – while Russia and China are not. The various independent polls prove that the results of the elections cannot be far from reality, in spite of unforgiveable irregularities. Neither the communists nor the nationalists are convincing democrats – nor Russian “liberals”, under whose flags billions of dollars have been “privatized”, wasted, and expatriated. Some just look like lousy losers to me, w83ombith not respect for majorities at all.
You expect what no Tsar can deliver. Reforming an inefficient and partially corrupt administration is beyond the powers of any government, unless a population of free citizens supports its measures, e.g. reporting every case of bribery or abuse, checking the use of funds, etc. The government secured many civil rights and remedies, but hardly anybody uses them in Russia! Instead, good subjects and bad citizens needlessly take any nonsense whatsoever. Putin can’t be everywhere.
People want European standards. Why not? But no President can achieve it as long as the work efficiency of the very same people is only a fraction of the European norm.
General complains without constructive and concrete suggestions fit subjects, not citizens.
Russia’s progress, perhaps survival, will depend on the critical support of true Citizens for the elected President.
- marknesopDo You Know What you're Asking For?01:44, 14/03/2012Please, substantiate for me why you think any of the other electoral choices would give you back the dignity and self-respect that are now hostage to Putin for another 6 horrible years. If Prokhorov had been successful, would he have made you feel dignified and respected? Zyuganov? If PARNAS had been "allowed" to stand for parliamentary election and had won a large slate of seats, and on that springboard Boris Nemtsov had run for president and won, would you now feel validated and flush with dignity? What, exactly, are you expecting to achieve by simply changing the leadership? It's not magic.
Were you hoping for western-style government, where every 4 years the candidates ramp up their efforts to convince you you should "throw the bums out", and then proceed to establish themselves as the new bums? Politicians are the same the world over - the week before the election, they would come to your house every evening and wash your dishes in exchange for your vote; the week after the election, they forget who you are as they concentrate on keeping their position for as long as the law allows. If you'll forgive me, suggesting that your dignity and self-respect have been carelessly sacrificed because you did not get your own way seems a little childish. The guy who got the most votes won. He used whatever means at his disposal to convince the electorate he was the right choice. Enough people believed him to put him easily over the top. That's the way it works in a democracy.
Before you agitate for things to be more like the west, with loads of choice and a new government every 4 years, take a look at their voter turnout figures.
- DjIdiot15:24, 14/03/2012I didnt know there are still such idiots like you Ana,who still believe in us democracy.Perhaps you schould thank god for sending you Putin,and who saved your country from Yugoslavian scenario collapse.
- arsanlupinFrom the sublime to the ridiculous23:20, 16/03/2012Ana wrote a very poignant and eloquent lament for the future of self-determination for the people of the Russian Federation. Her piece seems well thought out – freely admitting that a large number of people really did vote for Putin. Her disappointment is echoed by many Russians both in-country and abroad. If she is guilty of a little idealism, so be it – it is after all the place of youth in a society to provide the rest of us with some dreams of a better future. What’s wrong with hoping for a better future?
It is the responses that would dishearten almost anyone; an insulting boor, a political cynic, a delusional single-topic fanatic masquerading as a Canadian, and a sole pragmatist who seems to understand the desires of Ana’s generation, as well as the real reasons why it will be so difficult to attain. “The government secured many civil rights and remedies, but hardly anybody uses them in Russia! Instead, good subjects and bad citizens needlessly take any nonsense whatsoever.” Well said …
The criticism of Western politics certainly has some validity, and no one seems to be able to agree on a solution to the problems – both real and imagined. That doesn’t invalidate the desire for a truly representative government. What’s wrong with self-determination of so highly-educated a people as the Russians? There must be something about it that has lasting appeal – or else immigration wouldn’t be such a perennial issue for them. According to the US Census Bureau, 3.13 million US residents classify themselves as Russian-American, and 851,000 list Russian as the primary language at home. When was the last time Russia had an issue with mass immigration … from The West? The popularity of the joke about “Democracy trial period had expired. Please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy for the full version.” says it all – as does the quick anger to it. Honesty – especially in humor – can be painful to those reluctant to face it.
Russia will be well-served by the new breed of politicians entering at the municipal and provincial levels. It will be they who clean out the corruption and cronyism from the provinces, and who will eventually turn their attention to the central government. With a solid foundation of experience at the lower levels, and an encouraged electorate to vote them in, the last of the Soviet apparatchiks and hangers-on will be swept into the dustbin of history they should already have been dumped in.
This also means that Russia needs to teach a little optimism to the cynics who think nothing better is possible, and the offensive little name-callers who can’t say anything constructive. The obsessives who invent some bizarre scenario to justify their delusions, ignore overwhelming evidence of their scenario’s fallacy, and continue to present that delusion for the purpose of fear-mongering – especially in off-topic discussions – merely need to have their medication reviewed.
Bi-weekly column by Fyodor Lukyanov
Weekly column by Konstantin von Eggert
If anyone had any doubts about how serious Russian President Vladimir Putin is about the idea of a Eurasian Union, they should banish them now. After his annual address to the Federal Assembly his determination to do everything possible to make the union a tangible reality became quite clear.
Bi-weekly column by Fyodor Lukyanov
Weekly column by Konstantin von Eggert
So read some signs held up a few hundred demonstrators in front of the recently rebuilt Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius braving the snow in a last-ditch effort to persuade Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to agree to an association agreement with the EU.