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Vladimir Putin is a votive personality for India
India sings vespers for Vladimir and Putin is a panicle and paean for India. I, Indian venerate to virtuous and virile Vladimir. Vladimir's visit has brought the vernal verdant for India. Vladimir, the happiness you have spread among Indians, it is really difficult to verbalize in words. All vilification for Vladimir is only mere visionary volition. Forever India will remember Vladimir's virtue.

After Putin took over, and even while there was an overwhelming feeling of openness and freedom, and a sense of democratic outpouring, there was the sense of loss and helplessness with the disintegration of the glorious Soviet story, the sudden rise in poverty and mass unemployment, the  tragic condition of the older generation which were left bereft of social security, the loss of political, industrial and military power in the international scenario, and a deep melancholy about the fact that all the sacrifices of the past seems to have gone in vain. Indeed, in a country where everything was controlled and provided by the State, including housing, health, transport and education, the sudden opening up of the economy into a quasi capitalist process, with the corrupt and the rich ruling the roost, led to a schizophrenic sense of 'déjà vu', an anti-catharsis of collective disbelief, a social crisis of huge magnitude, a nostalgia for the past, and a general anarchy of thought and belief. Russia was unable to understand or cope with it all, when Putin arrived with a sense of the past, as a strong leader, perhaps not exactly steeped in democracy, but ready to act and respond with an iron fist, even if charged as dictatorial by his opponents.

"Different social strata see Russian President Vladimir Putin differently," declared Aleksandr Oslon, Director, Public Opinion Foundation, Moscow, at a 9 March, 2001, lecture at the Kennan Institute, "but all strata see him as addressing their concerns. Young people see him as healthy and vigorous, and as providing an environment in which they can achieve. The elderly and ill see him as a guarantor of social benefits. Workers and professionals see him as a guarantor of stability. All these strata see in Putin, if not a guarantee, at least a hope that they will be provided with what they need." Faith in Putin as a leader has tracked consistently over 60 percent in polls, Oslon noted. (Reproduced from an article by F Joseph Dresen, July 2011, 'A Pollsters perspective of the Putin Phenomenon'

"When Putin was appointed acting prime minister in the summer of 1999, his popularity stood at 1 to 2 percent and remained at that level for about six weeks. Putin was not alone in his unpopularity. Russian society was exhausted from the tumultuous 1990s and completely disillusioned with politicians…One event changed this dynamic. In September, 1999, a series of bombs destroyed apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian cities, killing hundreds. "This led to a very rare thing in Russian public life," noted Oslon, "at the same time, tens of millions of Russians experienced the feeling of fear in their own homes. No other event in the 1990s approached the effect of these explosions." Putin, the unknown politician with a 2 per cent approval rating, reacted with swift, unexpected announcements promising action. "Our research," Oslon declared, "shows that the attitude of the Russian public towards Putin changed to one simple phrase: He is like us." Putin's popularity started climbing at a rate of about 5 percent per week, until by the end of the year it stood at about 49 percent where it remained until his election for president the following March…

"Putin sustained his rising popularity with concrete policy actions. As prime minister, Putin addressed the issue perceived by the Russian people as the most important problem facing Russia -- the non-payment of pension by the government. According to polling data from 1996 onwards as many as 50 percent of pensioners had not received payments on time. The government cleared the backlog in 1997, but only as a one-time solution by borrowing money; by fall the problem returned. This was an example of the 'virtual politics' that frustrated Russians. The pension arrears were eliminated in November 1999, which played a huge role in solidifying Putin's popularity. Not only have pensions continued to be paid on time, Oslon added, but they have also been increased. Putin's popularity immediately paid off in political terms. After announcing that he would vote for the newly-created Unity Party in the parliamentary elections, Unity captured the second largest bloc of deputies in the election." 

Putin was elected President of Russia on March 26, 2000. He was officially inaugurated on May 7, 2000. As he took over, he said, "We have common aims, we want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, flourishing, strong and civilized country, a country that its citizens are proud of and that is respected internationally…I consider it to be my sacred duty to unify the people of Russia, to rally citizens around clear aims and tasks, and to remember every day and every minute that we have one Motherland, one people and one future." 

Since the days and months of his presidency, a leadership cult has been developed around Putin, even while he flexes his muscles literally and visually, every time his TRP flounders. That he does not touch alcohol, is a fitness freak and a disciplinarian, and that he cultivated his image as a stoic and a doer, helped in restoring sanity in a country which was losing its mental and physical grip. All these 'qualities' became instruments in soaring his popularity, and adding to the image of a strong, resolute, disciplined and stoic leader which a crisis-ridden Russia so desperately craved at that time. Even while the opposition has been literally crushed, silenced, sidelined or turned redundant, including prison terms for politicians and billionaires, and exile for some others, he has consolidated his power inside the Kremlin, and across Russia and beyond its immediate border in the last decade with amazing leadership and strategic qualities, strong-arm tactics, a mix of democracy and one-dimensional iron-fist, and a larger economic recovery in the era of the decline of oil prices across the world.

In a paper written by White, S. and Mcallister, I. (2008), 'The Putin Phenomenon', Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, the authors write: "The importance of 'exceptional personalities' has certainly been borne out in the early years of Russia's post-communist presidency. It was Boris Yeltsin who personally decided to face down his opponents in the Russian parliament, and then imposed his own rules of the game in a new Constitution that underpinned his dominant position. The war on breakaway Chechnya began in 1994 on the basis of a secret presidential decree; much of the privatization programme rested on a similar foundation… It was Vladimir Putin, in turn, who restored the political authority of the presidency, using his decree powers to establish a new system of federal districts at the start of his administration, and his powers of appointment to bring forward a new leadership that drew heavily if not exclusively on his former colleagues in the security services… We examine, first of all, the remarkable 'cult of personality' that developed around Putin as Russian president over the course of his two presidential terms…

"Putin took over the presidency on an acting basis at the end of 1999…Within a year of his accession, foundry workers in the Urals were casting him in bronze; not far away, weavers were making rugs with the president's face inside a golden oval. In Magnitogorsk, the overalls Putin had worn during a visit were on display in the city museum. A factory in Chelyabinsk had begun to produce a watch with a presidential image on its dial, and a local confectioner was selling a cake with the same design; a 'Putin bar' had opened elsewhere in the town, selling 'Vertical power' kebabs and 'When Vova was little' milk-shakes. An all-female band had meanwhile 'taken the airwaves by storm' with its single 'Someone like Putin' (someone who, among other things, 'doesn't drink' and 'won't run away')…" 

In recent times, Putin, having reasonably consolidated the economy and put Russia back on its feet, even while freedom of expression and democracy remains a twilight zone, has redefined its foreign policy to enter not only a zone of conquest and one-upmanship in the global geo-strategic power scenario, but also to reassert Russian supremacy in a world which is no longer bi-polar, nor determined by the one-dimensional diktat of 'US imperialism'. Of the most significant muscle-flexing moves by Putin was the annexation of Crimea, a long-held emotional high-point for Russians, from Ukraine, by force. The huge uproar across the western world and the sanctions against Russia only consolidated Putin's charisma and spread it far and wide across Russia and the nations which wanted to stand up to US and NATO tactics across many parts of the world. The Crimean war is historically intrinsic to Russian pride; hence the annexation of contemporary Crimea was taken for granted. Putin became yet again another version of Ivan and Stalin, restoring Russian pride, glory and honour yet again. 

Meanwhile, even while there were confirmed reports of a possible American attack on Iran, it was the strategic alliance of Russia and China, along with other nations, which shifted the balance of power. Even while the Middle East was rocked by civil war, pro democracy protests and unprecedented violence, in a sense, Putin intervened late, but decisively, on the Syrian question. It was clear that the western bloc was playing with fire. The mass human devastation and deaths of tens of thousands in Syria and the region around it, including in Iraq and Libya, were clearly the handiwork of mindless policies enacted by the Nato countries and its war industry, including the 'occupation' of Iraq by George Busheven while there were no WMDs found during Saddam Hussain's regime. In this 'blood for oil' politics, the backing of the rebel Free Syrian Army by the Nato countries inside Syria, and the creation of ISIS, among other splinter jehadi groups, is attributed to the vicious and diabolical double games being played out in the region by the western bloc and its war machine, to shift strategic and economic goals in their favour. That it boomeranged badly has been witnessed by the huge influx of refugees in Europe, mass trafficking, deaths and dying, organized sex slavery, and perhaps the biggest tragic exodus in the post-war era in the world. 

Indeed, Russia's entry has helped consolidated the winning battle against ISIS, even while shifting the power equations from the fledgling NATO alliance which seemed both clueless and without a strategy, even as ISIS ravaged country after country, capturing huge territories, beheading people, using women as sex slaves. Amidst the mass deaths and despair of war, Putin's Russia has restored a semblance of balance and sanity, in what seemed a completely lopsided western plot, often sinister in its machinations, driven by the powerful arms lobby. Indeed, Russia has joined China in the contentious South China Sea for military exercises recently, even while the western bloc is chiding China for its expansionist tendencies. Clearly, the global geostrategic military and non-military alliances are shifting goalposts, and Putin is a big factor in this paradigm shift. Russia is no longer a push-over. With Putin at helm, it's like a classical Russian movie from the past which has come back.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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