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Ave, Putin, democracy te salutant Ave, Putin, democracy te salutant
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-03-05 09:26:33
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Should we call it, the Putin phenomenon? He is here but he’s not here, he is everywhere! If we lived during the times of the Roman Empire Putin would have adopted Dmitry Medvedev and the new emperor would be called Dmitry Medvedev Putin, just like it happened with Octavius Caesar and Tiberius Cesar! And the motto for the next decade should be: “Ave, Putin, democracy te salutant!”

Amazingly for any country that likes to be called a democracy, Mr. Medvedev won 70.23% of the Russian votes and he is the new president of Russia, Hail Caesar! His opponent Mr. Kasparov will be soon thrown to the lions! And that’s enough with the metaphors; the question is what makes 70.23% of these people, people who have gone through hell for democracy, to vote wittingly for one man and his puppets. Firstly, I think it has to do with the dream for prosperity and secondly because of mild nationalism and pride.

Living in the west and our western democracies sometimes doesn’t make it easy to understand how Russians might think at the moment. Of course they went through bad times, a lot of bad times with the Communist Party but, at the same time, they lived the illusion of equality and remember Russia's 145 million citizens were not all Solzhenitsyn, the ones who opposed the party were the minority - what the majority wanted was food on the table, health and education for the kids and proud to be Russian. Freedom of speech was a theory and doesn’t put food on the table and unfortunately the Russians saw it in practise in the worst possible way.

Boris Yeltsin, the man who in theory established democracy in Russia didn’t bring food to the table, he brought the mafia to the table and during his time Russia met with the worst nightmare of capitalism, financial chaos! The majority poor reached the bottom while the few rich became worldwide billionaires and in the middle were the Russian mafia. Crime became every day life controlling even the smallest aspects of life, from politicians to the local milkman. Corruption became the status of the Russian federation and nobody knew how to react - after all this is what they wanted, wasn’t it? Democracy and freedom of speech! And then national pride hit bottom. From the other superpower Russia had become the playground of all the American and European private companies. The American Pentagon has the right to interfere and have opinion over the Russian army and taxes, more and more taxes. Capitalism brought taxes to Russia.

One after the other the members of the former USSR and later federation declare their independence harming more and more the image of the former power. Countries out of nowhere, depending upon Moscow, in every single sense, are becoming independent not only discarding Mother Russia but undermining her as well. Moscow has to fight for what she has built for these former members of the same federation. Half of the nuclear arsenal moves, from one day to the next, into the hands of an independent country who refuses to talk with Moscow and thinking of joining NATO. Ordinary people cannot live without food on the table, but they can survive with little food on the table but when you take from them the dream, their national and historic pride it is like you take their dignity and that’s much worse.

And here comes Putin. Putin did exactly what Mikhail Gorbachev was planning to do and failed for many reasons, including his weakness into taking the responsibility of the necessary decisions. Turn to basics, start from the beginning. This is where Gorbachev failed, this is where Yeltsin failed. The Russian person needed the change but not in fifty years as Gorbachev was suggesting and definitely not now as Yeltsin tried to force. Russia needed to return to basics and start building democracy from there. And this is where Vladimir Putin came; quietly, something that Russian people appreciate, recreated the big power Russia once was, slowly and very carefully. Russia is heard again, there is a plan in international politics, the Americans heard a couple of no's, strong enough not to harm foreign policy but strong enough to satisfy internal politics.

But the best thing Putin did was to bring food on the table. A 20% rise in the salaries last year. When was the last time you heard anything like that, when was the last time you heard 10%, even 5%? Probably the older generation have heard things like that. Of course, this 20% is a result of inflation but who pays this inflation, isn’t it the lower layers of the society everywhere? Most likely Russian salaries are light-years away from western salaries and 20% to too little - it doesn’t say much to us but it says a lot to the one who gets this money. The Russian people saw inflation driving the prices to sky-high levels and in the end not to be able to afford the basics. With this 20% they will not be able to buy everything, most likely a little more that they could before but they have hope again and they can dream. Putin did one more thing for the Russian people; he brought back the trust to the political system and its leaders something we losing gradually in the west.

Vladimir Putin is definitely not my taste of leader and his methods are often in the limits of a dictator, the new president of Russia Mr. Medvedev is the best proof of his manipulative attitude towards democracy and this is a scary example but from the other side 70.23% of the Russian people voted for him and this 70.23 was aware for his motives and actions, these people could see after a lost generation hope and they can dream again. Putin gave them back their dignity and that what he exchanges now.

    
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Emanuel Paparella2008-03-05 15:07:47
Food for thought. Indeed, Thanos, to stay with Roman history and today’s cover picture, as you know, the Romans had a political mechanism which was put into effect in times of severe crisis. They would appoint a temporary dictator or magistrate nominated by a consul, recommended by the senate and confirmed by the Comitia Curiata (the popular assembly).

It worked well for a while. Because the temporary nature of the appointment was respected, republicanism and democracy, such as they were, were preserved. The problems began when people like Caesar and Augustus put forward the idea of dictatorship for life. We know the sad conclusion of that idea.

I am afraid that Mr. Putin has read the chapter on Caesar’s idea of life dictatorship but has abysmally failed to assimilate the idea of temporary dictatorship for emergency situations, or if he has read that chapter it seems that it was not to his liking. We will see what happens next. Since those who don’t know their history are condemned to repeat it, I doubt it will be very different from what happened to the Romans once they forgot republican virtues and democratic ideals.


Clint2008-03-05 19:46:40
He's a puppet and only a temporary one at that. Putin will be back in 5 years.


Eva2008-03-06 00:49:24
Now - of all the countries in the world: does anybody have any ideas or thoughts about what would be the best for Russia's future?
I never read any opion article, or other, on who/what should rule Russia. All the articles I read about Russia are about what it shouldn't be like.
So who on earth would be the best leader or Russia???
I certainly don't know, because I don't have enough knowledge to speculate in these things.
But I would be very interested in hearing about it from informed sources.
Anybody out there?


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