Ordinary Russians who watch these performances expect that, and Putin provides them with that reassurance. Believers go to Church and Russians watch Putin to hear from their “spiritual leader” not something new but rather to be strengthened in their faith reassured that neither its object nor their beliefs need to change.
To think it could be otherwise, he continues, is to be in the position of the foolish atheist who, when attending a religious service, expects the priest to announce that God does not exist and that everything the priests have said in the past is wrong. That doesn’t happen in church or with Putin.
“Putin in fact is not as public a man as someone in his position ought to be,” Krasheninnikov says. Most leaders meet with the media and interact with their supporters and opponents all the time. But Putin prefers to “meet with the press rarely” albeit for a long time in each case – this time around for four hours – and thus provide his propagandists with quotations.
What Putin’s appearances do -- indeed, it is their most important task -- is to shift the accent and focus from one issue to another. In earlier years, Crimea was central to Russian politics; now, Putin has downgraded that region to a status like all others, lest Russians begin to ask whether its annexation is worth the price they are paying.
Otherwise, Putin in these performances is upbeat about the main directions of Russian policy even if he is critical about some executors. This time around, Krasheninnikov says, Putin suggested that sanctions have not affected the economy and that any shortcomings are the work of Russophobia and the world financial crisis.
It could not be otherwise in Putin’s mythology. After all, “Oceana has always fought with East Asia?” What could one add to that?”
This all works to Putin’s advantage because it keeps Russians from focusing on specific problems, their costs and who is responsible for them. And it reflects Putin’s decision to avoid any real discussion with his opponents, a position he can take because he feels “completely confident” that he is in control of the situation.
Putin’s press conferences, the Yekaterinburg commentator says, “a modernized version of the plenums of the CPSU Central Committee. Twice a year Putin personally and fully speaks about everything he considers necessary.” For those who do not agree with him, there is no sense in watching and analyzing” just as there wasn’t in Soviet times.
In the case of Putin’s seances just like the CPSU Central Committee plenums, Krasheninnikov concludes, “the meaning of the activity is that it occurs again and again and that something really new happens only when this event does not occur with its current organizers for some reason or another.”