Monday, February 4, 2019

Russians have Turned on Putin Because They Never Identified with Him to the Degree People Thought, Polyakov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – The speed with which Russians have changed their views on Vladimir Putin shows that they were never as attached to him as many had thought and therefore could turn on him when they became unhappy with the consequences his policies have had for their lives, Mikhail Polyakov says.

            Had they been as attached to Putin’s person as many believed, the Russian people might have become more negative about him when things went wrong but they would not have done so so quickly and so radically as has been the case in the last six months, the Moscow commentator says (

            Russians related to him as a distant television personality rather than as someone intimately involved with their lives, Polyakov continues; and so, just as people are more inclined to turn on a time concerning something they don’t feel they know, Russians have proved more willing to turn on Putin.

            They related to him as a distant television personality rather than as someone intimately involved with their lives, the commentator says; and consequently, when they became upset by his actions, they changed their expressed positions about him far more quickly and dramatically than they would with someone they knew more directly.

            Many analysts, he points out, want to reduce the explanation of this to the pension reform; but while that might explain the trend away from Putin, it does not explain the speed at which it has happened. “Whom are we capable of falling out of love or coming to hate instantly? Those whom we do not know.”

            Russians of course know far more about Putin’s family, ties, friends, habits and tastes than they did about Stalin’s, “but all this is external and does not have any relationship to what is essential and genuinely important in a ruler for the residents of the country he rules.”  They may be interesting but they seldom are the basis for the development of close ties.

            Unlike Stalin, Polyakov says, “Putin is not an inspiration for our labor achievements, not a military leader and not a wise leader who is guiding the country toward flourishing but rather a television personality like Kirkorov or Baskov.”  He is thus someone on television rather than someone in one’s own life.

            That this is the case, the commentator says, is Putin’s own doing. Unlike Soviet leaders who involved people in the life of society in various ways, “from the very beginning, Putin preferred to keep society away from all main decisions. You can sit quietly and we will direct and decide everything that will be good for you” was his message.

            As long as things were going well, Putin could count on the nominal support of the population. Once things started going badly, he lacked the reserve of affection and loyalty that other leaders have had.  “Television emotions,” unlike real ones, are lightweight and ephemeral: they can change overnight from love to hate.

            Putin for almost 18 years has operated as a television personality rather than a politician. That has been a source of his power. But now it is clear, Polyakov says, it may be the basis for his loss of power as people turn away from someone who isn’t delivering on his promises and for whom they feel no real affection or loyalty.

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