Monday, July 10, 2017

In Yekaterinburg Today, Putin Betrays His Ignorance of Russia Beyond the Moscow Ring Road

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – During less than half a day’s visit to Yekaterinburg, Vladimir Putin displayed his almost complete ignorance of the officials he himself has appointed, the state of medicine and other public services there and the real reason a firm hasn’t paid back wages rather than the one he or those around him have chosen to suggest.

            These would be small matters, Aleksey Shaburov says, given that Putin can’t possibly know everything about everywhere. But his approach, directly intervening without attention to institutional arrangements, and compelling officials to treat his words as the highest truth are worrisome (

            That is because Putin’s mistakes highlight “the crisis in the system of administration” in Russia, a crisis, the Yekaterinburg commentator says, everyone “can see with his or her own eyes.” It was all too clear today, Shaburov continues, that Putin views Sverdlovsk oblast not as it is or as its people know it to be but in a unique and highly distorted way.

            To make his case, the commentator points to the following instances that appeared in the regional media:

  • First, Putin mispronounced the last name of the head of the oblast, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, even though he has served in that post for five years and before that was presidential plenipotentiary for the Urals Federal District. The Kremlin leader quite distinctly and quite incorrectly put the stress on the wrong syllable.

  • Second, Putin couldn’t remember the name of the person who heads the fourth largest city of the country and confused the titles and names of those in charge, obviously mixing up in his own mind the real city head – it has no mayor – and the head of the oblast, Yevgeny Royzman, an independent politician whom the Kremlin leader didn’t name.

  • Third, Putin told city officials to improve medical care for the population given complaints about it that the Kremlin has received from the population.  But there is one problem he doesn’t seem to be aware of: “There are almost no municipal medical institutions in Sverdlovsk anymore.” His own optimization program has closed all but one and transferred authority to the oblast.

  • And fourth, Putin told officials to press the managers of a local factory to pay the backwages of workers, again on the basis of complaints he has received. But he doesn’t appear to know that the firm, pressed by his own siloviki, has been driven into court-approved bankruptcy and thus has no funds to do so. 

            Putin likes to style himself “an effective manager” just like he has referred to Stalin. But in less than four hours in a single city, the Kremlin leader was able to prove conclusively that he is neither effective nor a manager but rather someone with enormous power who acts with little or no information and thus is not someone in whom anyone should be placing confidence.

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