Russia’s Tough Guise

torso081909.jpgDuring the first Vladimir Putin all-nude-revue extravaganza, we dutifully posted plenty of the photos with acerbic commentary.  The second time around, not so much.  Been there, done that.  I trust that the readers of this blog were able to stumble across one of the many articles containing the new series of photos, along with stories and rumors about Putin’s growing fan base among a new community.

What on earth must be going through his head when he makes these photo op decisions, I shudder to think…  Nevertheless, there are some who see the latest topless photo series as a concrete precursor to another presidential run from Putin, such as this piece published in the Canadian magazine Maclean’s by Michael Petrou.  Can’t we just go back to the old days, when we would predict Russia’s political fortunes based on receding hairlines and mustaches instead of naked torsos?

The appearance of official photos of the fit and muscular Russian leader strutting around topless in some wilderness locale has become an annual summer event–broken up for variety last year by footage of Putin stalking a Siberian tiger and allegedly saving a television crew from being mauled by shooting the beast with a tranquilizer dart.

In a country where most men don’t live past the age of 60, and where that grim statistic can be explained in large part by rampant alcoholism, Putin’s apparent strength, sobriety, and stability strike a popular chord with Russians. (…)

“I think it will partly be determined by how well the duopoly thatyou see now works,” says Braun. “There is a tradition going back toSoviet days where you did not need to have the most visible office, orwhat constitutionally appeared to be the most powerful office, to havethe greatest power. So if he finds that he can do all he wants, and theroutine work is done by Medvedev, then he might be satisfied with thisarrangement.”

For Putin, there are advantages to running a country without beingits official head of state. According to a Kremlin insider who spoke toClifford Gaddy, Putin doesn’t like to drink tea with foreigndignitaries. Now that’s Medvedev’s job.

But what seems clear is that Putin doesn’t intend to let go of thereins. He transformed Russia after the shambling, chaotic, butcomparatively democratic presidency of Boris Yeltsin. It’s an ongoingprocess, and he doesn’t want to see it stalled on another man’s watch.