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Why We Will Miss Surkov

Charles Clover of the Financial Times has a very good piece on the resignation of Vladislav Surkov from the Kremlin. Despite being the creator of “sovereign democracy,” there are a number of reasons why we will miss his lighter touch. Things are going to get much, much rougher in Russia from here going forward.

Mr Surkov had an “ironic” attitude towards his own political creations, Mr Guelman says. He wrote rock lyrics, hung a picture of Che Guevara on his wall and even penned a novel under a pseudonym about a cynical ghost writer who sells his literary creations to the highest bidder – an awkwardly self referential celebration of political venality.

But the playful, postmodern attitude of the Surkov days has been replaced by a more ideological and confrontational approach under Mr Volodin, with an accent on nationalism and anti-westernism.

Television news, criticised for bias and propaganda under Mr Surkov, has become “immeasurably worse”, according to Mr Nossik. The news constantly warns of foreign threats to Russia’s statehood, while programmes have portrayed US parents as serial child abusers following a December ban on US adoptions.

“The message we get from TV today is basically that Americans drink the blood of Russian babies,” says Pavel Zarifullin, director of the Lev Gumilev Center, a Moscow think-tank.

Experts point out that while Mr Volodin is a very different grey cardinal, he is presiding over a very different Russia than that of the Surkov era.

Mr Surkov oversaw politics during a decade in which oil prices quadrupled, average real incomes tripled and Mr Putin was still seen as a fresh face. Today, however, the economy is sputtering, incomes have stalled and Russians are tired of Mr Putin, whose popularity has slipped back to levels last seen in 2004.