Cultural Revolutions

Is Putin Returning?

By the end of 2009, the word on the Moscow grapevine was being picked up by pundits and journalists: Putin’s “return” is in the works, and the premier’s reoccupation of the Kremlin may take place sooner rather than later.  The tandem of Vladimir Putin and his handpicked successor, Dmitri Medvedev, is said to be coming apart, unable to withstand the ambitions of its younger member to be a full-fledged president (and to be reelected in 2012), rather than continuing to play second banana to the inflated ego of Putin, jealous of his status and concerned about his future.

Premier Putin himself seemed to be signaling that he was not content to deal with technical economic problems—and that his return was very much on his mind.  At his carefully managed direct-line Q&A with the Russian population in early December, Putin told one caller “don’t hold your breath” waiting for him to depart the scene.  (The Q&A was an annual event during Putin’s presidency, so this episode was seen as a sign his presidential campaign was already under way.)  He reiterated that he was considering running again in 2012 and played the traditional Russian role of the “good czar,” pledging a grieving widow help in educating her children, reassuring factory workers about their jobs, and promising to “break the back” of terrorists, reprising his role as law-and-order strongman.

The...

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