There were several events around this anniversary, including a conference at the Gorbachev Foundation, but Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to ignore it. He covered a great many topics at his extended press conference on January 31, found time to congratulate every Russian Olympic champion, issued special decrees to commemorate composer Dmitry Shostakovich and scholar Dmitry Likhachev, but did not say a word about that remarkable watershed, much the same way that he never mentions the coup of August 1991.
There is certainly more to this silence than just the political gut feeling to avoid issues that remain divisive and might damage his popularity in some marginal groups. The main guideline of the "de-Stalinization" campaign launched by the 20th Congress was against the super-concentration of power in one pair of hands -- and that is exactly what Putin has been doing since arriving at the Kremlin. A carefully orchestrated PR campaign has sought to prove that this style of governance suits Russia the best, so now 57% of Russians are sure that the country needs a determined leader who could rule with a "firm hand" (Newsru.com, February 25). This opinion ties logically with others: 47% of respondents have a generally positive view of Stalin and 21% perceive him as a "wise statesman" (Vedomosti, February 14).
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Speech and Silence
Pavel K. Baev, on the background to Vladimir Putin's silence about the 50th anniversary of Khrushchev's Secret Speech: