“Putin’s historic achievement”

Michael Idov’s ” The Hibertation” in the New Republic is a must read.

The New Republic

The Hibernation by
Meet Dmitri Medvedev, a docile president for a docile Russia.
Post Date Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Minutes after the polls closed on March 2 in the westernmost Russian city of Kaliningrad–certifying a blowout victory by presidential candidate Dmitri Anatolyevich Medvedev, handpicked heir to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin– the men of the hour made an appearance at a massive concert underway in Red Square. As broadcast by NTV, a television channel owned by Gazprom (where Medvedev chairs the board of directors), the scene looked like something out of Mission: Impossible. A low-placed camera tracked alongside Putin and Medvedev, dressed Kremlin Casual in a boxy leather jacket (Dima) and a parka (Volodya), as they strode, to a rock beat, across the convex cobblestone expanse of the square. The shot’s director, perhaps taking another cue from Tom Cruise movies, had removed background extras or anything else the eye could use to calibrate the heroes’ heights: Medvedev is 5’4″ to Putin’s 5’7″. The action duo climbed onto the stage, and Medvedev–a professed headbanger who had had a box reserved at the Led Zeppelin reunion show in London on the day Putin named him his successor–got to live out a rock ‘n’ roll moment. He grabbed the mic and yelled “Privet, Rossiya! Privet, Moskva!” (the Russian equivalent of “Hello, Cleveland”). The square went wild. His fervor subsiding, the president-elect segued into an anodyne victory speech about the need to “fortify stability” and “improve quality of life.” The crowd began chanting “Con-grats! Con-grats!”–an unusually impersonal choice of a mantra. Medvedev passed the microphone to his benefactor, and the chant immediately changed. “Pu-tin! Pu-tin! PU-TIN!!!” Medvedev politely smiled.

This episode is likely to repeat, in one form or another, throughout the first months and even years of Medvedev’s rule. If it seems as if Russia has elected a man nobody knows anything about, it’s because Russia, with a complacency easily mistakable for contentedness, didn’t really elect Dmitri Medvedev at all. It reelected Vladimir Putin, in the way Tibetan monks pick the same Dalai Lama each time, regardless of the human form he’s taken. The rubber- stamping of the Kremlin candidate illuminates a useful truth about Russian society: Putin’s stifling regime and the country’s oil-fueled prosperity are viewed not as unrelated phenomena but as cause and effect. Medvedev, even as he formally represents the end of that regime, is also its ultimate triumph.

Read on . . .