Monday, November 8, 2010

Window on Eurasia: In Russia Today, It is ‘Superman vs. the Computer Geek,” Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 8 – Medvedev and Putin have often been described as playing the familiar roles of good cop-bad cop, but a better image, one that says more about where Russia is and where it may be going is to see the context between Putin as Medvedev as between “superman and the computer geek,” according to a Russian nationalist commentator.
In a comment for today, Sergey Lebedev, a Moscow political scientist who writes frequently on ethnic issues, says that the attraction of the good cop-bad cop model is understandable given that Putin is preserved as “the severe chekist” while Medvedev is shown as a young guy “in jeans” (
Russians, Lebedev argues, “love strong and severe rulers, severe but just, ‘father-commanders,’” thus giving Putin the advantage. But at the same time, “the image of ‘the first boy in the village,’ also elicits sympathy but popular consciousness requires the image of a tsar – if not in the literal sense, then at a minimum as a wise and strict ruler.”
Consequently, however much Medvedev may please the younger generation, Putin in this regard, has chosen a more correct image. The premier shows that he is physically strong, always goes about in food form and thus indicates that his approaching 60 does not have any importance.”
Putin clearly “wants to show that there will not be any new ‘Brezhnevism’ with us;” that instead, there will be “people who play sports and deal with technology but who are at the same time wise and severe father commanders.” And regardless of what “the liberal media” say about “the bloody KGB,” Russians still relate to “’the siloviki’ with traditional respect.”
Medvedev who is younger comes from a different world. He presents himself as “the image of the ‘post-modern’ ruler of the 21st century.” But over time, he is taking on a more “severe and dignified” form. “An egghead computer guy will enjoy popularity among other eggheads who will always be in opposition to any power and any political regime.”
But Lebedev insists, “’chekists-supermen’ will always impress the broad masses.”
Those who want to understand this should remember what happened in the Name of Russia project. Then people indicated that they preferred rulers who were “just but severe,” with Ivan the Terrible and Joseph Stalin taking the lead despite all the blood they had shed because they had won the respect of the population.
“Medvedev and Putin,” Lebedev concludes, “have formed two images which together can win all the votes of the electors, both the majority and the minority in Russia.” That is why they have formed the tandem because “people who don’t like ‘the chekist’ Putin can vote for the ‘computer geek’ Medvedev.”
Meanwhile, “those who consider that Medvedev is too young and does not have any special achievements,” in contrast, vote for ‘the chekist’ Putin.” Although Lebedev doesn’t say so, it is clear that he believes that in a clash between the two, the chekist rather than the computer geek would win the support of the population, whatever Russians may be telling pollsters now.

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