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Russians Feel That Great Power High – Again

Published: May 13, 2014 (Issue # 1809)




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President Vladimir Putin's ratings first peaked in the mid-2000s, hit a low during the mass protests of 2011 to 2012, and have now reached record highs.

But will the rising price of utilities and foodstuffs burst this bubble of enthusiasm over the annexation of Crimea and bring Putin's popularity ratings plummeting back down to 60 percent or so by fall? Or is Putin formulating a new "social contract" with the Russian people?

The "nation of consumers" that arose in the boom years of the 2000s has shifted its focus. It is now elated that the country has extended its influence and strength onto the global arena.

His first social contract in the early and mid-2000s was based on the principle that most Russians would accept the government's restrictions on personal freedoms and democracy as long as they received higher standards of living. Now, judging by the results of a recent Levada Center poll, most Russians have shifted their focus to another value: returning Russia to its great-power status. It seems that the ruling regime has found its political "second wind," and if this wind continues to blow for the next couple of years, Putin's re-election in the 2018 presidential race is all but a given.

According to a Levada Center poll from April 24 to 29 among 1,602 Russians, Putin's approval ratings soared to 83 percent following the annexation of Crimea. And as Putin's popularity rocketed, so did the ratings of a host of related government institutions as well. Sixty-two percent of respondents expressed approval for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and 60 percent approved of the Cabinet.

According to the poll, if the presidential election was held today, Putin would easily win at least 70 percent of the vote, while United Russia — the ruling party that not long ago seemed to have exhausted its popularity — could count on 60 percent, four times more than its closest rival, the Communist Party. The new State Duma would include only one more party in addition to those two, the Liberal Democratic Party, and United Russia would once again secure a constitutional majority — this time without any need to falsify election results.

Why did the annexation of Crimea have such a powerful mobilizing effect and strengthen the position of the Kremlin so much at a time when economic growth has stopped, capital flight has reached record levels, the ruble is falling and prices are rising?

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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