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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

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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