EDITOR: This is the first of a series of articles by director / producer / long time Russian observer Vladislav Tsukerman. We welcome him as a contributor.
On the morning of the May 7th Russians could see on their TV screens a black armored Mercedes flanked by motorcycle outriders gliding down Moscow’s streets caring its single passenger: Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin. Russians expected the Moscow streets to be crowded with thousands of happy Moscovites greeting the Leader of the Nation. But the streets were dead and empty.
The image reminded scenes of a Sci Fi film showing a city in the aftermath of an atomic war. The streets which Mr. Putin sped down before his inauguration were silent; they were completely blocked off by police trucks and devoid of human presence. No protesters could approach him, but no well-wishers either.
On May 7th Vladimir Putin was being inaugurated as president of Russia in a lavish ceremony in the capital, Moscow. But millions of Russians, who watched the event on TV, were shocked witnessing scenes preceding the ceremony.
Former low rank spy, Mr Putin first became president in 2000. He was a completely unknown person back then. He was introduced to Russians by Boris Yeltsin, when the first non–communist Russian president had decided to retire. The Russians obediently voted for the proposed candidate. Putin stayed on for a second four-year term in 2004. In 2008, a constitutional limit on a third consecutive stint forced him to vacate the throne to his protégé Dmitry Medvedev, who was as unknown in Russia in 2008, when he was elected, as Putin was unknown in 2000.
Vladimir Putin’s recent return is a non-event in the sense that he never went away, keeping to himself the position of the prime minister. Nobody in Russia had a slightest doubt that Putin remained the Alpha Dog of the pair. Russia has been ruled by Putinism for the past 12 years.
During the years of ‘Putinism’ the independent TV was completely destroyed; all TV stations are now controlled by the government. No oppositionist can appear on a Russian TV screen. According to the official figures more the 60% of Russians voted this year for the return of Putin to the presidency. But most of Russians, who get all the information only from TV, know nothing about real situation in the country. The Russia TV propaganda presents oppositionists as the CIA paid agents, whose purpose is to destroy Russia.
Several years ago the Russian constitution was amended. In preparation for the Putin’s return the term of Presidency was changed from four to six years.
Now 59 year old Putin plans to rule Russia for another 12 years.
Before this inauguration of Putin, only once in history did a political leader enter a completely deserted Moscow. It was Napoleon in 1812. Putin’s arrival in the Russian capital looked like an arrival of an invader in a defeated foreign city.