At the end of 2007, when Vladimir Putin was wrapping up his second presidential term (no one knew that he had at least three more ahead of him), Time
magazine chose him as its person of the year. Today, it is interesting to see where the editors were right, where they were wrong, and which of their suspicions proved prescient.
“An intense and brooding KGB agent, a steely and determined man,” Time
wrote, “… he is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability.” Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin
noted: “stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years.”Time
called Russia “an indispensable player in whatever happens in the Middle East” – an observation that now seems threatening – recalling that “throughout much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union cast an ominous shadow over the world. It was the US’s dark twin.” Many today, both in Russia and outside it, would agree with this characterization of a country increasingly striving to be the heir of the USSR.Time
credited Putin with “putting his country back on the map,” while noting that he “intends to redraw it himself.” At the end of 2007, Time
was unsure “whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression.” Now, that question has been answered.Why Putin will go down in history
The “electoral procedures” that legitimize his power have been questioned by many observers. There are, however, numerous public opinion polls that show that the majority of the adult population of Russia approves
of him as president, while almost 70% would
like him to remain president. (The results of these surveys have been called into question, but the author of this text is a pollster with 35 years of experience in conducting such surveys, which use a widely accepted methodology developed mainly by George Horace Gallup.
Knowing how they are carried out from the inside, the author considers these doubts to be unfounded.)