From Russia, With Love

Last week, over 500 Russians civilians and activists were detained by riot police, while peacefully protesting in Pushkin Square in Moscow. And wouldn’t you know, Vladimir Putin had something to do with it.

If you’ve never cracked open a history book, if the Cold War bored you, or if you’ve just been hiding under red, white and blue rock for the past few decades, then let me refresh your memory. Vladimir Putin is the slippery, charismatic snake of a man who has been single-handedly infringing upon the rights of Russian citizens since 1999, beginning as a role as acting president, and then flip-flopping from premier to the president position for another 12 years, but essentially controlling the entire government like a malevolent puppeteer. To put it bluntly, this guy is basically a James Bond villain.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (even his name sounds evil) was born in 1952, in Leningrad to working class parents, being raised primarily while the infamous Nikita Khrushchev was in power. At the age of 10, he began practicing martial arts and developing his body into a powerful, anti-capitalist weapon. He went to college at LSU (that’s Leningrad State, not Louisiana) and after graduation went immediately into training at the KGB. The KGB, or Committee for State Security, is Russia’s spy agency. Imagine the CIA, the FBI and the Thought Police all rolled into one, and then give them all of the shadowy powers and lack of moral scruples that a horde of ninjas possess, and then cross-breed those ninjas with polar bears, and you’ve got the right idea.

From 1975 to 1991, Putin climbed the ranks of the KGB, working in the then-Communist East Germany, spying on students at various universities, and presumably planning world domination a la “Goldfinger.” He resigned from active duty in 1992, and full entered the political arena.

One would think that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Russian communism would have proved deterrent to Putin, but no, he was a social cockroach, immune to damn near everything, and through the ’90s he rose in political power from city to state governmental positions, and in 1999 the fruits of his labors were harvested as he was made one of Russia’s first deputy prime ministers. From then on, it was the high life, in and out of presidential office but controlling the whole thing from behind the scenes.

I know. He’s a pretty shady guy.

But to be fair to Putin, he has done good by Russia: under his iron-fisted rule, the country has been reaffirmed as a nuclear power, enjoyed major decreases in poverty, and some pretty fancy infrastructure projects. Of course, North Korea is also a nuclear power with some pretty fancy infrastructure projects, and even Machiavelli advised keeping your subjects healthy and imparting some kindnesses upon them. All of his actions converge on a desire to gain more power and keep it, at all costs.

For example, as one would expect of a Soviet secret agent, Putin is a great lover of sports and judo. He holds a sixth-degree black belt in both judo and karate. He’s an alpine skier. He rides horses, drives Formula 1 cars, SCUBA dives and, presumably, wrestles rabid bears shirtless. His pen is a symbol of power, and he has his own brand of vodka. He has often been given credit for single-handedly bringing the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi.

And what does a macho-macho-man like Vladimir do when it’s election time?

He demolishes the competition.

In September, his cohorts nominated him for the Presidency, and since then, Putin has used his vast wealth, political power and his tough-guy image to enact an all-out media blitz on the competition. Still, however, initial polls showed that opposition parties stood a chance of snatching the presidency from his icy Russian fingers, but, alas! Fate was not so kind.

Because last Sunday, the votes were made, the counting began, and the entire subcontinent held its breath, only to learn that Vladimir Putin won 64 percent of the votes. Jaws dropped. Hands shook. Putin stepped out from behind the scenes, and instantly, people were suspicious.

The following Monday, protests were staged all over Russia. Bloggers and activists peaceably assembled to demand investigations into the election, claiming that votes were skewed, and over 20,000 individuals showed up in protest. Putin, of course, being the dastardly super-villain that he is, couldn’t have that going up against his tough guy image, so he sent in the riot police, and before you knew it, over 500 people expressing their God-given rights to assemble and speak were detained. Since then, the U.S., home to the go-to-guys whenever Russia starts getting all evil, has demanded an investigation into Putin’s election. Putin, of course, affirms that the election was completely fair and legitimate.

In Soviet Russia, you have no vote!

In Putin’s Russia … you still probably don’t have a vote.

Na zdarovie, Comrades!

 

Ryan Cady is a second-year psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.