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Tuesday, January 24

Man cannot live by sausage and vodka alone

From Russia's middle class - a growing problem for Putin by Gleb Bryanski (Reuters, December 9, 2011):
"There are two things (lacking in Russian politics). The first one is a mass liberal party. Or, to put it more precisely, a party of irritated urban communities," the Kremlin's chief domestic policy adviser, Vladislav Surkov, said this week in an interview with a prominent Russian journalist.

"They should be given parliamentary representation," Surkov, the Kremlin's "grey cardinal" who created Russia's tightly controlled political system, said in the interview, which appeared on journalist Sergei Minayev's blog.

But the Kremlin's plans to promote a middle-class party before last Sunday's election to the State Duma, the lower House of parliament, broke down when its leader, metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, departed from the script.

After apparently backing his rise to the leadership of the small pro-business party Right Cause, the Kremlin pulled the rug from under him in September, with Surkov orchestrating the removal of Prokhorov and his supporters.

Prokhorov likened Surkov to a puppet master and said the Kremlin had "privatised" the political system.

"Surkov does not understand that all of a sudden, thanks to the high oil price, there is middle class in Russia," said Oleg Tinkov, owner of retail bank Tinkov Credit Systems.

"We are no longer happy with the pact 'Sausage in exchange for democracy'. We spend one or two months a year abroad, we speak three languages and we think," he said.

Late Russian general and politician Alexander Lebed once said most Russians did not care who they were ruled by as long as they could buy six kinds of sausage and cheap vodka. Those days, it seems, are over.
Gleb Bryanski has been filing reports on Russia for Reuters since 2009. His knowledge of the country and its politics shines throughout his December 9 report (with great editing by Reuters correspondent Timothy Heritage (another Russia Hand).

The report makes it clear that Putin is just one of the players in the unfolding political drama in Russia. Ironically Putin's greatest detractors among American political conservatives would find more in commmon with his views of the urban liberal intellectual elite -- what he calls "the goatee beards" -- than they might want to admit. That is, if they bothered to get informed on what's really happening in Russian politics. They have created out of Putin, and indeed out of all of Russia, a two-dimensional cartoon that has no basis in reality.

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As easily as Prokhorov came to the scene, he was departed from the Pravoe Delo. I was surprised to see him back on the political stage to be honest.

But now he also got in very quickly and without any hassle. He had less than 5% of the signatures collected that were fraudulent. Even Javlinsky could not get himself registered as an official candidate. Mikhail did.

I think Misha is as a backup, when a second-round will occur, say with Zyuganov, Prokhorov could advice his voters to vote for Putin, instead of his opponent.

The middle class is really growing, and we want more than sausages and vodka!!
STS - I rarely allow comments from people who sign with a company name, but given how hard it is to get informed English-language news on Russian politics I'm making an exception in your case. Thank you for the update.
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