As the United States struggles to deal with the continual fiasco that is the Trump presidency, citizens of Russia are divided in their views, and knowledge. The Russian Federation is a closely controlled nation, with President Vladimir Putin in de facto power since the 2000 election which saw him garner almost 40 million votes (53.4%) and having only “stepped down” once to be Prime Minister after serving 2 consecutive. Since then he has won the 2012 election with 46 million votes and immediately changed the Russian constitution in order to serve as President for 6 years. This man has consolidated almost everything he could from across the country, and tied it to the Kremlin, and therefore himself. This is the man that is believed to have successfully, for years, hidden being the richest man on the planet. This isn’t because his “real” net worth is that huge, it’s because he basically controls the major industries in Russia.
According to the most recent poll, released May 2nd, 2017, Putin’s approval rating is 86.1%. Let that sink in. Of course this is based off of 4,600 people, but this is what his propaganda machine thrives on. In a country as large as Russia, there is a very wide rift between the richest and the “poor” who make up a very large portion of the population, and the poorest rely almost completely on state run media to find out anything. This means that any such approval rating comes with potentially major caveats, but the population doesn’t know this, and thus continues to support. And this is where yesterday’s protests come into play.
Tens of thousands of people staged a march yesterday in the heart of Moscow, with thousands more marching all around the country in protest of the corruption and oppression. Over a thousand men and women, mostly under the age of 30, were arrested. However, in the Russian media, this number was about 200. And the number of total protesters in Moscow equaled 1000. This news was not meant to go out to the public.
In Russian media, the President is strong, often times stronger than any other world leader, trivializing and destroying outsider’s critiques of his government, and of his country. In reality, even if the President has done a tremendous deal to get Russia back into the eye of the world and grow the economy, the military and global trade of oil, he is not what he is painted to be on TV and in newspaper. But this is the outlet that the vast majority of people rely on, with internet not available to many, especially the elderly and the impoverished.
This not only weakens Russia in the eyes of the world, but also in the eyes of the Russian people, at least those who know. The reason for the vast numbers of youth at these protests is this realization, the spoon feeding of information that keeps the masses quiet. Should more Russians understand this truth, change will come. But for now Putin is Russia’s guide, holding the brightest light and leading the country back to superpower status, even though what he is leaving behind (immense corruption) after his eventual resignation or death, may be as bad or worse than he found it. May Russia find strength to overcome.