March 18, 2018

Tsar Vladimir II


Tsar Vladimir II

[This commentary aired on Vermont Public Radio on November 26, 2007. You can hear the streaming audio here.]

(HOST) On December 2, for just the fifth time since 1993, Russia will hold nationwide parliamentary elections. There have been plenty of theories about what the elections will mean for Russia's future. Commentator Paul Richardson examines one of these theories, with a little help from a Russian friend.

In a few days, Russia goes to the polls to elect a new Duma - the lower house of parliament. There has been wild speculation that President Vladimir Putin will rig the elections as part of his plan, "Operation Successor," to cling to power.

Tired of theories and conjecture, I decided to get the inside scoop. So I put in a call to my old friend Boris in Moscow, who has a job that allows him, well, to keep an eye on things.

After we dispensed with the usual small talk, I cut to the chase. "So what's going to happen, Boris?"

"How do you mean?" he replies.

"The election. What's going to happen in December?" I ask.

"Oh, that." He suddenly sounds profoundly bored. "You Americans, you are always focusing on wrong things, then act surprised when later you are run over by train or hit by - how do you call it? - sucker punch."

"What are you talking about, Boris?"

"What are two most important things for modern society?"

I sense a rhetorical question.

"Oil and water," he says. "Oil and water, and Russia has world"s biggest supply of both. Land and wood are also very important, and we have plenty of these too."

"What are you driving at, Boris? What does this have to do with the election?"

"Election in Russia "it is always more than just election," Boris says. "Duma election, and presidential one in March, they are not about democracy. That is American idea. Here, elections are about who will be controlling Russia"s wealth "oil, water, forests, land."

"And who will that be?"

"Same people as now, of course," Boris laughs. "You think Russians give up such things without fight?"

"And what about Putin?" I ask.

"Putin?" There"s a long pause. "This is not yet decided. But I believe they will make him tsar - Tsar Vladimir the second."

"Tsar?!" I say, incredulous.

"Yes, after United Russia party wins Duma landslide, they will announce national referendum. And then they make Putin president for life - tsar, same thing."

"I have to say, Boris," I reply. "That sounds very unlikely."

"Oh, and you, being American, understand Russia better than Russians?"

"What does this have to do with understanding Russia?"

"Because, my American friend, Russia needs a tsar. Deep down, Russians hate media, distrust politicians and businessmen and, thanks to communists, have little need for priests. So we need tsar - someone to trust, a strong man who is not criticized, who has final say on all things."

"Ok, so if Putin is to be tsar, who will be the next president?"

"Does not matter."

"What do you mean it doesn"t matter?"

"Not matter, because you have forgotten main thing with tsars."

"What is that, Boris?"

"You cannot have more than one."

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955