Far from all Russian cultural workers support a famous director and actor Nikita Mikhalkov and a sculptor Zurab Tsereteli who want Vladimir Putin to run for a third presidential term. It should be reminded, that they even have wrote a letter which has been published on October 16 in “"Rossiiskaya Gazeta" (Russian Gazette, an official weekly of the Russian government). The letter says that “all artistic society of Russia” and “tens of thousands of artists and cultural and art workers” desire the third term for Putin. The letter “on behalf of all intellectual of Russia” was signed by four people: Tsereteli, Mikhalkov, the Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Arts T. Salakhov and the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts Albert Charkin.
After the letter had been published Mikhalkov was accused of lickspittle and servility; many letters in answer were issued. A famous poet Lev Rubinshtein wrote a letter to the chief-editor of the “Russian Gazette” and it was supported by tens of representatives of the artistic intelligentsia. The letter reads as follows: “I consider necessary to inform you that I, being a person accustomed to speak only for myself and respecting the laws of my country, have not empowered these nationals to speak on my behalf and even more so to make provocative, anti-constitutional statements.”
One more open letter was addressed directly to the president. Its authors called the behaviour of Mikhalkov and Tseretely “outrageous” and “indecent”. “Such a letter casts a shadow not only on its authors but also on you as a president during whose presidency many features of the Soviet cult of the Kremlin master have been restored”, wrote the adversaries of the third term. The authors of the letter appealed Vladimir Putin not to stay on the presidential post and and not to scheming for keeping hold on power. The letter was signed by a book critic Marietta Tchudakova, artists Oleg Basilashvili and Sergei Yursky, a playwright Alexander Gelman, writers Dennis Dragunski and Vasiliy Aksenov. The signatures collection continues.
A united response of the literati to the prospective of changing of the RF Constitution is opposed to the people’s movement in support of the third term for the president.
One remarkable example. On Friday it became known that in Novosibirsk a movement “Citizens of Novosibirsk for Putin” had been created. Some public figures of the region were the initiators of the movement and its co-founder is the wife of the governor. During the organizational meeting a resolution was accepted; it reads the following: “we consider that in spite of his (Putin’s- ed.) decision to follow strictly the Constitution, in the future he must have all possible authorities that will allow him functioning as the leader of the country”.
There are similar initiatives also in other regions. “This is not a civil society organization, this is a mass movement and according to the law it must not be registered”, claimed the head of the Committee on social and political relations of the Novosibirsk administration Vladimir Panarin.
Well, the Kremlin and the “United Russia” party claim that all these meetings and actions are initiated from the floor. On the one hand, one can think that this is the same “initiative from the floor” as the Ivanovo weaver, who has pleaded with the “United Russia” party officials to keep Putin in office for a third term. ''I see so many big bosses and just smart people at this congress,'' said the weaver, Yelena Lapshina at the congress of the party. ''I appeal to all of you -- let's think of something together so that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will remain the president of Russia after 2008 as well.'' On the other hand, there are evident signs that the cult of personality has been established in the country and that demonstration of the highest possible loyalty to the authorities has become a good form. Putin now is a hero of plays and films, he appears in the image of a superman and demonstrates his best Judo throwing techniques.
The surveys of the Analytic Levada Center demonstrate that, according to a great deal of Russians (49%), the cult of Putin already exists (22%) in the country or will be established soon (27%). As compared with the April 2007 the number of people being sure of it increased by 9% and in comparison with the March 2006 by 18%. 38% consider that there is no cult of personality in the country, that is less than in April by 11% and than in March 2006 by 19%.
About a half of respondents (47%) are more or less informed about the so-called “the plan of Putin”. 29% have heard something about it, 12% know about it but cannot explain what is it and only 6% know about it and can explain its main ideas. 47% know nothing about the plan. Although 65% are sure that Putin really has an exact well-developed program, 19% doubt of it.
Results of another survey of the Levada Center indicate that 49% of Russians support the idea that the “United Russia” headed by Putin will officially become “the leading power of the country which will direct the activity of all government bodies and appoint its people on any responsible posts like the KPSS did formerly”
The director of the Levada Centre Lev Gudkov states that now as before people don’t understand how the democracy functions, they don’t care about any political programs; they just join to those whom they consider to be the real power.
The most important figure in the art
Some cultural and art workers did not confine themselves to appeals and letters. They decided to immortalize the president in plays, cinema and sculptors. Thus playwrights from Siberia made a play which demonstrated how the president treated with common people. The play is entitled “Vacations of the president”.
Vladimir Putin can be easily guessed among other personages. He is called “President”, he knows German, was a special service officer and is fond of mountain ski. The play begins with a helicopter crash. The president and his biographer found themselves in a dense Siberian forest. The president delivers the hurt biographer in a forester’s house. “Siberia. A clearing with a forester’s house on it. From the left goes out the President with a noble and heroic look. He carries the body of the insensible biographer.” There he meets people from the neighbor village, a centennial woman Zina, being a veteran of the Great Patriotic War and poor young married couple who try to subsist somehow. The personages talk about the destiny of Russia and the locals understand that the President is distressed for people dispersed along his boundless kingdom and that in fact he doesn’t differ from these people.
The authors of the play Igor Kositsyn and Tatyana Chertova note that all the President’s words are not thought out but taken from Putin’s direct speech. They observed attentively all materials of Andrew Kolesnikov in the “Kommersant” daily and even offered him a joint authorship, but the journalists refused.
The art director of the theatre, where the play is to be put on, said that the main problem was to find an actor who would speak for the President. Common pupils helped the artists: they downloaded records of the Putin’s voice in the Internet.
Roman Grigoryev, 23, graduate the Far East State Academy of Arts will play President. “I feel a great responsibility”, he says. “First I was so inspired, but now I begin to think if I will be able to justify the tremendous expectations”.
Igor Kositsyn assures that the Kremlin doesn’t have any relation to the staging. He confesses of being a worshipper of the president, but at the same time the stresses that the main purpose of the play not to glorify Putin, but to show his human essence. The “Moskovsky Komsomolets” daily has already seen the first act of the play. Some other newspapers which also claim that they have already become acquainted with the play, state that it ends with words of artists “Don’t leave us!” To all seeming these words are symbolically addressed to Vladimir Putin. The authors of the play say that in the beginning of 2008 it will appear in theatres in many regions of the country, including Moscow.
Besides that soon Russian will see a documentary film Putin starring (he plays himself). The film being a video supplement to a guide-book “Judo with Vladimir Putin” was made in St. Petersburg.
Famous Japanese judoists and Russian champions starred in the film. Putin demonstrates his best throws during the seminar in St. Petersburg which the president has conducted with a Japanese master in the Higher School of Sports Skills. Several years ago the Russian Wushu Federation president Gleb Muzrukov made a film “Judo Genius”. Although formally the main hero, Alexei, has no relation to the president, he is strikingly resembles Putin. All the film Alexei is pursued by some bandits (native of Caucasia) and he finishes them all off with the help of his martial art skill. The film was once shown by a state TV-channel “Rossia”.
An artist from St. Petersburg Varvara Skripkina has created a sculpture “Who is instead of him?”. Putin is represented in a housecoat and slippers with a mysterious figure covered by a shawl nearby. “Under the cover there is a successor of the president”, explains the sculptor. “But nobody knows how does he look like, since the result of the presidential elections is still unknown”.
Well, it may turn out that there is nobody under the cover. “Like many other Russians I would like Putin to remain for a third term”, says Skripkina.