Cross Currents

A cross cultural blog
SEPTEMBER 21, 2010 1:53AM

The Spirit of Potemkins Lives!

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While Prince Potemkin was rumored to create whole villages to give Catherine the Great the impression that her empire was prosperous, Prime Minister Putin’s goal is to convince the Russians. To do so, he took control over television shortly after his election to the presidency in 2000. 


This summer, he took a drive along the Chita-Khabarovsk highway (this follows the Amur river, which marks the border between Russia and China) in a yellow Lada Kalina. Most news channels showed him driving the shiny new car and making glowing comments about its comfort and reliability. The Russian car industry is producing world class cars. The excellent state of the roads got mentioned, too.  Most clips are longer, but in the interests of not boring people who can’t understand Russian, here’s a short one for the Russia Today channel:



The unofficial internet version shows the same trip. The Russians laugh at the second Lada, saying Putin needed a spare. The sight of the third yellow Lada, on a truck increases the hilarity. They say, “And one’s already broken.”  So much for Putin’s promotion of Russian industry.  His entourage included 2 ambulances --- not indicating much trust in the local health system.  My bet is these ambulances were airlifted from Moscow. The local ambulances are probably twenty year old station wagons with room for a stretcher and not much in the way of life support during the trip to the hospital. 


The highway was closed for this trip. Putin’s convoy begins with the first car and ends with the last police car, seconds before the end of the clip.  In order to drive on a Russian highway, Putin needed the support of 35 cars. Somewhere between 8 and 10 were local police, the rest almost certainly came from Moscow. I’m sure Putin spared his drivers the misery of the drive across thousands of miles of badly paved highway. He has an Antonov cargo plane capable of carrying 150 tons  --- did he manage to fill it to capacity? 


As Mercedes G class SUV (base model price $104,000 US) after Mercedes G class SUV passes by, the comment is, “This is all with our {taxpayers} money.”  Typical cars on the roads in the Russian far east are 10 year old Japanese cars with right hand drive or  twenty year old Russian cars. Even playing man of the people, Putin can’t avoid wretched excess.


Other comments include, “Vovka is coming,” (this is the equivalent of calling Reagan, ‘Ronnie’,) and, “Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich,” which is how most people would address Putin to his face. They also discuss whether Putin was driving (no, they decide), Putin was probably taking a rest from the wonderful comforts of the Russian car in a Mercedes that cost as much as two fleets of Lada Kalinas. 


Potemkin would be as much at home in today’s Kremlin as he was in Catherine the Great’s. Eternal Russia. 


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Putin is a pussy. Let's hope Russia finally decides to free herself from her self-imposed yoke of authoritarian clowns like this guy and start living to her true potential.
Ladas aren't that bad, but they are cheap cars and Putin's personal choice of car probably runs close to $200,000 US.

Putin's made moves like he might run for president when Medvedev's term is up. He did create stability after the turbulent Yeltsin years, but much of that was due to a world economic boom and high oil prices. It's not clear he's still delivering and stunts like needing 25 cars airlifted from Moscow to drive on a highway aren't helping much.
putin pumps his own gas? who knew?
Putin pumps his own gas and he fights his own forest fires. Man of the people and superhero, too. I forget what other publicity stunts he pulled this summer.