Putin Stands Tall on the World Stage, But Will His Personality Cult Survive a Russia in Decline?

by Brian Sherry

     Forbes handed Vladimir Putin a decisive publicity victory last month when it named him the world’s “most powerful person,” coming in ahead of Barack Obama.[1] The magazine was most likely reacting to Putin’s diplomatic triumph over US saber-rattling in the Syrian conflict, which resulted in the cancellation of a seemingly inevitable military attack on Bashar al-Assad and a new lease on life for Russia’s Syrian ally. Putin has also capitalized on the Edward Snowden affair and the general anti-American sentiment stirred up by revelations of extensive NSA spying, which alienated world leaders from Berlin to Brasilia. In the longer term, Putin has served as a source of stability for a Russia that spent a decade in socio-economic turmoil following the collapse of Communism; Putin’s assertive foreign policy has enabled Russians to move beyond the humiliating loss of prestige and territory accompanying the death of the old USSR. Though widely reviled in the West for his authoritarian tendencies and (most recently) his promotion of anti-gay legislation and propaganda, Putin has undoubtedly made his mark both at home and on the world stage.

      However, what does all this mean for Russia? Russia’s seeming resurgence as a major world power is built largely on Putin’s image as a strong leader, with some help from the economic benefits of the country’s vast energy resources. That second factor, however, is beginning to slip away. The Wall Street Journal reports that even the Russian government is admitting the energy bonanza that kept the country growing during the global economic crisis of the late 2000s has reached its end:

The Russian government slashed its economic forecasts for the next two decades, issuing a dire warning that the oil-fueled growth that has been a foundation of Vladimir Putin’s rule is over and there’s nothing likely to take its place, given the country’s poor investment climate and aging infrastructure.[2]

 Like many countries whose economies are based on the exploitation of natural resources, Russia has experienced the curse of a commodity boom, which defers the necessity of making important economic reforms. Underneath the profits of energy exports there lies not only a bad business environment and poor infrastructure, as the Wall Street Journal indicates, but a population that is not only aging but shrinking, as well as ethnic and religious tensions in the far-flung provinces which have erupted into violence before and could do so again. Perhaps Putin has what it takes to restructure the Russian economy, but the bigger picture appears to be one of a nation in long-term decline, briefly revived by a charismatic leader utilizing the temporary benefits of a resource boom. Now that the good times are likely coming to an end, will Putin’s charisma alone be able to sustain Russia’s resurgence? More importantly, will Putin’s cult of personality survive a tanking economy and Russia’s return to relative decline on the world stage?


[1] “Putin tops Forbes most powerful people list,” BBC News, October 30, 2013,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24742039.

[2] James Marson and Alexander Kolyandr, “Boom Years are Over, Says Russia’s Economy Ministry,” The Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303763804579183690681832608.

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2 thoughts on “Putin Stands Tall on the World Stage, But Will His Personality Cult Survive a Russia in Decline?

  • January 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm
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    By Mehdi Hyseni, Ph.D*)

    Kosovo a New Independent Nation in Balkans
    Abstract: The purpose of this essay is to illuminate the historical truth that Albanian Kosovo was a classic colony of Serbia, respectively Yugoslavia (1912-1999). This work will provide some relevant facts and arguments that reflect the true about fascism, colonialism, terrorism and anti-humanism committed by Serbia over centuries, which consisted of killing and expelling Albanians from Kosovo and other Albanian territories in order to annex and colonize those (1878-1999) to create the Great Serbia according to the Serbian national program “Nacertanije” (1844) written by the Serbian author and stateman Ilia Grasanin.
    Key words: Serbia, colonialism, hegemonism, Kosovo, self-determination, independence, the United States, NATO.

    History and International Law, Yes Full Independence of Kosovo!

    Historically, firstly, Kosovo was under the colonial rule of Serbia (1912-1918); secondly, being a part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941), the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia(1945-1990), and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1990- 1999). As a result of the colonialism, genocide and annexation committed by Serbs on Albanians in Kosovo as well as other indigenous territories of ethnic Albania (1912- 1999), ethnic Albania separated into two parts in favor of the enlargement of Serbia’s territory-Great Serbia.

    This was the main reason why Kosovo struggled through centuries to achieve full independence from Serbia. The indisputable historical facts prove that the origin of the conflict between Serbian and Albanians are not from the more recent era of Tito’s Yugoslavia (1945-1989) or from Slobodan Milosevic Yugoslavia (Serbia+ Montenegro, 1989-1999), but is a struggle that has taken place over centuries. Albanians have never stopped their struggle against Serbian colonial rule and genocide, and have always remained determined to regain their rights to the indigenous territories of ethnic Albania.
    The right of self-determination and independence of Albanians in Kosovo is supported by the following arguments: Firstly, Kosovo has been inhabited by Illyrians, who were the ancestors of present day Albanians; Albanians constitute over 90% of Kosovo’s inhabitants, and therefore the land must be rightly called KOSOVA (not Kosovo); Secondly, in 1878, Kosovo was part of the ethnic Albania; that same year (as a counter-replay to anti-Albanian resolutions, adopted by the Congress of Berlin, 1878) the Albanian League of Prizren was founded, but was then destroyed by the military intervention of Russia and the Ottoman Imperia , which led the Great Powers’ Congress of Berlin in 1878 to enable Serbia and Montenegro to grab Albanian lands and to commit genocide against Albanians for the second time. That was the Russian intervention in favor of the Serbia and Montenegro which destroyed peaceful coexistence in the Balkans; Thirdly,) Kosovo was a legal part of Albania (November 28, 1912), but was invaded by Serbian military forces who committed genocide against its indigenous people. The injustice done by severing Kosovo from its motherland was crowned in the London Conference of Ambassadors (December 1912- August 1913); Fourthly in 1918, Kosovo became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by force and genocide, but it was a flagrant act of colonialism, dividing Albanian territories, and giving rise to the Albanian right to the decolonization of Kosovo. During 1918-1919 Kosovo’s struggle for independence was crushed through genocidal crimes committed for the fourth time by the Serbs against Albanians, including the importation of Serbian colonists in Kosovo, respectively in ethnic Albania. According to articles 20 and 22.4 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the severance of Kosovo from ethnic Albania is declared null and void and its independence from the colonizing power Serbia, is provisionally recognized.

    In violation of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Kosovo was colonized by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1941, and was officially declared and treated as a colony by Serbs. Serbia implanted colonists, expelled hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians, committed economic and mental persecution, terror, and liquidation. They committed pure and simple genocide. “Turkey was involved in that genocide operation by expelling over 300,000 Albanians from Kosovo to Istanbul, according to the Gentlemen Agreement with Yugoslavia in 1938.”

    Being that Kosovo has never legally been a part of Serbia, Albanian people would have never agree with “conditional autonomy “ under colonial rule of Serbia. This our assessment proved and this conclusion of Henry Kissinger who wrote that : “The Albanians did not fight for autonomy but for independence and surely not to remain under Yugoslav suzerainty.”
    This is the primary reason why Albanians should not give up what is rightfully their historical and legitimate right to Kosovo. Furthermore, the 8% Serbian minority in Kosovo has no legal right to call Kosovo a part of Serbia, since Serbia colonized and annexed Kosovo by genocide and military force. Serbian historian and professor at Belgrade University, Dubravka Stojanovic stated, “For Serbia the First Balkan War was the greatest historical moment, but for Albanians the same war was the biggest trauma because the Great Powers of Europe adopted their unjust resolution of dividing of Albania in two parts, and Kosovo annexed to Serbia”.

    Professor Robert Jackson further supported these historical based facts expounded by Dubravka Stojanovic, stating, “Kosovo had long been part of the Ottoman Empire when it was conquered by Serbia in 1912. That right of conquest was confirmed by the League of the Nations at the end of the First World War by the inclusion of Kosovo in the new state of Yugoslavia.”

    It is worth to stress the fact that, during the Second World War the status of Albanians in Kosovo was unchanged, even though Kosovo was set to be declared a sovereign entity: “In January 2, 1944 the meeting of the National Liberation Movement about Kosovo’s political status was held, which was known as the Bujan Conference. In this conference Bujan Resolution was adopted, which defined Kosovo as a sovereign entity and a part of Albania and expressed its aim to remain part of the Albanian state after the end of the Second World War. But the partisan army led by Tito crushed its indigenous people by committing all possible means of genocide against them.”

    In 1945, at the end of the war in Yugoslavia and in violation of the United Nations Charter, according to the Yugoslavia’s Federal Constitution of 1946, Yugoslavia annexed Kosovo and its indigenous Albanian people by force. As this was an act against the will of the Albanian people of Kosovo, according to international law, this was an act of colonialism. In 1989, after Slobodan Milosevic took power in SRFY, Kosovo was again illegally and by force annexed by the Republic of Serbia, in the same outlawed manner. As a consequence of these condemnable acts, Kosovo was declared independent on four occasions: (1) On July 2, 1990, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, and international law, Kosovo’s parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of Kosovo; (2) the Constitution of September 7, 1990, known as Kacanik’s Constitution, declared Albanian Kosovo as an independent republic; (3) the Declaration of October 19, 1991 declared Kosovo as a sovereign independent republic on the basis of a referendum held from September 29- 30, 1991, in the presence of international observers. Eighty-seven percent voted, of which 99.87% voted in favor of independence from the SFRY.
    In summary, Kosovo’s dissociation from Serbia is justified by the following reasons: (1) historically, Kosovo has never legally been a part of Serbian territory, but only became annexed to Serbia by genocide and colonial plunder; and (2) historically, culturally and linguistically, Kosovo belongs to the civilization of western Europe, as Albanians are ethnically the descendants of Illyrians and not at all descendants of Slaves or Muslims as Serbian quasi-history, politics and propaganda try to misinform the public by fabricating their history in order to hide their centennial colonial genocides committed on Albanians and ethnic Albania (1878-1999).

    Contrary to the Serbian invented myth about the battle for Kosovo in 1389, which has been used to justify the right of Serbia to Kosovo, Noel Malcolm writes “Serbia does not have a continuous history on Kosovo. For several hundred years, Kosovo was not part of Serbia, because there was no Serbia to be part of: during most of long Ottoman period, Serbia did not exist as an entity at all. Kosovo was annexed de facto by Serbia within living memory, in 1912; de jure it wasn’t annexed by the Serbian kingdom at all.”

    Furthermore, although Serbs claim Kosovo as the “cradle” of their religion and culture, there is no true basis because “the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church was not founded in Kosovo; it merely moved there after its original foundation in central Serbia was burnt down. Nor does the Patriarchate have any continuous history as an institution in Kosovo… but in Rascia (Serbia), an area beyond Kosovo’s northwestern border, and most of the important early medieval Serbian monasteries and churches were built outside Kosovo itself.”

    As written by Noel Malcolm with incontestable arguments in his book, there is no doubt that historically Kosovo has always been Albanian territory and not Serbian.
    As Noel Malcolm also and Slovenian Prof.Dr. Anton Bebler comes to scientific conclusion that “”In the history of the past centuries, Kosovo was never ethnically Slavic and Serbian at all. If only limit last two thousand years the political history of Kosovo, shows that the longest time one has ruled by Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks. The first Serbian state was established in todays Montenegro’s area: Dukla, Zahumle, Travunja, Poganja, while Raska(Serbia) is not created in the territory of Kosovo and, so, consequently not included Kosovo then and today. Marriage of the first Serbian King in 1077 was made in Zeta at the territory of the present Montenegro, not Kosovo.”
    Goodbye Colonial Serbia, Forever!

    -Who has good relationships, support and mutual cooperation with America healthy feels the best and happiest long life.

    Sunday, February 17, 2008 was a grandiose day for all Albanians of the Ethnic Albania, and for their friends and allies all over the world who supported their quest for freedom from Serbian colonialism and hegemony. On that day, Kosovo’s parliament declared the independence of Kosovo, which was immediately recognized the next day by the United States of America and several nations of the European Union including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Austria and other supporting countries etc. Up to now independent Kosovo have recognized 105 countries members of the United Nations.

    Also, the International Court of Justice in The Hague on 22 July 2010 through its advisory opinion concluded that declared independence of Kosovo by Kosovo Assembly is in accordance with principles of international law.

    However, despite these valid arguments, Serbia, The United Nations and five nations of the European Union (Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia) didn’t recognize the independent Kosovo.

    It was a historic day since it is the first time in history that Kosovo has gained independence and sovereignty in the Balkans. Indeed it has been a long awaited day for Albanians who have yearned for this freedom for almost 100 hundred years, since Serbia’s colonization and annexation of Kosovo, which lasted from 1912 to 1999.

    According to international law, Kosovo deserves to be independent and recognized by the international community. Historically and lawfully, Kosovo has never been Serbia’s legal property; it was incorporated as an illegal and alienated territory into its terrain and sovereignty. Kosovo was fissured from the indigenous territory of the Ethnic Albania by force and genocide committed by Serbia, who has had the allied support of Russia and other European Great Powers represented in the London Conference of Ambassadors in 1913. Additionally, it’s worthy to note that when Serbia was recognized as an independent state in 1878 by the European Great Powers in Berlin’s Congress, Kosovo was not within its territorial and state sovereignty, but rather under Ottoman rule until 1912.

    However, Serbia and its citizens know very well this truth de facto and de jure, but have chosen not to accept it as such, since Kosovo has always been in their colonial interests along with other territories of the Ethnic Albania, such as Presheva, Bujanoci and Medevegja.

    Conclusion

    It’s worth to conclude that Kosovo was a colonial, not minority “new issue” (arise from 1990 when SFRY was destroyed by Slobodan Milosevic’s genocide and militarist Serbia) as Serbian government and Serbian Orthodox Church still are trying to manipulate with it in the face of the international community.

    Notwithstanding, thank to the United States and its western European allies (NATO) who have been rescued over two millions Albanian people from Serbia’s genocide, lastly, Kosovo got its independence (February 17, 2008). Therefore, there’s no more any way to turn back the clock of the past bloody history, but it’s time for reconciliation, mutual cooperation and lasting peace between Serbia and independent Republic of Kosovo.

    _____________
    *) Author is a Ph.D. in International Political Relations. A contributor and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Regional Political Prognoses of Tirana.

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  • August 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm
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    “… curse of a commodity boom, which defers the necessity of making important economic reforms …” Well, let me see: the US has no natural resources to speak of, is the most indebted country in the world and has bought everything it owns recently with self-printed dollars and treasury bills. This “resource” the dollar is on the way out. But while the Russian economic ministry sounds a warning, what do we hear from the US government? Or Yellen? Over the past months I have read so much how sanctions hurt Russia, how their banks are squeezed for cash, money leaves the country and the stock market will collapse. Well, by some magic spell, all these things seem to happen in the European Union and the US while Russia hasn’t run out of steam yet. Now I am not for authoritarianism but painting Putin in this light and pretending the US government has not far greater hegemonial traits is either propaganda or political color-blindness.

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