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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stability is in the Eye of the Beholder

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"Happy is the country that has such a president at a critical moment in its development," said political analyst Mikhail Leontyev, commenting on Channel One television on President Vladimir Putin's decision to head United Russia's federal ticket.

"Thank you, Comrade Stalin, that you live on this Earth," I thought to myself, recalling the lines of a poem from a completely different era.

Putin's 55th birthday -- although not a 10-year anniversary -- was celebrated with the kind of fanfare that could rival only Leonid Brezhnev's grand 70th birthday bash. The air du temps was best captured by the Moscow newspaper Moi Rayon. It ran a special section on the United Russia congress in the best spirit of Communist-era Pravda or Izvestia: black and white print with huge photographs of the congress' presidium (Politburo) and president (general secretary), complete with delegates' gushing words about their beloved great leader.

In a word -- a replica of the stagnation epoch.

But the most amusing thing was that the look of the face on the over-sized photo of "General Secretary" Putin -- with his cheeky, Bill Clinton-like smirk -- were so alien to the spirit of the real stagnation that the Moi Rayon report seemed more like some kind of postmodern experiment than bitter satire.

No, my friends, we are not really living in a period of stagnation in the true sense of the word. Rather, we bask in its aesthetic imitation. And this started neither today, nor in politics.

For example, for many years now, some of the most trendy pop and rock stars have included Soviet-era classics in their repertoire. If, during the weekend, you turn on any of the dozen or so Moscow television channels, you're almost certain to see an old Soviet film. And this nostalgia for the late Soviet-era stability has found its way into paperback fiction as well.

And what is so surprising about that? For those who survived the 20th century's revolutions and world wars, Stalin's waves of mass terror and collectivization and Nikita Khrushchev's endless, chaotic attempts to reorganize the government, army and agricultural system, Leonid Brezhnev's 18-year reign was almost like a blessing from heaven. He did not attempt to fundamentally transform society with radical, revolutionary ideas. Instead, Brezhnev introduced consumer goods, such as cars and refrigerators and, in general, provided the people with a degree of confidence in the future.

Although by the standards of the wealthy capitalist nations, Soviet citizens lived in poor -- if not outright squalid -- conditions, for those who had survived previous decades of suffering, the Brezhnev period was one of enormous progress.

And now? By any normal standards, there is nothing special about pensioners receiving their pensions on time or civil servants getting paid regularly. But for people who lived through the 1990s, when the state simply abandoned its responsibilities to the citizens and the bureaucrats concentrated on serving their relatives, friends and business partners, the Putin period is a pleasant and welcome relief.

Consequently, people unconsciously begin to appreciate stability -- whether it is the Brezhnev or the Putin model. And both popular culture and politics appeal to this sentiment. But subcultures, such as our intelligentsia, prosper in their marginal niches, just as they do in a mature democracy.

I think we can count on five to 10 more years of such stability. After that, the Russian people will probably grow tired of stability once again and will try -- as they did in 1917 and 1992 -- to build paradise on Earth. Anticipating the consequences of those future attempts is just as repulsive as remembering the Yeltsin era.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Strategii i Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa, a magazine for publishing business professionals.