This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Constitution is what States Make of it

Photo: Yuri Kozyrev
The following four comments were published in the “Letters” section of Russian Newsweek after President Dmitri Medvedev, in his first annual address to the federal assembly on Nov 5th, proposed extending the presidential term from four to six years. When asked what she thought of the proposition, a friend of mine simply rolled her eyes and shrugged. A gesture no doubt repeated country-wide and not just amongst the politically-apathetic; the friend in question is a masters student in global politics. She then simply summed up the situation in the common Russian saying: "закон - что дышло, куда повернешь, туда и вышло". Which is quite literally: the law is like the axle of a cart, whichever way you turn it, that’s the way it goes. Or in other words - you can bend the law any way you wish. Which is what has happened for as long as people here can remember; hence the recurring shrugs.


“Putin or Medvedev? That’s the question that begs to be asked. I think that speech’s content was agreed on in its entirety by the Prime Minister. Putin didn’t chance changing the constitution himself, as one of the conditions imposed upon him by Yeltsin during “Operation Successor-2000” was the guarantee not to change the constitution. In this particular case Putin kept his word. But now with Medvedev as President, Putin is no longer bound by any moral obligations.”

“In this political climate it’s not entirely understandable why it’s necessary to increase the presidential term to six years. What’s the difference, Medvedev or Putin: they’re playing for the same team, in which Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) calls the shots. A presidential term only needs to be increased when power changes hands, passes from one group to another during the elections, in order to give those in power enough time to change something in the country. But in the current situation, it’s unclear why it was necessary. I’d like to believe that Putin is running out of steam and will create a normal, democratic state.”

“Generally speaking, everyone who was expecting the “Medvedev-thaw” can calm down now that everything is set in stone for the long run. And in this situation, who’s going to be Number 1 and Number 2 doesn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things.”

“Putin is a Tsar - that’s all there is to it! There are some profoundly unprofessional people in power, who are leading the country to isolation and ruin. They don’t care. Their bank balances are growing. Nothing else is important to them. I think any further commentary is unnecessary simply because these people have the right to do whatever they like in Russia: cut up the constitution, starve the country of information, murder Russia’s foreign policy, plunder our money.”

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