What do you do if you’re the prime minister of a country – say, Russia – and thus, technically, second in command, but you’re really the most powerful, and you don’t want anyone to forget it? Cue the prime minister worship.
Yesterday Putin revealed some big changes as the country gears up for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pyotr Stolypin. Who? It’s ok, he’s not the most famous Russian out there. Stolypin was PM under the country’s last tsar, Nicholas II, until shortly before his assassination in 1911. Known for carrying out a bunch of reforms, aimed particularly at boosting the rights of the recently freed peasantry, he was also known for harshly cracking down on leftist revolutionaries.
Putin has now chosen him as his latest hero (his other favorite is Peter the Great). According to a report on Rossiya TV (below), Moscow will get a Stolypin Street, a Stolypin University and a navy ship will be named in his honor as the anniversary approaches.
What’s more, a Stolypin statue will now grace the White House in Moscow. And who’s gonna pay for it?
“Members of the cabinet, and not only members of the cabinet, will have to direct at least a month's salary to the Stolypin monument,” Putin told a meeting devoted to preparations for the anniversary, AFP reported.
And then, as the TV report below shows, Putin giddily read from Stolypin’s writings. “The government in Russia answers for everything, even for what the country does inside itself, in the depths of its spiritual and economic life.»
If there is drunkenness and corruption, the government is blamed, he goes on. «Then the government begins to take action and call people to work, to order and there are new cries: 'Tyranny, violation of freedoms,'» he quotes, with a smile.
The report goes on to remind Russians who Stolypin was and then cuts to Putin-loving director Nikita Mikhalkov, who says a Stolypin movement should be formed inside the newly formed People's Front because it can help grow a «healthy Russian conservatism.» Putin likes that idea.
He also likes Stolypin's approach to «radicalism.» Turn of the century Russia was truly hounded by violent revolutionaries – the Bolshevik Revolution was just around the corner. But today?
«As a real patriot and wise politician, he understood what was really dangerous for the country – different types of radicalism, as well as standing in place, rejecting change and needed reforms. That it is only a strong and capable government power, backed by the civic initiative of millions of people, that can help ensure development and guaruntee calm and stability of a huge multinational power, guaranteeing the inviolability of its borders.» Cue the People's Front!
And cue the worship of a man who has been largely forgotten in the past 100 years (aside from, bizarrely, coming in third in a national contest a few years to choose the man who best represented Russia). The Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk has already laid the foundation stone for their monument to the former premier. Who's next?