Putin long­est-serv­ing Rus­sian­leader since Stalin

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD - BY ADAMTAYLOR

On Sept. 12, Vladimir Putin qui­etly passed a land­mark date: He had spent 6,602 days as the top leader of Rus­sia.

Though not widely ac­knowl­edged, this fig­ure meant that Putin had spent more time in of­fice than Soviet leader Leonid Brezh­nev, who ruled for 18 years and one month be­tween 1964 and 1982 (6,601 days).

It also means that Putin is now the long­est-serv­ing Rus­sian leader since Josef Stalin, who led the Soviet Union for al­most three decades be­tween 1924 and 1953— 10,636 days in to­tal.

This may not be the sort ANAL­Y­SIS of record the Krem­lin is keen to pub­li­cize. Though the Soviet era is of­ten re­mem­bered fondly in Rus­sia, Stalin and Brezh­nev were clearly not demo­cratic lead­ers. Putin is — at least in the­ory.

That makes his lengthy time in of­fice more un­usual. Dur­ing his time lead­ing Rus­sia, Putin has dealt with four sep­a­rate U.S. pres­i­dents as well as four Bri­tish prime min­is­ters and two Ger­man chan­cel­lors.

The Krem­lin may also dis­pute the method­ol­ogy, as Putin wasn’t pres­i­dent for all of his time in of­fice. He first be­came prime min­is­ter of Rus­sia on Aug. 16, 1999, be­fore en­ter­ing the pres­i­den­tial of­fice May 7 the next year. Later, as the Rus­sian Con­sti- tu­tion lim­its the pres­i­dent to two con­sec­u­tive terms, Putin stepped out of the Krem­lin in 2008 while his prime min­is­ter, Dmitry Medvedev, be­came pres­i­dent.

How­ever, most an­a­lysts agree that Putin still held the real power dur­ing that “tan­dem” pres­i­dency. He re­turned to the pres­i­dency in 2012.

Putin’s in­creas­ingly lengthy time in of­fice may not ap­pear to be a prob­lem to many Rus­sians — as widely noted, his ap­proval rat­ings re­main ex­traor­di­nar­ily high. He is widely ex­pected to stand to be nom­i­nated as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date again for next year’s elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the Rus­sian me­dia.

But there are some signs of a malaise set­ting in; some Rus­sians have be­gun to share cyn­i­cal jokes about Putin that re­sem­ble those told dur­ing the Brezh­nev era. Turnout in re­cent lo­cal elec­tions was low, and some polls sug­gest that a sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity of the coun­try is not sure whether they want Putin to run for re­elec­tion.

Still, Putin is likely to win next year’s elec­tion if he runs — po­ten­tially putting him in of­fice un­til 2024 (af­ter Medvedev left of­fice, pres­i­den­tial terms were in­creased from four to six years). He could choose to keep go­ing af­ter that, too — both Brezh­nev and Stalin died in of­fice, and at 64, Putin is thought to be in good health. At this point, it’s hard to imag­ine who could suc­ceed him or how.

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