Monday, 21 October 2013

Mayor Sobyanin rides the Metro

Shortly after his re-election as mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin was pictured taking the metro to work. Obviously, a stage managed photocall to show that he is just like ordinary Muscovites having to endure the crush of the morning rush hour on the Moscow metro.

This sort of "man of the people" stunts rarely turn out well in Russia - especially when they make the country's leader - sitting aloof in the Kremlin - appear remote and out of touch with the ordinary citizen.  How does it look to Muscovites?  Sobyanin takes the metro to work, like millions of his fellow Muscovites; whereas Putin takes his private helicopter alone to his office in the Kremlin.

Back in the late 1980s, such a contrast was made between the then Mayor of Moscow, Boris Yeltsin, and Mikhail Gorbachev - the increasingly unpopular General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of the USSR.  Yeltsin used to take the metro to work and developed a frugal image which was popular (or populist?) which contrasted with the luxurious lifestyles and privileges of the members of the Communist Party Central Committee - including Gorbachev (and his wife, Raisa, who was often criticised for her taste in expensive clothing).

Similarly, Kirov, the popular Leningrad party chief, was seen as a man in touch with the people, and his increasing influence was seen as a threat to Stalin - who was the remote and austere leader holed up in the Kremlin.

Yeltsin was sacked, Kirov was shot. Sobyanin, however, is tipped as a possible successor to Putin - it's even been suggested that he has been anointed by Putin as his successor, should Putin decide not to run for president in 2018.  As such, he must be carrying on in he same vein as Putin with his staged photos: a word of advice Sergei - keep your shirt on! ....please!

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