Putin and the Uses of History

In past public appearances, Putin has made repeated references to one of his Russian heroes, Pyotr Stolypin, the reformist prime minister under the last czar, Nicholas II, who also favored measured, evolutionary change; and to his American model, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brushed aside the unwritten two-term presidential limit that had guided all U.S. executive leaders up to his time. At one point at the recent Valdai conference, Putin was asked directly about these references to Stolypin and Roosevelt, both of whom, noted the questioner, “did not survive to see their projects through.”

Putin did not miss a beat. “Well,” he interjected, to a smattering of nervous laughter, “don’t go planning my funeral just yet.”

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