Putin Is Time Magazine's ‘Person of the Year’

December 28, 2007 12:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Time magazine names Russian President Vladimir Putin the most important person of 2007, acknowledging him as the driving force behind his nation’s economic upturn. Not everyone is happy with the selection of a leader who to many appears dangerously authoritarian.

30-Second Summary

Russia’s economy has grown an average of 7 percent every year for the past five years. Moscow has paid off a foreign debt that at one point approached $200 billion, and workers’ salaries have more than doubled since 2003.

According to Time, these developments are part and parcel of a dramatic change in fortune for the former communist nation, one that owes itself to President Vladimir Putin's “extraordinary feat of leadership."

However, these advances have come at a cost. As the magazine notes, Putin’s administration has hindered press freedom, shutting down television stations and newspapers, and has “defanged opposition political parties."

With regard to matters of political liberty, Time asked Putin about the arrest of one of his most outspoken political rivals—Garry Kasparov.

Putin responded with a question of his own: “Why did Mr. Kasparov, when arrested, speak out in English rather than Russian? When a politician works the crowd of other nations rather than the Russian nation, it tells you something.”

That comment did not go unheeded by the opposition. Kasparov responded by arguing that he had also spoken Russian, but “since opposition statements are almost completely banned in the Russian media the foreign press usually makes up 90 percent of attending media at opposition events.”

Posting his comments on the Coalition for Democracy in Russia Web site, Kasparov wrote that Time’s depiction of Putin perpetuates “Kremlin propaganda … and often presents Putin’s mythology uncritically.”

Issues of political ethics aside, Time's decision tops off a year, the last of his second term in office, that has consolidated the Russian president's reputation for strong and determined leadership.

That leadership looks set to continue in some form with his Dec. 17 announcement that he will accept the Russian premiership if his choice of successor, Dmitry Medvedev, is elected next March.

Headline Links: ‘Choosing Order Before Freedom’

Time was careful to clarify that it was not uncritically celebrating Putin's rule: “Time's Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear–eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse … [Putin] is is not a democrat … He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years.”

Background: Putin’s rise

Reactions: Putin pleased but Bush ponders Russia’s future

Historical Context: ‘Person of the Year’ 1927-2007

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Opinion: Reactions to the selection

Kasparov questions Time’s coverage
Avoiding Al Gore
What about Gen. Petraeus?
Slate: Time magazine got it wrong

Related Topics: Putin’s potential premiership

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