From Republic.ru, June 20, 2021, p. 1. Condensed text:
. . . The main words of the week were uttered at United Russia’s congress, which took place despite the pandemic. Incidentally, this was the 20th congress, and some clever types were waiting to see whether Dmitry Medvedev would do a report “on the cult of personality and its consequences.”1 But they were in for a disappointment. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin uttered five sacred words: i.e., the five surnames of the lucky ones who will top the ruling party’s list in the State Duma elections.
The top five are: Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; Denis Protsenko, chief of medicine at [Moscow’s] main COVID‑19 hospital; Yelena Shmelyova, cochair of the All-Russia People’s Front (ARPF) central headquarters; and children’s rights ombudswoman Anna Kuznetsova. . . .
The easiest thing to do is to analyze what the list’s authors are trying to convey to the public. This is a list of winners. Sergei Shoigu is the great Army reformer, vanquisher of all evil at distant approaches – the man responsible for once again making the Russian Armed Forces formidable and forcing the world to contend with them. When it comes to Syrian terrorists, whom Russia has repeatedly defeated and will probably defeat again before the elections; missiles that fly along unpredictable trajectories; spectacular military parades; and [Russia’s] overseas partners shaking in their boots – all of these redound to the personal credit of Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu.
Sergei Lavrov symbolizes the grandiose successes of Russian diplomacy. According to the regime’s modern mythology, conflicts with neighbors near and far are considered successes, while constant squabbles with the whole world, whether provoked or unprovoked, are considered proof positive of Russia’s return as a superpower on the world stage. The more “unfriendly states” there are, the more correct Russia’s chosen path is. And no one would argue with the fact that Lavrov certainly has his share of achievements here.
Denis Protsenko is also a personification of victory – a symbol of Russia’s breakthroughs in the fight against the coronavirus. Of course, for a number of reasons, yet another victory [on this front] has been deferred, but it will undoubtedly happen in time for the elections.
The candidacy of Yelena Shmelyova raises some questions with the general public – not everyone knows who she is, exactly. She is a sociologist by training, a PR professional by calling, and a bigwig at the Sirius center for gifted children, which is so beloved by the president. In 2018, she was even listed as cochair of candidate V[ladimir] V[ladimirovich] Putin’s election campaign. Her name on the list signifies [United Russia’s] link to young people, and to volunteers via the ARPF. The president very much likes the word “volunteer” – it’s important to him of late to know that people who are prepared to voluntarily support him do exist.
Things are a bit clearer with Anna Kuznetsova – she is the personification of the traditional values so vehemently being promoted by the state (and the ruling party as well, of course). Shmelyova signifies innovations; Kuznetsova – traditions.
As a result, we get an outline of the ideology in Putin’s Russia: It’s a mix of formidable force that makes enemies tremble, a readiness to defend national interests in the international arena, a successful fight against the main disease of the century, future insight and a respectful attitude toward the past.
With such a list of candidates, the party is simply destined for a constitutional majority.
The list of five names is the culmination of domestic policy. This was the reason for churning out repressive laws and persecuting oppositionists who even dared to hint at a desire to take part in elections. In a sense, the list’s appearance is more important than the elections, since the list is supposed to justify the results set out in advance by the big bosses.
But what do we actually see when we read the list? First, it turns out the party chairman (it’s a certain D[mitry] A[natolyevich] Medvedev, in case you’ve forgotten) was unworthy of heading it. The party chairman is too toxic for his own party – too unpopular.
Insiders are saying that Dmitry Medvedev is a vain man not inclined to question his own greatness, so he expected until the last moment to top the federal list. The president’s words came as an unpleasant surprise to Medvedev, and his wounds are deep. He may even have shed a tear or two.
Secondly, we can see that as far as the [Kremlin] handlers are concerned, the current pool of party functionaries and elected deputies – i.e., those directly engaged in party work – lacks any candidates who could attract voters. All these countless members of various governing bodies are nobodies; they are either invisible or too dangerous for their own party.
But we needed successes and results. Five years of hard work, and it turns out that the party with the constitutional majority lacks the resources to convincingly simulate popularity. [United Russia] needs powerful locomotives – three at once – in order to pull the party out of the swamp.
Incidentally, the president decided not to risk his ratings, even though it was rumored that he might top United Russia’s party list. But he knows with whom he is dealing.
So it turns out that instead of a list of winners, we have something akin to a Medieval engraving of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. Of course, with five instead of the traditional four. Things are not looking good for the upcoming victors of the September elections. . . .
1[Reference to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, in which Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s cult of personality. – Trans.]