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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

It's that 1913 feeling

File Photo of Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box
file photo
At United Russia's triumphalist convention this weekend, the chants were of "People, Medvedev, Putin!" "Putin, Putin!" and "Russia, Russia!"

And in his new role as cheerleader- in-chief, President Dmitry Medvedev called for a "long-term" second period of rule for his mentor, Vladimir Putin. Analogies have been made to Stalinist, Soviet-era congresses, but the feeling is probably more like 1913. Then, the Romanov dynasty was celebrating three centuries of absolutist rule with pomp, bombast and cries of "Long live the tsar!"

In some ways, the Romanov tricentennial resembles the United Russia celebration of Putin's three terms in power, in that both systems claimed to be at their zenith.

History was not kind to the Romanovs, however, as the tsarist system was already in decline ­ and 1913 was just the calm before the storm. Four short years later, the ancien regime had crumbled under the weight of a crippling world war, the inner contradictions of a backward, largely feudal system and an increasingly revolutionary working class.

At Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium this Sunday, there was also a certain fin de siecle feeling in the air. The country faces an uncertain future as a new global crisis threatens the economic equivalent of world war.

Tough austerity measures planned for after the elections could also provoke a big wave of protests from ordinary Russians, and recent polls suggest that United Russia could struggle to reach 50 percent, never mind a constitutional twothirds majority.

It may seem alarmist to suggest that a crisis of 1917 proportions is in the cards, but certainly a 1905 could happen if the oil price collapses ­ as it did in 2008.

Back in 2008, Putin told the Luzhniki faithful, "the authorities showed themselves competent in dealing with economic turmoil." But Putin's next bold statement, that he and his team "know better (than anyone else) what needs to be done" could turn out to be unwarranted hubris if the economy implodes.

How the history books judge the continuation of the Putin era is not yet written. But if there are to be more cheers than jeers, the premier and his team must be hoping that their luck holds better than the Romanovs'.

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