Putin turns focus on traditional values
Vladimir Putin has called on Russians to have more children and embrace “traditional moral values”, in a state-of-the nation address that critics said offered nothing to fix Russia’s oil-dependent economy or pervasive corruption.
In his first big speech since returning for a third term as president in May, Mr Putin called for a strengthening of the moral basis of society. “Today Russia is experiencing a clear deficit of spiritual bonds: support, charity and mutual help for one another,” he told an audience of political and religious leaders in a gilded Kremlin hall.
‘ Stronger Russia’
Three-child families should be the norm, as the national interest could only be secured by a growing population, he said. “For Russia to be sovereign and stronger, we must be more.”
The wide-ranging speech included references to Russia’s “1,000-year history” and a promise to honour the fallen soldiers of the first World War, their fate overshadowed by the 1917 revolution.
Mr Putin also told schools to go back to basics, with better teaching of the Russian language, history, ethics and traditional religions.
Analysts think Putin is casting around for big ideas to unite Russian society, while presenting those who have protested against his rule as unpatriotic.
“He is obviously approaching the problem of values much more seriously now than he used to,” Masha Lipman at the Moscow Carnegie Centre said in a recent interview.
“He can no longer afford to be evasive because he needs to respond to these unpatriotic, ‘unRussian Russians’.”
Mr Putin has agreed that diligent workers would once again be eligible for the “Hero of Labour award”, a modern twist on the sought after gold star medals given to thousands of farmers and technical workers during the Soviet period.
Mr Putin has also been conscientious in taking part in ceremonies to mark Russia’s defeat of Napoleon in 1812 , as well as the 400th anniversary of a victory over the Poles. External foes surfaced in yesterday’s speech when Mr Putin attacked domestic politicians who took money from foreign governments. “Outside interference in our affairs will not be tolerated,” he said, without giving details.
Mr Putin has previously accused the United States of funding opposition groups.
The speech also gave notice to “unpatriotic” entrepreneurs who go abroad to sign contracts, as he called for “the ‘de-offshorisation’ of Russian business”.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, a prominent opposition leader, dismissed the speech as “a manifesto for preserving the status quo” that would allow Putin to preserve his distinctive brand of authoritarianism.
“This is a manifesto for the non-development of the country,” he wrote in his blog.
Demographers have also poured cold water on Mr Putin’s efforts to take credit for a recent uptick in the birth rate. Sergei Zakharov of the Higher School of Economics said the rise in the number of births in 2012 reflected structural factors – an increase in the number of women of reproductive age - rather than government policy.