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The Independent Culture
St Petersburg Times In the aftermath of elections to the State Duma, Russian shares are up 10 per cent, Western leaders are saying that Russia is still on the road to democratic and economic reform, and centre-right politicians are bouncing up and down with joy. The Communist hold on the Duma is broken, and - as one businessman put it - parliament now will be pro-government, not "obstreperous and obstructive". At last, the Men of Deeds will get things done.

But what will they get done, precisely? What does Unity stand for, apart from supporting anything that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin does? And who are the members of Unity, anyway? In fact, where on earth did the party come from? Unity is a fiction, created a few weeks ago to combat Fatherland-All Russia after the latter had been subjected to months of constant bombardment on state-run television that threw away the ethical journalism rulebook.


The election results give Putin a chance to overcome his dependence on the Kremlin. He could even make some changes to personnel. But new figures have to suit both the Kremlin and the parliament. Putin's external independence is based only on his high rating. The new Duma is more "comfortable" for Putin. But this is not his Duma, but a gathering of politicians with their own interests, which could become "comfortable" not only for Putin.

Moscow Times

The bloc owes its triumph to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who endorsed Unity days before the vote; to a general yearning for "order" and for new faces in politics; to an unprecedented propaganda campaign in state- controlled media; and to the active support of a number of regional governors.

In a way, Unity's showing is the ultimate tribute to the highly personalised, image-based voting habits of the Russian people. This style pays little or no attention to platforms or substantive differences among the parties.


The result is traditional: "You can't understand Russia using your brain." Caligula introduced his horse into the senate, Putin brought an enormous pack of hungry bears. The triumph of the party invented a few months ago is easily explained: it was supported by an idol prime minister, who nobody knew six months ago. This is Russia. And the fact that these colourless bears were declared liberals also shows that this is Russia. The authorities at last guessed how to attract lumpen Russia: to become younger, to become cool (or to pretend to) and to separate itself from Yeltsin, who everybody is sick of. This was demonstrated by the appearance of Yeltsin. And of course Putin's appearance also mattered.

Nezavisimaya gazeta

There is no doubt that Unity and the right-wing bloc won the elections. Their success is related to the support given by the most popular Russian politician, Putin. Instead of a consolidated Duma, Russia will now have a split Duma.



We are strange people. Why did a quarter of the population support the Communists? Because they are just like us. Why do we need young and intelligent people at the top? We don't. Unity is a bit funny. What is Shoigu [Unity party leader]? A good minister, and a zero politician. Who is Karelin, the number two? An outstanding sportsman, and a zero politician. Gurov is a wonderful detective, but a zero politician. Three zeros.