Putin kicks off campaign to lionise a ruthless predecessor

 

Moscow

Vladimir Putin has launched a programme to lionise Pyotr Stolypin, a Tsarist-era Russian prime minister who was known for his ruthless methods. Monuments will be built to the statesman to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth and streets and even a university will be renamed after him.

Mr Putin told ministers they should donate a month's salary to help build the monument planned for Moscow.

Stolypin was prime minister of Russia under the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and Mr Putin wants to revive public admiration of him after decades of Soviet disdain for anything related to Tsarist politics.

Stolypin tried to implement a series of social reforms, but at the same time was a staunch political conservative and cracked down on the left-wing revolutionaries who wanted to bring down the Tsarist autocracy.

His reputation was so fearsome that the hangman's noose became known as "Stolypin's necktie" due to the hundreds of opponents that were executed during his rule.

Stolypin was assassinated during a visit to the opera in 1911, just six years before the Tsar was toppled and the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, came to power. "The head of government had to exhibit an iron will, personal courage and an ability to accept the burden of responsibility for the situation in the country," Mr Putin said this week.

Stolypin understood that "various sorts of radicalism as well as standing in one place, rejecting change and needed reforms equally threaten the country," Mr Putin said. His language on Stolypin was similar to the way he has talked about his own role in modern Russia – supporting gradual reform but unwilling to democratise too quickly and dismissing liberal criticisms.

Mr Putin spent eight years as president of Russia. But due to a two-term constitutional limit, he stepped aside for Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 and became Prime Minister.

Although technically subservient to the presidency, Mr Putin is still regarded as the most powerful political figure in Russia.

Russian bloggers suggested this discrepancy might be behind Mr Putin's decision to praise Stolypin.

But by the time of the anniversary, Mr Putin could be on his way back to the Kremlin anyway – many expect him to stand for re-election to the presidency in elections early next year.

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