Vladimir Putin: a Hero or a Villain?
There are many different definitions of a leader, and most of them describe the leader as an individual who is able to inspire others and motivate the followers to do things for the common good. Nevertheless, leadership can mean different things for different people, which can be seen with Vladimir Putin and his supporters in Russia. Although the democratic countries consider Putin an authoritarian ruler who threatens Europe with military assaults and the war with Ukraine that is taking place, he has many supporters in his native country, Russia. It is evident from the fact that he has been elected the President three times. It shows that although for some people he appears to be an antihero and a negative example of a ruler, for many Russians who like him he is a good leader and the right person to rule the country. Therefore, Putin’s example shows that leadership can mean different things for people, and a leader is not always approved by everybody, but a certain group of people who share his values.
Putin has created a powerful image that appeals to his followers and is widespread and popular all over Russia. He plays on the values that mean a lot for Russians and are less familiar for Europeans or Americans. Putin uses some of the very strong and important features of Russian character such as toughness and confidence. He presents an image of a tough president who can deal with any situation and provides safety for everyone. Therefore, there is a feeling that Putin always has everything under control. Russia, which has been an empire for centuries and always had an authoritarian leader, never lost its empire’s attitudes, which included the feelings of superiority. With Putin’s strong and confident image of a tough guy no one wants to mess with, many Russians feel like they can relate on him and thus choose him as the right ruler for the country since they believe that he brings Russia its reputation back. With a long communist past, when the world was feared by Russia as a power that could launch military attacks, it lost a lot of its influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in turbulent years after it became capitalist and gained independence. Therefore, many Russians felt like their country lost its importance and influence on the world scale, and now Putin has brought it back as well as brought back many of the communist ideas. As a result, many people associate his rule with the restoration of a big empire, and that is why they support him and consider him a strong person who can rule the country effectively while acting tough on foreigners.
For many Russians, Putin is what Carlyle would call a hero. Many people view him as a hero of Russia and a great man to be followed and admired. According to Carlyle, great men, or heroes, are a “profitable company.” Thus, whenever a person is around such a hero, he or she learns something from one, and the hero is the one who possesses a lot of information and knowledge that is compared with light. A hero is a person who embodies the emotions of confidence and knowledge because people get a feeling that this particular individual knows more than they do. That is the reason why they want to be in the hero’s presence as they view him or her as someone to look up to. Carlyle’s interest in heroes and the ways people worship them can be directed at modern Russia and Vladimir Putin, who is a hero for many Russians. He constructed an image of a man who knows everything, mostly due to control over media since media that are owned by state are very loyal to the government. Therefore, the media run many news and stories about Putin and strong aspects of his presidency, which creates an image that the President knows everything and controls everything within the country. This is what makes him look like a hero and attract more supporters. Besides, Putin has developed an image of a guy who is close to his nation, which was mentioned before. There are various reasons why people want to be close to Putin, including personal benefits and the reputation and status they can get for being around such an individual. These are the reasons why he cemented his image of a hero and remains such for Russian people and for many non-Russians who admire him.
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Putin is also a charismatic leader because he possesses the qualities that differentiate him from the rest and make him appear unique and special among other politicians. He constructed an image of a person with a strong will who always gets one way and uses a tough approach even in such a delicate matter as international relations. He also possesses good speaking skills and acting capacities. For example, when he was elected as the President for the third time, he cried while thanking the people for choosing him. According to Weber, a charismatic leader is opposite to a bureaucratic one, who is very rational and repeats the same routine. Charismatic leaders fight the routine by implementing original actions and appealing to their audience in an original way. The tears in Putin’s eyes after elections are a good example of fighting the routine. With this action, Putin showed many different things. Firstly, he strengthened his reputation of a tough man who is not afraid to show his emotions, and it only added to his confidence and the image of a person who controls everything. Secondly, he showed that he genuinely cared for people’s support and went further than other leaders, who simply thanked their supporters, because he cried. As a result, Putin was able to overcome routine and showed his charisma one more time.
Putin is charismatic also thanks to his manner of speech, which is very distinctive and recognized by many. It was mentioned before that he possesses good speaking skills and practices his oral techniques constantly. Therefore, he is a good speaker who exudes confidence and is comfortable in front of a crowd. His freedom of expression makes him stand out from the rest, and since he uses many important features that appeal to Russians, he remains a charismatic president.
While discussing Putin, it is important to determine who he truly is for Russian people: a ruler or a leader. These terms do not exclude one another, but they mean different things. It was mentioned before that a leader is an individual who is able to organize and appeal to a particular group of people so that they follow him or her and act in a particular way suggested by the leader. He or she does not force people because they are willingly doing the things leader suggests. A ruler is different from a leader due to formality of his or her position. In other words, one rules because of particular rules or laws according to which the ruler has been elected. Therefore, people have to obey and follow ruler’s commands because it is a part of the political system of the country.
The analysis of Putin showed that he is both a leader and a ruler of the country. Putin is a ruler because he is the President and rules the country legally, which means that he dictates its political development and the direction Russia takes. His decisions impact the entire country, and it is mandatory for people to obey the laws that were signed by the President, otherwise they are to be punished.
On the other hand, Putin is also a leader because he possesses a high level of informal support, and people look up and follow him even in the situations that are not dictated by law. In Russia, there is even something close to a cult of the President since he is often compared to the country’s superhero, and there are many souvenirs with the President that praise him. It shows the informal support and people’s love to the President and serves as a proof that he is a leader within the Russian nation. It can also be used as an explanation why many Russians justify or support his aggressive international politics, the wars and conflicts he starts as well as internal problems within the country.
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Vladimir Putin is a complex character, and it is difficult to separate his real personality from a purposely constructed image. Nevertheless, he remains the most influential person in Russia, a leader and the ruler of Russian people. Putin constructed a strong and influential image that appeals to his supporters and shows how a public figure influences the way people perceive and respond to him; and it also explains the reasons for his popularity and great admiration among Russians.