Russia’s President and former Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has attained his highest approval ratings ever since 2000 when he first took office, tying with a score of 83% in 2008. What is interesting about this is that in the year 2008, Putin was the Prime Minster of Russia, and Russia invaded Georgia to support Abkhazian and South Ossetian rebels. This almost exactly parallels what is happening in the Ukraine right now, except that the Russian forces are more covert in their operation this time. Why would Russians want to support a leader that endorses these actions? It is because they are convinced that he is the leader that they deserve.
Historically, Russia has been a country that was naturally expansionist. Ever since it was formed, it’s leaders always had the desire to expand. From Peter the Great up the last Tsar, the Russian Empire desired conquest, and the people revelled in how great their nation was. The Russian people desire to see their nation as the strongest in the world, and all strong nations need excessive amounts of territory. As such, Putin wants to prove to his people that Russia is indeed a strong nation by bullying smaller countries and slicing away at their territory. The people need this gratification that their country is still a superpower, and thus they are willing to support Putin as they feel that he is their only hope in restoring Russia’s position as a true superpower.
A certain leader once said “kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down”. This statement shows how weak Russia is internally, and the Russian leaders know this. The last time Russia catastrophically lost a major war, their government was overthrown due to massive discontent as the Russian people realised how much of a mess their country was in. As such, Putin wants to avoid this by being aggressive towards Russia’s neighbours. And what better way to stir up nationalism by claiming that their fellow Russians are being oppressed by neighbouring states.
On the other hand however, there are still those even in Russia who oppose Putin’s rule, who some may even deem as tyrannical. In recent months, he has clamped down hard on alternative news sources, distorting information about the crisis in Ukraine, and tried to shut out dissidents by blocking their websites. All this is an attempt by Putin to maintain his image as a benevolent leader in Russia, who’s interests are the best for the people and not for personal ambition to see Russia as a country that would not answer to any other country. As a result of his somewhat dictatorial stance towards free information, it is questionable whether Russians truly support Putin’s intentions and rule or they are simply ignorant of his intentions and blindly support him.