National Press Club

At NPC Book Rap Gregory Feifer explains why majority of Russians still support Putin

February 18, 2014 | By Jan King | JChutick2k@aol.com

Gregory Feifer, a former NPR Moscow correspondent, discusses his book, "Russians: The People Behind the Power" an a National Press Club Book Rap, February 18, 2013.

Gregory Feifer, a former NPR Moscow correspondent, discusses his book, "Russians: The People Behind the Power" an a National Press Club Book Rap, February 18, 2013.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Former NPR Moscow correspondent, Gregory Feifer, explained what it is in the nature of the Russian people that keeps President Vladimir Putin in popularity even though his government is widening the gap between the super-rich and the great majority of the poor. Feifer said that even though Moscow is now a rich city, the rest of the countryside is dying off from alcoholism, AIDS, and poverty just 50 miles outside of it. One third of the Russian villages have fewer than thirty people.

Feifer pointed out that Russian behavior is influenced by the country's characteristic large land mass made up of desolate terrain with horrible winters and mosquito-filled summers and that's difficult to govern. However, he said, Putin's system keeps in power by corruption and bribery and the Russian people still feel that no matter how bad off they are, democracy is a bigger threat. Feifer states that Putin hides what goes on behind Kremlin walls by bluffing and facade, and the Russian leaders stay in power through obfuscation. He said that fear and loathing equals respect for Putin. Feifer says Putin knows what wheels to grease and how to do it and also stays in power by dividing the opposition and marginalizing it.

As Russia's economic growth is decreasing and their dependence on oil is increasing, the Russian authorities are getting nervous. Feifer speculated that the Russians losing their grip on energy might eventually lead to their downfall.

Gregory Feifer is a graduate of Harvard University and is the author of "The Great Gamble," a history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. He has also written for The New Republic, The Washington Post, and World Policy Journal.