PUTIN’S The first narrative is that Putin linked

PUTIN’S CULT OF PERSONALITY-

 

ABSTRACT-

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This
research question looks at how Putin created propaganda in order to construct
his cult of personality. My hypothesis is that Putin main propaganda tool was
historical reference specifically the Second World War that perpetuated his
cult. This paper will focus on the main theory, which is charismatic authority,
which helps to explain how he became a popular figure and analysing how the
propaganda transformed Putin’s image from being a normal leader to being a hero
like figure, which the Russian people admired. The research methods adopted in
this paper focuses more on the qualitative rather than quantitative research
methods, which would involve interviews and online newspapers.

 

In
this paper I will explore how Putin managed to create his cult of personality
using propaganda and more importantly what was the main source of propaganda
that formed his cult. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992, it spelled a
decade of disaster for Russian citizens, as it was Boris Yeltsin’s government that
privatised ex-state owned industries such as oil, gas and electricity, which
saw some individual’s get extremely rich as a result of the privatisation at the
expense of the poor. The KGB and other secret service personnel became wealthy
as they were not only working for the intelligence body but also working as
private security for mobsters and elite businessmen. There were sorrowing
levels in crime, no food and basic needs in shops and it was anarchic society.

Therefore one could argue that the rise of the cult of Vladimir Putin was the
result of the anarchic system of the 1990s as Putin predominantly used the
reference of instability of the 1990s as a propaganda tool as to why the
Russian people should support him and emphasised that he brought stability to
Russia. Moreover the Russian people had a loss of identity after the collapse
of the Soviet Union and were yearning for a strong leader after the 1990s. Therefore
this paper will explore in more detail how propaganda tools were designed in
order to form Putin’s cult.

 

 

There
are two competing narratives in the way that Putin constructed his cult of
personality. The first narrative is that Putin linked the events of the Second
World War to his personal family history in order to make himself appear
heroic. However, Putin is not the first world leader to have used such a tactic
as a quite prominent example of a leader using such a feature is the Turkmen
leader in the 1990s, who related himself to the Turkmen mythical war heroes of
the 19th century. A second narrative that is significant feature is
the fact that Putin used the culture of masculinity in order to appeal the
masses.

 

In
this section I will go through the various literature, which explores the way
Putin used and still continues to use Second World War narratives in order to
appeal to the wider population. Wood (2011) argues that Putin used the Second
World War to directly tie his family’s experience of fighting to his own
bravery while making him part of that victory. However, the problem with Wood’s
argument is that there is no reference as to why the Second World War is more
important to Russians than to other nations and more importantly, why would a
leader’s experience of the historical event in question make him more popular
than the past president’s who’s family also fought in world war two. Moreover
Wood completely excludes from her narrative the overarching problem of
nostalgia in Russian society, which is supported by Cassiday and Johnson (2010).

They fill in the gap in Wood’s (2010) argument by noting that the reason Putin
uses historical symbols such as the Victory Day Parade is due to the fact that
there is a nostalgia among the Russian people towards the Soviet Union, which
is why such symbolism works incredibly effectively.

 

So
unlike Wood (2011) who simply spells out the symptoms of how Putin crafts his
image, Cassiday and Johnson (2010) explore the root cause, which is the fact
the reason that Putin’s imagery is so appealing is because there is a longing
for the Soviet past and more importantly the feeling of being a great power
again. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war had a real
impact on Russian pride and prestige as people saw the collapse the USSR as a
loss of identity. (Kagarlitsky, 1995). The identity was revolved around the
perception that the Soviet Union was a great power that had influence on the
world stage, which meant that the wider population was part of that influence.

Therefore what Cassiday and Johnson (2010) allude to which Wood completely
misses is that the reason for Putin cult of personality is that he successfully
managed to use Second World War imagery such as the Victory Day Parade and the
wider feeling of nostalgia show that Russia was still important in the world as
the Russian nation defeated Nazism and by celebrating this victory day it was
as if Putin restored Russian pride therefore creating an image that Putin is
Russia and Russia is Putin.

 

The
second competing narrative as to how Putin created his cult of personality is
that he appealed to the masculine culture that Russia is predominantly prone
to. Soboleva and Lu (2014) support this as they demonstrate that Putin uses
masculinity to appeal to less educated Russian men who greatly value
masculinity and strong leadership. However, to some extent Soboleva and Lu
exclude the fact that Putin could not have created a cult without the inclusion
of women within it as women make up more than half of Russia’s population 53%,
which means for Putin’s cult to have survived and flourished he would have had
to have strong support among women as well. Moreover, Soboleva and Lu completely
exclude any historical reference as to why there is such solid support for
strong leadership among the male population.

 

This
phenomenon of course stems from the Soviet regime, as it was a totalitarian
style system. This is of course supported by Adorno (1950) who contends that it
is due to authoritarian personality traits of the citizens within a state that
create an authoritarian system. Therefore there was already a culture of
authoritarianism in Russia so Putin cult of personality simply reaffirmed
existing authoritarian beliefs systems. The most problematic part of Soboleva
and Lu’s argument is that Putin propaganda hugely related to women as well as
men and excluding such a phenomenon render’s their argument unconvincing. White
& McAllister help fill in the gaps in the argument of Soboleva and Lu as
they note that Putin was considered a sex symbol with a widespread appeal to
women. This therefore preludes my point that Putin’s propaganda had to include
an aspect of feminism in it. Otherwise he would have had less than half the
nation support him, which is the opposite of a personality cult and more like a
Western democracy.

 

 The theory that I would use for this paper is
one of charismatic authority, which was coined by the sociologist Max Weber in
which he argues that charismatic authority is: “a certain quality of an
individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men
and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically
exceptional powers or qualities.”
(Weber, 1947). This is vital theory when focusing on the cult of Putin because
the propaganda that was created for Putin made him into exactly what Weber
argues is, a superhuman with natural abilities. Charismatic authority does link
to Putin’s cult as in charismatic authority theory it argues that people rally
around its leader in order to legitimise the leader’s position, which is
exactly what Victory Day parade ritual do, as the nation rallies around its
history and therefore its leader Putin.  Using this theory it leads to my hypothesis in
that Putin used the imagery and rituals of the Second World War as a main
source of propaganda, which directly contributed to the construction of his
cult of personality.

 

Prior
to me mentioning the type of research methods I will use in my research design.

I will go through the type of analytical framework I will use which is vital
because understanding the type of analytical framework a researcher would use
determines the type of research approach that the academic in questions seeks
to use. So in this research design and overall thesis I would use
interpretative textual analysis. Interpretative Textual Analysis focuses on
specific texts from online media sources and interprets what is the underlying
meaning behind the text in question and also how the phrases have an effect on
the reader. Such an analytical framework could also incorporate interviews of
academics as way of backing up the underlying meaning of a certain text.

Interviews would help one assert that the text basically means that Putin is
trying to portray himself as the heroic leader of the nation through the
journalist using glorifying language towards Putin. Therefore using such an
analytical framework then determines how one approaches research methods and
gathering data, which I will specify in the next paragraph.

 

In
my research design I will use qualitative approaches rather than quantitative
because within the field of political science all the information collected is quite
subjective, which means that even if one is to use quantitative research
methods it would not prove nothing, as political science is not a scientific
subject and is subjective. Had one used quantitative research methods when
studying Putin cult of personality it would be quite detrimental because how
can one measure a cult using statistics, even if we measure people belief and
his popularity, this would prove nothing as his image is constantly changing
and has been changing from 2000 to 2018.

 

The
problem with using quantitative approaches when exploring Putin cult is that it
would not show how Putin’s cult and propaganda shifted or transformed as A.

there is very little data on that subject. B. even if we collect the data it
would only prove how Putin propaganda and cult worked for that specific year
and not other years as people would answer on their present day opinion on
Putin, which is detrimental to our exploration and finally C. is that data is
very much subjective as one cannot be sure that the data gathered is reliable
or whether it had some kind of ideological inclination. Most importantly as I
mentioned in the first section, the fact that the analytical framework is based
solely on analysing texts, having quantitative data would go against the
analytical framework of the research paper. Moreover as Smiths quite rightly
argues, the ethical issue within research methods is that everyone is bias and
therefore the researchers are selective when choosing the kind of data they
want to present in order to fit their worldview. Consequently, in such regard
quantitative methods can achieve just that, unreliability and rigidness. This
is why I will focus on qualitative research methods in a number of ways.

 

Firstly
I will conduct interviews with experts on Putin, Russian propaganda and Soviet
historians because in order to understand Russia one must understand why there
is such support for Putin and how the propaganda cultivates that support.

Therefore experts on Putin and Russian propaganda would be more unbiased and
can give us a much more thorough insight as to how Putin cultivates his cult
because they do not have particular attachment to Russia as they are Western
experts on Putin and Russia. The problem of interviewing Russian ambassador’s
or its citizens is that ambassador’s have to represent the government
narratives, which means most likely they would either deny there is an
existence of a cult or deny that the Russian government were using propaganda
and argue that it is not propaganda and that the information they provide is
the pure truth. Moreover, interviewing Russian citizens would also be
detrimental to research as there is a huge restriction to freedom of speech in
Russia and as a result many citizens do not want to risk the loss of employment
if their opinions were ever published in some sort of journal article.

Therefore the danger of interviewing Russians citizens would be that they would
most likely give untruthful answer’s as they would fear the loss of employment,
which would mean that the data collected would be false and therefore invalid
for our research and proving our hypothesis.

 

For
this reason the most effective form of interviews is questioning Russian
experts about Putin because they will have conducted previous research and are
more knowledgeable on Putin and the propaganda he exhibits than the average
Russian citizens. I also refer back to the Smiths article about ethical
problems of research which at times is somewhat biased, which in this research
project will not be the case as I would try to seek out various academics and
take into account a diverse points of view when analysing Putin cult of
personality. Moreover in order for my research to be more reliable I would attempt
to contact Russian exiles and dissidents of the likes of Kasparov or
Khodorkovsky in order to truly comprehend Putin’s cult of personality as
figures such as Khodorkovsky knew Putin personally and would give me more of an
understanding about the kind of sickie that Putin exhibits within his
government. This would of course coincide with my analytical framework because
as I am using interpretative textual analysis to analyse Putin’s cult, having
the academics back certain arguments and points are very beneficial when
analysing online sources as they would make us understand why certain things
are written. Moreover it makes us evaluate whether the propaganda in the online
sources are there on purpose as the academics point out to glorify Putin or
there to stop the criticism of Putin. Interviews could therefore be used in
order to help with the analysis. 

 

So
following from the previous section my second research method and this is
fundamental to my research design is to seek out article from various online news
sources such as Russia Today, Pravda and Sputnik in order to conduct the
interpretative textual analysis and this as a result is the main research
method. This is a case study style research method, in which I would pick out five
article and analyse the content and the underlying context of each one. More
importantly I would pick five articles. One article that dated to pre-2004 that
which means it was before the Russian presidential election and before Putin
victory of a second term. In pre-2004 Putin’s cult of personality was quite
relatively weak.

 

The
second article will look at Putin’s cult two years later in the year 2006 in
which Putin image had flourished into a cult of personality, as it was his second
term as president. Then one article will focus on the post presidency phase so
that being in 2010. Finally two articles from Putin’s third term, more specifically
one pre-Ukraine war that being in 2013 and one post-Ukraine conflict between
2014-2018. In this sense with such a research method of gathering online
newspaper articles is not only crucial to my analytical framework but is also
crucial at understanding how Putin’s image is transformed over the years. This
means that the best way to analyse such a phenomenon is to focus our attention
on the analysis of the online propaganda, as this is the type of material being
used to influence the Russian masses. 
Without such an approach to research our research design would simply
fails.

 

This
concludes the main theory that I will use will be charismatic authority when
analysing the propaganda that led to Putin establishing his cult of
personality, whilst also using interpretative textual analysis that therefore
determines that my research will be qualitative rather than quantitative as I
will predominantly use interviews of academics and therefore online sources in
my analyse in the data collected. This will help test whether my hypothesis is
right or wrong.