Vladimir Putin’s Political Future Remains a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery

Vladimir Putin’s Political Future Remains a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery

A new Russian epic film that tells the story of the emergence of the Romanov czarist dynasty is widely seen as the latest move in the campaign to keep President Vladimir Putin in power after his second and final allowable term ends in May 2008. "1612," which is said to have been produced by a friend of Putin, recounts how the Russians "drafted" Mikhail Romanov to save the country during a dark period of its history, thus paving the way for imperial Russia.

The film's director is quite open about its contemporary message. "I'm convinced . . . that Russians have a strong desire for a czar," Vladimir Khotinenko was quoted as saying the other day in the Wall Street Journal. That the director is referring to Vladimir Putin is not in question. The outgoing Russian president's popularity rating hovers around 70 percent, and Veronika Krasheninnikova, author of a new Russian book on U.S.-Russian relations, predicted recently that, "If today democratic elections were held in Russia, Putin would have to stay for a third term."

Putin himself has repeatedly said he will not seek a third presidential term, and opposes any adjustment to the Russian constitution to make that possible. But obviously most Russians would like him to, and there is much discussion about how the constitutional landscape could be rearranged so that Putin would continue to run the country.

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