Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government in Moscow, Russia September 25, 2019. Picture: SPUTNIK / ALEXEI DRUZHININ / KREMLIN
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government in Moscow, Russia September 25, 2019. Picture: SPUTNIK / ALEXEI DRUZHININ / KREMLIN

We took note of Prof Gerrit Olivier’s recent article and strongly disagree with the author’s perception of Russia (Strongman Putin Faces New Internal Threat: Savvy, Middle-class New Russians, September 18). In our opinion this oped is, in both form and essence, a work of fiction.

Just as in most basic Hollywood movies, where Russia is shown strictly through a gloomy crooked lens, Olivier paints a truly bleak and, most importantly, completely distorted picture of current-day Russia, resorting to the rhetoric of the Cold War and apartheid eras.

Olivier’s critique of the Russian leadership is marred by clichés and factual mistakes. Even the simplest things, such as the number of presidential terms, get mixed up. For example, there is no need for president Vladimir Putin to run for a fourth term  — it started in 2018.

Throughout the article the author acts as if he were omnipotent, stating in a peremptory tone what the Russian president thinks, desires and strives for. This alone disqualifies the piece from being taken seriously. Olivier may think he receives signals from the Kremlin, but it is far more likely to be a malfunctioning satellite dish.

The author blatantly denies the vast majority of the Russian people the ability to choose their own future. Apparently they are not savvy enough for Olivier — he scornfully calls them homo sovieticus. This reeks of the arrogant Rudyard Kipling’s “white man’s burden” colonial-type philosophy.

The fact is that the 76.69% of Russians who voted for Putin in the latest election would disagree with his assessment. Consider this: 20,000 protesters (as per official data), who intentionally broke the law by bypassing proper rally procedures, represent 0.1% of Moscow’s population.

By the way, in Russian culture “New Russians” is a derogatory term from the 1990s that describes nouveau riche thugs. A slovenly attempt, Prof Olivier.

Alexander Kulyaev
Russian embassy in SA