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Vox Pop: Russians React To One Year Of Medvedev’s Presidency

  • Kevin O'Flynn

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: "How much do you like me?"

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: "How much do you like me?"

MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev marks his first year in office today, after a busy year that has seen him grappling with an economic crisis and the August war with neighboring Georgia.

There have also been constant questions as to whether he is his own man or whether former President Vladimir Putin, who is now prime minister, has more power and will stage a return in elections scheduled for 2012.

What do average Russians on the streets of Moscow think?

He tries to do everything not for himself, but for the people -- you can see that. He’s quiet, calm. There’s no PR, nothing like that.
Many Muscovites told RFE/RL that they were positive about Medvedev’s first year, saying that he had made a good impression.

Pensioner Vera Ivanovna, 88, says she likes the youthful drive of Medvedev, who at 43 is less than half her age.

“I think that he is sufficiently energetic, young, and moving in the right direction in the sense of organizing life in large cities for the population of our country and trying to establish good relations with other countries where, how do you say, there were some ups and downs," Ivanovna said. "Now he is trying to ease things."

Fyodor Nikolaev, 37, a refrigerator repairman, said that he liked the fact that Medvedev is so different in manner from Putin, who reveled in his image as an uncompromising statesman and a judo expert who flew in a fighter jet when he was campaigning to be president.

“He tries to do everything not for himself, but for the people -- you can see that. He’s quiet, calm. There’s no PR, nothing like that. He doesn’t fly in planes. That’s what I like," Nikolaev said. "The person does things, does his work. Let him do it.”

'It's That Kind Of Business, Dark'

Vladimir Udalov, 27, a former serviceman handing out adverts on the street, is a big fan of Medvedev's, and thinks he deserves to be re-elected.

"He needs to be elected for a second term like Putin so he can finish off more or less the things he has come up with," Udalov said. "It was the same with Putin. In the first term he tried to do a lot, but in the second term he did what he didn’t do in the first. It will be the same with Medvedev.”

Other Muscovites were more ambiguous, saying they did not pay attention to politics.

Waitress Yekaterina Terentyeva, 26, who was standing on a busy street in Moscow, said she has spent the past year avoiding the news. Nevertheless, she said she saw Medvedev and Putin as entwined, but was not sure if that was good or bad.

“Really, I’m not that strongly interested in politics because it’s that kind of business, dark. But Medvedev, he has a happy look, balanced, wise," Terentyeva said. "We have had a lot of presidents like that. No, I meant the opposite. Everyone understands that Medvedev is finishing what Putin never finished. That’s good. Maybe.”

The few Muscovites who expressed disappointment in Medvedev were those who had also been unhappy with his predecessor.

Genrikh, 70, an editor at an economics journal, saw little change with the arrival of a new man despite recent signs of a more liberal bent.

“Everything that existed under the leadership of Putin it is not going anywhere, despite some kind of signs suggesting a new path, etc.," Genrikh said. "So far, in essence, it is a continuation of more of the same.”
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