Is Vladimir Putin about to get his very own banknote?
Could be. An association of entrepreneurs has recently proposed that the Russian central bank issue a commemorative 10,000-ruble note featuring Putin's likeness.
Now you can read this a couple ways. The simplest, of course, is that it is just the latest example of leader worship, the latest manifestation of a cult of personality that has run amok.
But there is also another way to look at it.
Despite the fact that Putin is widely expected to seek -- and all but certain to win -- a fourth term in the Kremlin in March, it could be a sign that the Putin era is actually entering its final lap.
Because in recent weeks, Russian pundits, media, and think tanks have been increasingly -- and very openly -- speculating about life after Putin.
The prominent sociologist Sergei Belanovsky recently wrote on Facebook, for example, that "the Putin era is coming to an end" and that "this is an incontrovertible fact that doesn't depend on how much longer he remains president."
There has been noticeable speculation in the press about the Kremlin leader's health.
And the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation recently published rankings of potential Putin successors -- and major Russian newspapers like Vedomosti, Kommersant, and Gazeta.ru amplified them.
Now, we've been here before and every time we begin to write off this regime, it comes roaring back.
But the system does appear to be preparing itself for Putin being a lame duck.
Which is a pretty far cry from three years ago, when Vyacheslav Volodin famously said, "There is no Russia today if there is no Putin."
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