Wishful thinking can be quite revealing.
In a recent post on Facebook, the former State Duma deputy and pro-Kremlin political commentator Sergei Markov predicted that Vladimir Putin would live to be 130 years old.
He'll be president until he's 71, Markov wrote, and then he'll continue to rule Russia for decades as some sort of supreme national leader -- a sort of Russian Deng Xiaoping.
Now we, of course, know -- and Markov, of course, knows -- that Putin isn't going to live to be 130.
No matter how many times he rides a horse shirtless, he's mortal just like the rest of us.
But Markov's comment -- which he made on the occasion of Putin's 65th birthday -- speaks volumes about the Russian elite's anxiety over the fact of the Kremlin leader's mortality.
It speaks volumes about the very real fears about life after Putin.
Part of this is related to the age-old Russian problem of succession.
In the absence of viable institutions, power in Russia tends to become personalized and power transfers tend to turn into potentially violent and destabilizing power struggles.
And the post-Putin transition promises to be particularly messy because you really need to go back to the Stalin period to find a Kremlin regime that is so centered on -- and dependent upon -- one man.
But sooner or later, the Putin period is going to end.
No amount of wishful thinking and predictions of superhuman longevity are going to change this.
And the courtiers who became rich and powerful under his rule are living in fear of what happens next.
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