boost its protégé’s chances, the Kremlin hurled the full weight of
government-friendly media behind Putin. A bitter, scandal-mongering
campaign was launched against his potential rivals in the
presidential race, especially those who were seen as a threat to the
Kremlin elite. For example, Evgeny Primakov, a well-respected
politician and a former prime minister, was depicted as an old and
frail has-been; and Yury Luzhkov, the popular Moscow mayor, was
painted as a dishonest crook.
deployment of the power resources of the “Kremlin Family” to back
Putin cannot alone explain the comet-like rise of his popularity
ratings. The forty-seven-year-old former KGB officer managed to
project an image of a youthful and energetic leader, a man of
integrity and quiet dignity capable of putting an end to the drift
and chaos of the Yeltsin era.
every respect, he could not be more different from his mentor. Far
from charismatic, he rarely smiled and talked with clipped sentences
in an immensely popular, no-nonsense
style, reinforcing the image of a doer rather than a talker. His
most memorable soundbites are coarse, matching his tough image.
Pledging to track down Chechen rebels, he promised “to rub them out,
even in the toilet.” Launching a campaign against corruption, he
said officials on the take would be “squashed like rats.”
despite having been at the center of Kremlin politics since 1996, he
was not regarded as a member of Yeltsin’s court cabal and maintained
a patina of toughness and incorruptibility associated with his KGB
youthfulness, physical health, and energy were in stark contrast to
the aging and ailing Yeltsin. Television images of Putin flying a
fighter plane, inspecting a battleship, practicing judo, and skiing
down mountain slopes reinforced the message that he was no softy.
His youth and vigor quickly endeared him to various sectors of the
Russian electorate. Women, in particular, were pleased to see a
presidential candidate capable of projecting quite a different image
from the traditional Russian stereotype of an unsporty, drinking,
and smoking male.