With Russians Feeling Besieged, Some Give Putin a Loaded Title: Vozhd
Now, with many Russians feeling their country is under attack from the West, some are invoking the term in solidarity with Putin and defiance of his critics.
The current issue of Time Magazine features a Rodney Dangerfield-esque Vladimir Putin on the cover, with an insouciant smirk on his face and a tiny imperial crown perched upon his head. The headline reads: “Rising Tsar.”
That represents a pretty typical Western commentary on the Kremlin leader’s huge reelection victory last month. Mr. Putin has labored long and hard to project himself as a normal, modern president who wins elections and abides by constitutional rules. But that Time cover and others like it signify that few in the West are inclined to see him that way.
But Russians, too, seem to increasingly view their long-time leader as something much more than a standard politician, though the image some are reaching for is not that of a czar. The word that keeps cropping up is vozhd, an ancient term imbued with mythic connotations that signifies a chieftain who stands above history, one who embodies the enduring will of the entire nation.
The term’s reemergence in Russian discourse appears to be due to the sense of ongoing crisis brought about by the confrontation with the West, which began in earnest four years ago with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has escalated ever since. Even as Putin was being reelected last month with his biggest margin ever, a war of words was raging between Moscow and London over the attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal with allegedly Russian-made nerve gas.
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