The End Of An Era?

In the most predictable contest since Brazil last played Andorra in international football, at home, Dmitry Medvedev romped to victory in the Russian elections this weekend.

Western newspapers will point to infringements in the democratic process (a straw poll of our office reveals that only two of our staff even know who he was running against - 'that Communist guy' providing the only slight semblance of competition); but even without alleged electoral rigging and a monopoly on the state media it is probable that Medvedev would have snuck into office... He was after all hand-picked by Vladimir Putin as his successor.

Putin is a man who enjoys a ropey reputation in the West at best. An ex-KGB man and a proud nationalist, Putin has ruled Russia with an iron fist - precisely the rule that the majority of Russia responds to best. Whatever your stance on Chechnya, and your cynicism towards the untimely deaths of his political opponents (such as journalist Anna Politkovskaya and spy Alexander Litvinenko), Putin has been good for Russia.

With Putin at the helm Russia has been transformed from a country facing financial meltdown in 1998 to one of the world's largest economies - one that is still growing at a rate of 7% a year! Wages have doubled and living standards have rocketed for a large proportion of the country.

From being a country on its knees, Russia has transformed into a global economic and political power - to a proud Russian population this is worth the death of a couple of journalists.

The big question on everybody's lips now is how will new boy Medvedev steer the Russian state? Will he be a puppet to his long term friend and mentor (who by the way is taking up the post of Prime Minister), or will he loosen his grip and allow a more democratic, Western friendly Russia to emerge. Only time will tell...


not shown