The Russian internet exploded when the Communist Party party selected Pavel Grudinin as their candidate for President in 2018.
This is surprising because as an unwritten rule all political movements in Russia are built around a central figure. It doesn’t matter if it is an official/unofficial party or some sort of “movement”. It will always have one charismatic man at the top whose name defines the organization.
For the post-Communist Communist Party this has always been (and many thought always would) be Gennady Zyuganov, but this time, Sir Second Place decided to allow Grudinin to take his usual spot on the ballot, which shocked many.
Given the monolithic nature of Russian political movements, the press exploded over this extremely rare decision but, this is not the only reason for the online excitement.
As director of the famous Lenin Sovhoz (Soviet Farm), Grudinin actually has “proof” that the masses may enjoy life if they vote for him.
Like in most countries, politicians in Russia make many promises that they fail to deliver. In stark contrast, Gudinin can show off his highly organized, clean, disciplined, strawberry plantation that looks like a certain version of “The Russian Dream”. Many English-speaking Russians rave about Europe and see it as an example but Russia’s silent majority tends to look at Belarus and China. Many believe that these countries “take care of people” and function more like Russia could/should. The “free housing” and safety of Belarus are very appealing. Grudinin’s paradise mirrors what Russians see in Belarus and China.
The image of the Sovhoz’s fairy tale day care center, it’s fields being picked by local kids (and some freelancing migrant workers), trash-free streets, and total control over who may buy an apartment, is very romantic. And, this feeling is not exclusive to those who view Communism positively. Many Russians want a place that is controlled and closed off to outsiders, even other Russians. They also want to live somewhere productive that provides economic opportunity. This is a strong sellable vision for the future to the country at large.
Would I vote for Grudinin? No. Is he a candidate worth noting who has a massive advantage over the other boring or clownish non-Putin candidates? Yes. Pavel Lord of the Strawberry Plantation has actually accomplished something real and tangible with his life. This achievement also happens to be very attractive to the Russian population.
-Tim Kirby is a political analyst and award-winning radio talk show host in Moscow, Russia. Tim grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.
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