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Title: RUSSIAN LITERATURE’S LATEST CHARACTER: How Putin Embodied Thematic Characteristics in Russian Literature to Evoke Public Support
Authors: Molner, Michelle
Advisors: Danspeckgruber, Wolfgang
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: There seems to be an absence in the contemporary scholarly discussion surrounding Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, in that the discussion rather consistently overlooks Russian literature as a lens through which to examine Putin’s demonstrated ability to evoke substantial support from the Russian public. Literature, defined as the set of written works a society has celebrated and retained throughout its history for having some greater artistic or intellectual value, is an influential force in societal principles and dynamics. Literature not only reflects the contextual culture from which it sprouts, mirroring the already prominent societal values, it also then molds these values as the literature highlights certain characteristics (and downplays others), which are then subconsciously reinforced in the minds of readers. Literature’s role in this respect is particularly prominent in Russian society, considering the society’s historically intimate relationship with its culture (especially literature) as well as the significant extent to which literature has permeated Russian society through its presence in formal Russian education and through its informal transfer between family generations. This thesis suggests that Mr. Putin’s consistently high public approval rate is largely thanks to his ability to project an embodiment of various characteristics thematically presented in Russian literature that have subsequently been absorbed into the Russian psyche as traits to be critically valued. The five specific characteristics examined in this thesis are patriotism, religiosity, perseverance, masculinity, and paternalism. The paper first examines the presence and role of each characteristic in various revered works of Russian literature to demonstrate how each has come to be reinforced over many decades in the mind of Russian society as a trait indicative of a respectable person. The paper then presents various manners in which Mr. Putin projects to the Russian public his embodiment of each characteristic, such as through his reinstatement of various patriotic symbols (patriotism), his vocal calls for the Russian people to stand strong through the temporary hardship of Western sanctions (perseverance), and the Kremlin’s prolific publication of media supporting the image of Putin as an active athlete (masculinity). The intent of this paper is neither to bolster Vladimir Putin’s regime, nor to discredit it; rather the paper’s intent is to offer a conceptual explanation for the already well-documented high public support rate he has consistently enjoyed throughout his time in power. The analysis and findings of this thesis may be helpful in cultivating a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying foundations that guide Mr. Putin’s behavior, which will, in turn, be useful in the prediction and anticipation of future actions taken on behalf of the Russian Federation. The use of literature as a lens through which to analyze a national leader’s behavior may also be extrapolated to other political leaders, assuming specific conditions, namely that literature does, in fact, play a substantial role in the formulation and shaping of the given society’s values.
Extent: 118 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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