Monday, September 29, 2014

The Modern Russian Problem with Monarchy

I have been quite amazed by the number of people who identify as monarchists or who are at least interested enough in the subject to read what I write who are such unabashed admirers of Russian President Vladimir Putin. How can a man who is a former KGB officer of the Soviet Union, the President of a republic who bases his rule on being democratically elected (putting aside allegations of chicanery in the voting process) and who is at odds with almost every remaining monarchy in the world able to have any monarchists as his fans? In my experience this usually comes down to the draw of nationalism, Russian Orthodoxy and support for most of his policies as well as the image of Putin as the man standing opposed to the liberal western world that these people despise. Well, on that count, one would be hard-pressed to find a bigger critic of modern, liberal, western society than myself but I want to put it back to the way it was, not see it wiped out or replaced by simply a more illiberal version of “democratic” republicanism. However, if one is a fan of Putin simply because one views him as being the least bad in a cast of bad characters or the tallest dwarf in midget land, I can at least understand that and will start with something positive.

Putin with his old boss Yeltsin
Restricting oneself to the current Russian political establishment, to those who have a realistic chance of gaining power and ruling the country, I have said in the past that Putin may well be the least bad option. This is a country in which the second largest political faction is the Communist Party that thinks the height of Russian greatness was the Stalin era. God knows the last thing anyone would want would be to see those cretins in power. Furthermore, in his domestic policies, there has been some things that I have agreed with Putin on and there are instances in which I think he has done the right thing. He has privatized the economy somewhat, he has encouraged Russians to have more children (as the population is shrinking fast) and he has shown more favor to the Russian Orthodox Church than past governments. Some things were just personally satisfying for me like arresting those annoying sanctimonious Green Peace activists in the Barents Sea or that ridiculous girl group that was desecrating churches. However, I am not prepared to view a politician as the Second Coming just for banning “Gay Pride” parades.

Let me also say that when it comes to foreign policy, while I mostly think Putin has been atrocious in this area, there are areas in which he has a legitimate case. For example, the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe. NATO, in which the United States carries almost the entire military burden, has moved in right next door to Russia by accepting countries such as the Baltic states as members. Given how NATO is set up (one goes to war, we all go to war) this was effectively a war guarantee to these countries from the United States. Let me stress that I have nothing against the Baltic states and do not wish any harm to come to them but the idea that the United States should go to war on their behalf is absurd. These countries, much like Ukraine, were part of Russia for hundreds of years and it had no impact on the United States at all. There is no reason for it and it antagonizes Russia just as the United States would be outraged if Russia gave a war guarantee to a country like Mexico. Perhaps even worse as Putin has talked a good game when it comes to warning the west not to mess with his allies but he has never actually been willing to risk a confrontation by defending them. NATO has never been put to the test so it remains probably more threatening because it has never had to back down.

So, there are certainly areas in which Russia has a just case and in which a bad attitude at least, on the part of Russia, is totally justified and a not unnatural reaction to overreach by western Europe and the United States. The problem, at least for pan-monarchists like myself who want to protect the few remaining monarchies in the world, is that, despite how stridently anti-American I know many monarchists are, most of the monarchies of the world are officially or unofficially under the protection of the United States. Virtually every monarchy in Europe save for perhaps Liechtenstein is a member of NATO or is under the protection of a NATO member. For a pan-monarchist there is no getting around the fact that, in the world as it is today, the United States is defending the few remaining monarchies and the Russian Federation is defending their enemies. In the Middle East, the Arab monarchies are on friendly terms with the United States whereas the regimes on the most friendly terms with Russia are the stridently anti-monarchy Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogate in Syria. Likewise, in East Asia, the United States is allies with the monarchies of Japan and Thailand with ties strengthening with Malaysia while Russia is on friendliest terms with the People’s Republic of China. This being the same Communist China that positively despises Japan, has territorial disputes with them, Malaysia and even little Brunei and which inspired the overthrow of the monarchy in Nepal.

However, for those coming at things purely from a nationalistic or religious perspective, none of that must matter. They are not pan-monarchists and must believe that monarchy can exist in a vacuum and/or that it can still come back even if the last monarchy on earth is extinguished. Fine, but even from that standpoint I still cannot understand what would turn an Orthodox Christian and Russian nationalist with monarchist leanings into a starry-eyed Putin fan boy. First, on the nationalist front, I will agree that Putin may well be, once again, the only viable option available but that is a far cry from being someone worthy of enthusiastic support. I will give Putin credit for being better than post-Soviet regimes that went before him (I take it for granted that anything is an improvement over the USSR) as these regimes really were horrible and brought nothing but shame and despair on Russia and which did often allow themselves to be exploited by despicable players in the western world. That being said, I still see nothing that Putin has done that warrants such adulation as he often receives in terms of Russian nationalism and he held office in those dark days under Yeltsin and his first act on becoming president was to make sure that his former boss would not face prosecution for the corruption that left Russia in such a sad state. He often talks a good game, but I have yet to see him deliver anything concrete.

Putin and Chinese president Hu Jintao
Take, for example, an issue in which I am in full agreement with President Putin; the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. Did he stop this or do anything actively to reverse it? No, in fact he has recently given a sort of legitimacy to Kosovo independence by using that as a precedent for the secession of Crimea from Ukraine. This is also symptomatic of a habit Putin has of justifying doing what disreputable things other countries have done on the lofty grounds of, “well, they did it first”. This tends to lessen his image as being simply “the lesser evil” of the leading world figures when he interferes in the affairs of other countries just as his western counterparts do and with his constant harping on being in lock-step with the UN. His nationalist credentials are also certainly not helped by his infatuation with Communist China. He has effectively sold out Russia to a country that even the Soviets never trusted when they were both officially communist. Since officially signing his BFF treaty with China, Putin handed over Tarabov Island, Zhenbao Island, and half of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island to China, a follow up to the 1991 agreement that also saw Russia cede territory to China. This caused the forced relocation of Cossacks living in the region but has been routinely ignored by professed Russian nationalists. Then there was the recent sell-out of Russian mineral reserves in Siberia to Chinese exploitation at far below market value. Combine this with the demographic disparity in the region between the two countries and he may as well have tossed them the keys to the whole of the Russian far east while he was at it.

Finally, we have the issue of the monarchy which, to my mind at least, is inextricably bound up with the Russian Orthodox Church. For me, this is the most paramount issue because, as some evidently fail to notice, I am a monarchist (feel free to have a drink if the shock of that is too much for you). Putin has done some good things on this front which I freely acknowledge. However, my biggest problem with him and all those like him is that he is the illegitimate leader of an illegitimate regime. I cannot and will not give my full, enthusiastic support to any Russian leader who is not a proper Czar of the Romanov dynasty nor to any government that is not the government of the Russian Empire. Every post 1917 government in Russia should not exist and has no right to the loyalty of the Russian people as far as I’m concerned and, in a way, the things Putin has done which are positive in regards to the Russian Orthodox Church and the former monarchy only highlight this.

For one thing, while I am frequently annoyed with those in the west who try to portray Putin as the worst monster on the world stage (including the same old tired comparisons to the dead-horse named Adolf Hitler -which, again, Putin responds to by surrendering the moral high ground and stooping to the same level) which he certainly is not and is often responding to unjustified meddling by others in his own backyard, I am also only further put off by the gushing tributes of his starry-eyed fan boys. This is because their attitude tells me that Putin is doing something, in a way, worse than anything even the Soviets did which is to make republicanism in Russia seem acceptable to normally loyal people. I don’t want Russia to be comfortable with republicanism, I don’t even want it to be a stunning success as, while certainly wishing no harm to come to the Russian people, I don’t want anyone to settle for anything less than the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy and Russian Empire. This is something that has been talked about, the subject being tossed around every few years, but which never seems to come to fruition. If Putin is so popular, if he is so beloved and trusted in Russia, there is no reason why he couldn’t do it if he so desired. That brings me to the subject of Generalissimo Franco. What?

It's Franco -don't act surprised
I have been asked by some of the enthusiastic Putin fans how I can have such a positive opinion of Generalissimo Franco but not President Putin. Allow me to explain; I think it may be helpful. In the first place, I have never considered Franco an ideal figure by any means but have always, I think, been clear that I consider him to have been a *necessary* figure. He was not perfect, his regime was not terribly effective (the speed of the collapse in support for his politics after his death revealing that his values had not really taken hold in the public) but he prevented Spain from becoming a communist state, brought down the republic and enabled the Spanish monarchy to be restored. True, Don Juan Carlos did not become King of Spain until after his death but, it is often forgotten, Franco actually restored the monarchy legally in his own lifetime so there was no doubt about what was going to happen. He also did his level best to eradicate the enemies of Spain and keep them from ever gaining power. Putin has done none of these things. Now, to be fair, I think it is because Putin thinks he can achieve greater unity by just taking the wide view of “Russia” with no real distinction for the Czarist era, the Soviet era or the Federation era but the fact remains that he has not broken with the republican government nor has he managed to stop the Communist Party from remaining the second most powerful political force in the country. Franco was an anti-communist and a nationalist who would not compromise even if that meant Spain had to stand alone. Putin, on the other hand, professes to be anti-communist while showing nostalgia for the Soviet past and allying with communist regimes from Cuba to China.

However, the greatest good deed Putin has done is also, in a way, the deed that most condemns him from my perspective. That good deed was the official rehabilitation of the martyred Romanovs of the Imperial Family in 2008 (after three previous refusals to do so). Giving Putin credit for this, just as an aside, can be a double-edged sword though as it rather undermines the independence of the legal system and would give credence to those who accuse him of using the courts to punish his political enemies. However, it was a good thing to see justice done to the martyred members of the Russian Imperial Family. The problem is that it makes the lack of a restoration of the monarchy all the more infuriating, particularly if Putin, as his fans so often claim, has been pushing for the rehabilitation. If the Czar did nothing wrong, if the Russian government is admitting that his murder was unjust; then what exactly is the basis for their continued refusal to restore the monarchy and all the property unjustly seized from the Imperial Family?

HIH Grand Duchess Maria of Russia
I expect republicans to be the enemies of monarchy; if you believe in the ideals of republicanism and revolution then you *should* oppose monarchy but it is positively infuriating to me to have someone say that they believe in Orthodox Christianity, a cornerstone of which was the sacred role of the emperor, that they think Czar Nicholas II and his family were innocent victims of political repression and that their murder was unjust and yet still not restore the Russian Orthodox monarchy! It reminds me of the Biblical passage from St James 4:17, “To him therefore who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin”. If Putin were as sincerely devout as his fans claim him to be, the restoration of the monarchy would be underway right now because a Russia without a Czar is a positive sacrilege. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, recognized by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia as head of the House of Romanov, has said she is, “ready to respond to a call from the people” to become Empress of Russia. There is no impediment to this if Putin, with his long-standing dominance of the political scene in Russia, wished it to be so. If the Czar and his family were treated unjustly, if they were innocent of the crimes they were accused of, as the Russian courts have recognized, then there is no reason even by their standards why the Romanov dynasty should not be restored to their rightful place with the sincerest apologies of the government.

Holy Russia -accept no substitutes
For me, that is the bottom line and the non-negotiable point. I certainly don’t think Putin is the worst leader in the world, I don’t think countries far removed from his should be meddling where they have no business and in certain areas I think he is perfectly right to push back. However, I certainly do not regard him as being worthy of admiration. When he says the right thing, he has so far failed to actually do anything about it, he has surrendered Russian territory and resources and aligned himself with the most atrocious of regimes. But my biggest problem with him is that he is, to repeat, the illegitimate leader of an illegitimate regime and if he really is the secret sympathizer of “traditionalists” that I continue to be told that he is, it makes his failure to restore the monarchy all the more deplorable. I don’t want nationalists or conservatives or traditionalists or anyone to become comfortable with the Russian Federation, I don’t want it or any other illegitimate republican regime to thrive or succeed, I want them to be restored to their rightful sovereigns as soon as is humanly possible. I am not prepared to compromise on the issue; I will have a Russian Empire with a Romanov Czar and will settle for nothing less. Any leader of any sort of a republican Russia will never be acceptable to me and the only Russian president I will ever have a kind word for is the one who finally wipes away the crime of 1917 and restores the Orthodox monarchy of Imperial Russia.

22 comments:

  1. I think Vladimir would be a fine name for Tsar.

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    1. I actully had this crazy idea once; if Vladimir Putin would have married HIH Grand Duchess Maria of Russia; wouldn't that be a great way of trainsisition to monarchy?

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  2. I am almost 100% on board with this post. I would just say that if Putin genuinely believes in much of his rhetoric, I can see him pulling some kind of Franco-esque Restoration. Though, I'm a cynical on that front and thinks he uses that rhetoric more for political leverage than genuine belief. However, I hope I'm wrong and he restores the Romanovs ultimately. If he does that, it would be enough to cover those political sins he has committed.

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  3. The Duma can create a Tzar. The root of Monarchy is popular support and desire for protection by the people(cf. 1 Samuel, G.K.C., The Fyrd and Alfred). Better an Orthodox Christian Putin to shield a reviving Russia than the children of Progressive Modernism. An interim Regent is a lesser good, not a lesser evil. Like the Three Musketeers it takes all types. As I eat cheap Mcdonalds food, I suspect I am a Porthos. He is as necessary as Athos, D'Artagnon, or Aramis.

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    1. But he hasn't made himself Czar has he? On the contrary, I've seen his supporters, even among the clergy, argue against having a Czar at all. And for all the praise heaped on him as the "Orthodox Christian Putin" the actual accomplishments that would warrant this title always seem to be missing. Is it simply that he banned gay pride parades? Is that all that it takes?

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  4. This is refreshing to read, especially as it seems that many either revere Putin or detest him, with nothing in between. Something I can say with certainty, though, is that if the West had better leadership than the pygmies we see in office nowadays, we wouldn't see so many Putin fans. Thank you, MM, for a very realistic assessment of one of the more interesting men of our day.

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    1. I think that is probably true and if I came off more harsh than intended it is probably because so many of Putin's fans are more intolerable to me than Putin himself. In regards to the west, I think he's been right more than he's been wrong, his expansion of Russian power didn't start until after NATO and/or the EU expanded massively to the east. Yet, because I refuse to recognize the legitimacy of any post-1917 Russian regime and will not adore the man but view him as, at best, the thinnest man at fat camp, it causes an uproar amongst his adoring public.

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  5. What a lovely portrait of GD Maria Vladimirovna!

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  6. God save Her Imperial Highness Maria Vladimirovna! God save Russia!

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  7. What both supporters and critics of Putin don't get is that his authoritarian style of leadership is well-suited to Russian conditions but shouldn't be emulated or imposed elsewhere. A restored monarchy is likely to follow the same pattern, but that's not for us to criticise - because each nation is of its own mind and follows its own path.

    My own Catholic and anti-Communist sensibilities naturally leads me to side with Poland, the Baltic states, Ukrainian Catholics and others who all knew what it was like under Communism and who see Russian belligerence and arrogance as offensive to their dignity. Nothing less than a Russian monarchy is acceptable, but it is unrealistic to assume that it will recover all its old territory.

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    1. Not enough to make me a presidential cheerleader. First, I don't know what relevance the poll numbers are and as for films with state support, the same could be said for a number of generally pro-monarchy British films. Doesn't make me a big fan of Blair, Brown or Cameron.

      Strengthening the Church with state funds -I'm not sure what that means. Most state-funded churches don't do well but, as you cited the USA, I certainly can imagine such a thing because it has happened. Bush did give millions of dollars to churches and the government has supported the restoration of deteriorated historic churches. Doesn't make me think of Bush as worthy of hero-worship.

      On the institution of national childbearing day, I did, if you recall, give Putin credit for trying to shore up the demographic problem but there are national days for all sorts of things in countries all over the world. None accomplish all that much and abortion is still legal and, as of 2010, Russia had the most abortions of any country on earth (as a percentage of their population, I'm sure Putin's friends in China have more overall).

      No gay pride parades, I already noted that as being a positive but even there, other presidents have done more. If that is your test, why not adore presidents who have outlawed homosexual acts altogether? There are still gay bars in Russia, a gay sub-culture in Russia, they just can't flaunt it in a parade. I've defended Putin on that one but I'm not going to revere him just for that.

      Re-whipping Cossacks, what? In any event, suppressing rioters who are "desecrating" whatever, okay, not sure what you're talking about there but taking action against rioters is something every government does. Upholding law and order doesn't make a politician extra-special in my book, it's part of their job.

      As for withholding judgment, would you want me to do the same in areas in which I agree with Putin? Doesn't sound like it. But if I am to wait for him to do all these great monarchist things you are your fellow fans keep telling me are just around the corner; exactly how long will it be? He's been in power for the last 15 years (longer that Hitler or Roosevelt who both did some pretty dramatic changes in their countries in that time) and the government has not restored any status to the Romanovs, returned no property or done really anything concrete other than admit that their murder was wrong. Other republican leaders have done far more and I'm still not heaping adulation on them either.

      That is what probably disturbs me the most about this issue. Take a figure like Britain's Peter Hitchens. He's pretty pro-Russia and he is often brought on TV as the one expected to defend Putin, which he does, basically on the grounds that (as I laid out above) the west moved in on Putin first, not the other way around, and western countries have no business meddling in these other countries. I am in almost complete agreement with Mr. Hitchens and yet, -and yet-, because I don't positively worship Putin or agree with absolutely everything he does, I get flooded with criticism from his adoring fans, I get threatened on Facebook, I get comments I can't even post on here, I get videos posted telling me what an idiot I am. I find that disturbing and rather cultish. I treat Putin no differently than any other politician. When I think he's right, I'll say so, when I think he's wrong, I'll say so to but I will never consider him an acceptable replacement for the legitimate monarch.

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  9. Another interesting post. Some might argue that de-facto Putin is a Czar. But I think to a certain degree your analysis of Putin was a bit unfair. In particular the bit about him aligning himself with nations that are hostile to Monarchies and the U.S. being in an opposite situation. While that is true, Putin alone cannot change that fact. He inherited such alliances that were forged when he was just a boy. Realistically speaking as you yourself said, he's the best Russia can do right now. That being said, we also have to remind ourselves that he inherited a nation in shambles. What was he going to do first? Crush the Islamic uprising in Chechnya? Outfox the Oligarchs? Rebuild the nations' crumbling infrastructure? Or re-align all of Russia's cemented alliances to suit a better foreign policy towards monarchies? While we all wish he would do the latter, it's not as easy as it might seem. Again considering the task he was handed in 1999 vs what he has accomplished by 2014, I'd say he's had his plate full. Yeah he's not a Monarchist and most likely will never restore the crown to its rightful place(though stranger things have happened), he's just as you and everyone else has said; the most realistic choice for Russia. Especially given what his opposition has thrust forward for an alternative: Khodorkovsky and Gary Kasparov. I shudder to think should those two ever arise to rule over Russia. The catastroika of the 90's would return overnight.

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    1. Obviously, I don't think I was unfair at all. His internal policies have mostly met with my approval (other than the whole maintaining an illegitimate regime thing, I think he or any Russian would be absolutely correct to be outraged at NATO and EU expansion into Eastern Europe or by US bases in Central Asia. On the contrary, my problem is more often with the defenders of Putin than Putin himself, people who profess to be monarchists but will ceaselessly defend an illegitimate politician more ardently and publicly than they ever would the Czar, or who will criticize the Czar while denying that Putin has ever done anything wrong or unjust. I'm a monarchist and I'm just not ever going to gush over a president.

      As for the inherited alliances, it doesn't wash. A change in government is the perfect excuse for changing alliances and he himself has done it, just never to the benefit of a monarchy or even for Russia. The Soviets were always antagonistic with China over leadership of the international communist movement, Putin changed that all by himself, giving up Russian land and Russian mineral rights in the process. They also dropped their long-standing Vietnamese allies in the process, mostly to please China, so that the Communist Vietnamese have had to suffer the humiliation of trying to be somewhat more friendly with their former American enemies.

      The problems he inherited were no doubt immense (and many western Europeans & Americans had a hand in making it so) but he was in government all that time too and he did Russia no favors by shielding the culprits who fleeced the country from prosecution for their corruption. The idea of "cemented alliances" is part of the problem. Imperial Russia never succumbed to such foolishness but rather shifted in alliance from Germany and Austria to Britain and France and so on as Russia's interests dictated, but, then again, I can think of no Romanov Czar who ever gave up Russian land and resources to a former enemy (or even an ally) in return for nothing more than the pretense of goodwill.

      Would others have done worse? Probably, which is one reason why I detest the hysterical tirades some of his enemies go on, claiming him to be (yet another) modern-day Hitler. Again, I'm almost more upset by his admirers than by Putin himself. Aside from one American die-hard fan of President Kennedy, I have never had more professed monarchists come rushing to the defense of a republican president (over what is far, *far* from being the worst criticism I've ever dished out) than I have seen over Putin. And, given my position, it all seems to be because I won't bow down and worship the man. That is why I said the most frightening thing he may have done, based on this experience of mine, is to make formerly loyal monarchists accepting of the illegitimate republic.

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  10. Fair enough. But as we all know. He is no Monarchist. So obviously his priorities are not going to be to restore the Romanov dynasty.

    The one thing that irritates me about Putin admirers, especially here in the states is how they seem to be making him this sort of Tea Party like individual who's a diehard libertarian or something. That delusion is the most absurd thing I've seen. Putin is a statist through and through. Of any President here tried to strong arm the corrupt Bankers on Wall Street like Putin did with the Oligarchs, that president would be branded a communist. If that same President tried the same economic model as Putin(which I personally like) again he or she(Might be a reality in 2016) would be maligned as the second Karl Marx by those very people admiring Putin today.

    What I think it is, is that a lot of conservatives in America are so distraught that liberalism is winning, that they blindly see Putin as everything they ever wanted in a leader, merely because of his tougher stance on the encroaching liberal wave. And of course ignoring everything else about him.

    Btw, didn't the Czar sell Alaska to us?

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    1. On the economic front I've heard him described as a capitalist, a corporatist and a communist, depending on who's doing the complaining. For the second, yeah, alot of people saw him ban gay pride parades and suddenly they think he's the Second Coming. As for Alaska, absolutely, but the key word there is "sell" -Czar Alexander II didn't just give it away and, of course, in the 19th Century nobody knew about the mineral wealth that was there.

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    2. Well actually Putin is neither a capitalist or a communist. He supports the idea of National Champions. Which seems to be better than the tired old Harvard Business School model we have here.

      Here is his economic viewpoint: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_champions

      Yes the Czar did sell Alaska, oh how the Soviets must have rued that decision later on. Putin is probably sore about it too I bet. But I am curious to know when did Putin "give" away Russian land to the Chinese?

      There are certain rumors circulating that Putin will indeed restore the Romanov dynasty in Russia, on a constitutional basis, with him retaining de-facto Czarist powers. What do you make of such innuendo? Would it be too out of character for a KGB Colonel?

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    3. Didn't you read the article? And what's with putting "give" in quotes? There was land that was under the flag of Russia, it was handed over to the Chinese. Nothing was traded, no money changed hands, what else would you call it? As for the rumors, I don't make much of them. I'd be happy to be proven wrong but I've been hearing such rumors for many years now. After more than a decade in power, if he wanted to do something like that I tend to think he would have done it already.

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  11. I am pleased to see such a fair assessment of the Russian regime, which makes is a monarchist Russia. Unfortunately, many supporters of the Monarchy in the modern world happily deceive ourselves into thinking that Mr. Putin has a good Christian leader. That's not it. Mr. Putin - a KGB and KGB "former" does not happen. KGB blame for the repression of communism, and for Mr. Putin his political ideal - Stalin's Soviet Union.

    Thank you, my dear sir, for a correct assessment.

    I remain, with respect to you, and with interest I read your blog.

    God bless you Mr. and Holy Virgin Mary!

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