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  • Russia is in the midst of its worst recession in nearly two decades. The recent plunge in

  • oil prices, combined with western economic sanctions, have left the country with a decimated

  • employment rate, a devalued currency and a rapidly growing poverty rate. Meanwhile, Russia’s

  • President, Vladimir Putin, saw his approval ratings peak at nearly 90 percent in 2015.

  • This was according to polls from independent researchers at the Levada Center, as well

  • as state-run polling. So, with all the country’s problems, why do Russians still love Putin?

  • Putin’s persistently high marks are often a shock to the West, as his leadership is

  • riddled with corruption, scandal and brutal authoritarianism. Since taking office in 2000,

  • Putin has allegedly funneled millions of public dollars into presidential perks, including

  • 20 palaces, fleets of yachts and aircraft, a luxury watch collection, and even a 80 thousand

  • dollar toilet. In fact, roughly one-third of Russia’s budget is believed to go to

  • public officials, who collect considerably more from bribes than they did before Putin.

  • Moreover, press freedom has plummeted under Putin, censorship in Russia has been compared

  • Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. Dozens of journalists and Russian dissidents have been murdered

  • since Putin took office, most famously Alexander Litvinenko, whose poisoning was allegedly

  • approved by the president. Putin is known to be exceptionally secretive, likely stemming

  • from his career as a spy for the Soviet Union’s foreign intelligence agency, the KGB.

  • And yet, most Russians still claim to trust Putin. This is, in part, because he brought

  • stability to the country after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. By 1999, the country’s

  • GDP had dropped by more than half and quality of life plummeted to an all time low. Many

  • Russians felt abandoned by the West, slighted by their new government, and in some cases,

  • nostalgic for the Soviet-era. During his 1999 presidential campaign, Putin promised to improve

  • the lives of Russians and create a unique, national identity independent from the West.

  • And in many ways, he did. During Putin’s first presidency, nationalism spiked, Russia’s

  • GDP rose every year, and by 2007, the economy had completely recovered from its post-Soviet

  • downturn and subsequent recession. But despite his popularity, Russia’s economic boom was

  • largely the result of increased demand for their biggest export: oil.

  • But beyond economics, Putin also enjoys a heroic cult of personality. He has retained

  • a take-charge, macho-man image, effectively marketing himself as a fighter for Russian

  • ideals and the common man. Putin has been portrayed as the protagonist of Russian comics,

  • movies and children's books. His name and image are even stamped on products like canned

  • food and Vodka as a way to make them sell.

  • Even after Russia’s controversial annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin’s approval rating

  • continued to grow. Perhaps Russians are willing to oversee Putin’s flaws, for fear of the

  • alternative - a country that is economically stagnant and dependent on aid from the West

  • as it was in the 1990s But Putin’s popularity is not as unique as it may seem.

  • Demagogues around the world, notably Donald Trump in the United States, are seeing overwhelming

  • support from the public. It’s an age-old syndrome, not to mention a dangerous one.

  • As such an authoritarian figure, Putin doesn’t seem to take kindly to critics. A number of

  • them have been arrested, and even killed. So, who are Putin’s enemies and what has

  • happened to them? Watch this video up top to find out. And if youre put off by Putin’s

  • 90% approval rating, then you might have doubts about the Russian media overall.

  • To learn about just how trustworthy Russian media is, watch the video below. Thanks for watching

  • TestTube News, don’t forget to like and subscribe for new videos every day!

Russia is in the midst of its worst recession in nearly two decades. The recent plunge in

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