Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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 you’re 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!