Vladimir Putin: Culture Warrior

08.22.12 3:00 PM ET

Russia's growing middle-class is causing considerable discomfort for Vladimir Putin, the recently re-elected President who has ruled in that capacity (or as Prime Minister) since 1999. After over a decade of rapid economic growth, one considerably driven by high petroleum prices, many citizens are chafing at Putin's authoritative ruling mannerisms.

In an essay (gated) for Foreign Affairs, Joshua Yaffa notes a fascinating way Putin has responded to this problem: channeling populist politicians in the rhetoric of class-warfare:

This dynamic perhaps explains why by the end of the campaign season in February and March, Putin sought to stir up a kind of Russian class-based politics. As he saw it, he was the leader of rural and industrial Russia, defending the country from those unnamed forces that want, as he said in a campaign speech, "to interfere in our affairs, to force their will on us."

In this speech and others, Putin has tried to link in the public consciousness the country's middle-class protestors to enemies abroad that would wish Russia ill. On the night of his victory, he told the employees of a tank factory, "You put in their places those people who went one step too far and insulted the working man." The real "Russian people," he went on to say, are the "worker and the engineer."

One is reminded of Sarah Palin and her arguments about where "real America" is.