President Vladimir Putin’s Fourth Inauguration
by Olivia Kroth
On the 7th of May 2018, Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as President of Russia for a fourth time. The word ‘inauguration’ derives from the Latin ‘inauguro’, which means ‘I devote’ or ‘I dedicate’. The Russian authorities designed a special inauguration ceremony in 1996. The procedure has seen some insignificant changes since then but its fundamental elements remain intact. This ceremony was worth while watching on television, as it not only showed the world the inside of the Kremlin Palace with lots of gold and pomp but also many famous faces of Russia’s political and cultural life. The ceremony began at noon in the Grand Kremlin Palace that overlooks the southern wall of the Kremlin and the Moskva River.
The President arrived in a new Russian-made cortege limousine. This Russian brand of cortege cars has been named “Aurus”. Latin “aurum” means gold, “rus” stands for Russia. The new project of cortege cars for senior government officials comprises a limousine, a sedan, an off-road vehicle and a minivan. Denis Manturov, Minister of Economy, told the press that the cortege cars of the President’s administration will be named after Kremlin towers: “Senate”, “Arsenal” and “Commander”.
New “Aurus” cortege car for the Russian President:
By the time of President Putin’s arrival, his invitees had taken their places in Saint Andrew’s hall. The Chief Judge of the Constitution Court, Dr. Valery Zorkin, placed the Constitution and the Sign of the President on the rostrum, President Putin’s stand. The Commander of the Kremlin, Lt-General Sergey Khlebnikov, met the President at the entrance of the Palace. Upon taking his salute, Vladimir Putin walked up the ceremonial staircase, then through the Halls of Saint George and Saint Alexander Nevsky.
The Hall of Saint George contains the names of all the heroes who were awarded the military order of Saint George, an orange-black ribbon associated with victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The golden doors of this marvellous hall lead into Saint Alexander Nevsky’s hall. Alexander Nevsky was the ancient Russian ruler who defeated the Swedish army at the Neva River. This military Saint also defeated the German knights of the Teutonic order who invaded Russia.
President Putin reached Saint Andrew’s Hall to the sounds of a welcoming march and presidential fanfares. Chief Judge Zorkin handed him the insignia of presidential power, including the presidential emblem, the Golden Cross of Saint George with the double-headed eagle and the slogan ‘Virtue, Honesty and Glory’. President Putin pronounced the oath, holding his right hand on the Constitution: “I hereby take the oath to respect and safeguard the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, to observe and to protect the Constitution of the Russian Federation, to defend the sovereignty, security and integrity of the state and to serve the people in earnest in the course my tenure of the presidential office.”
The double-headed eagle on the presidential emblem has a long and proud tradition in Russia. It dates back to 1472 and the Grand Duchy of Moscow, when Ivan III began using it after his marriage to a niece of the last Byzantine Emperor. The double-headed eagle went on to be an important motif in Russian heraldry during the reign of the House of Romanov. It became the main element of the coat of arms of the Russian Empire. Abolished with the Russian Revolution in 1917, it was restored in 1993. Today, the double-headed eagle on the Russian coat of arms is golden rather than the former imperial black.
Finally, President Putin gave his inauguration speech. “While assuming office as Russia’s president, I am acutely aware of my colossal responsibility to each of you, to all of our multiethnic people, my responsibility to Russia, the country of grandiose victories and accomplishments, to the millennia-old history of Russia’s statehood and our ancestors. I believe my duty and the meaning of my entire life is doing everything for the sake of Russia, for its peaceful and prosperous present and future, for the sake of preserving and continuing our great people, for the sake of well-being in every Russian family. As the head of state I will do everything to multiply Russia’s strength, prosperity and glory in order to live up to the demands of society and the hopes of our citizens,” the President promised (TASS, 07.05.2018)
After addressing his numerous guests in the Grand Kremlin Palace, Vladimir Putin walked to the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square through the Red Porch, where he greeted the servicemen of the Presidential Regiment standing in formations. They were dressed in uniforms of the Patriotic War of 1812. The President also greeted young people who had come in great numbers to congratulate him. He even agreed to have his photo taken with some of those standing in the first row, a memorable souvenir of this festive day.
The lists of 3000 invitees featured representatives of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of power, members of the government, members of both houses of Russian Parliament, presidential administration officials, regional governors, recipients of the Order of Saint Andrew, holders of the title ‘Hero of Russia’, clerics from the main religious denominations, foreign ambassadors and politicians, athletes, business people, cultural personalities, journalists, military and scientists (TASS, 07.05.2018).
US-Russian actor Steven Seagal and his wife Erdenetuya Batsukh on their way to President Putin’s Inauguration:
Some of the colourful show stars to be noted were US-Russian actor Steven Seagal and his wife Erdenetuya Batsukh from Mongolia, as well as the Russian singer Valeriya Perfilova and her husband Iosif Prigozhin, a music producer. The famous Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko was also present. After having won four Olympic medals and three World Championships, he now tours the world with his popular ice shows. Another well-known Russian figure skater was there, too. Alina Zagitova and her trainer Eteri Tutberidze had come to the Kremlin Palace and took a selfie, which can be seen on Alina’s Instagram account. The young figure skater won worldwide fame with a gold medal at the Winter Olympics 2018 in South Korea. Furthermore, the Russian fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin was spotted among the guests.
Russian figure skater and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova with her trainer Eteri Tutberidze attended President Putin’s Inauguration:
The Russian postal service commemorated President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration with a new postage stamp. The inscription reads: “On the 7th of May 2018, V.V. Putin took office as President of the Russian Federation.” The inauguration stamp depicts the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower and the Kremlin Senate. Philatelists can affix their commemorative stamp with a nominal value of 22 rubles to a thematic envelope and impress it with a specially designed mark at two locations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
The inauguration was accompanied by good news, as the European Commission (EC) forecasted acceleration of economic growth in Russia.The prognosis said that Russia’s economic growth would reach 1.7% in 2018 versus 1.5% in 2017: “Going forward, the impact of higher oil prices recirculating throughout the economy is likely to further support domestic demand and thereby GDP which is expected to grow by 1.7% in 2018. Improved confidence, contained inflation and accommodative monetary policy are set to support domestic demand in the near term”, according to the EC document. The IMF also raised the outlook for Russia’s GDP growth in 2018 to 1.7% from 1.6% in its October forecast, leaving the 2019 forecast of 1.5% growth rate intact (TASS, 03.05.2018).
During Vladimir Putin’s presidency, not only Russia’s economics but also the well-being of Russian citizens has greatly improved, as a recent poll shows. Vladimir Putin is a good example for a healthy life with lots of sports and outdoors activities. He neither drinks nor smokes, thus setting a high standard for Russian citizens. The All-Russia Centre for Public Opinion Research [VCIOM] published a new poll on the 3rd of May 2018: “83% of Russians think they are lucky people. The level of happiness Russians have been showing over the past twelve months is the highest over the entire history of opinion polls in this country. The feeling of social optimism dominates among our fellow-countrymen. Russians have reduced smoking and consumption of liquors. Also, they spend fewer hours watching TV now. Simultaneously, an average Russian is spending more time at stadiums, in public parks, going to theatres or simply reading books at home” (TASS, 03.05.2018).
In Europe some people might wonder, why Vladimir Putin got re-elected with such an overwhelming majority of votes, nearly 77 percent. In their own countries leaders are lucky if they receive 30 to 40 percent. In the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin symbolizes Russia’s renaissance as a world power. He appears as a protector of the ties that bind the fatherland. Many Russians see him as the final recourse, whose intervention is sought in extreme cases of danger. President Putin is perceived as a saviour, as someone who always comes to the rescue. A majority of Russians are diehard patriots and sworn enemies of the West. Vladimir Putin appears like a modern incarnation of Saint George, slaying the Western dragon. Now the Russian Federation may enjoy another six years of dragon-free good times, from 2018 to 2023. Whe shall see what comes next.
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.