Vladimir Putin Is Not The ‘Public Relations Man of the Year’


Vladimir Putin has been praised this year for his work to promote a positive image of Russia. In reality, nothing has changed. 

Vladimir Putin had a big week. Two members of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk band that gained notoriety in 2012 for protests against Putin’s government, were released from prison ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics. One of the Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, released as part of a new “amnesty law” backed by Putin, said that Putin’s move was “a disgusting and cynical act”, and added that the group would continue to stage protests against Russia’s government. Putin also pardoned his one-time political rival and opposition leader, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in order to spend time with his ill mother.

The decision to release political prisoners ahead of the Olympics is absolutely a public relations move to promote a positive image of Russia. The problem is, this is well-known to be a public relations stunt, and not representative of actual conditions in Russia for political prisoners who did not make headlines in the West.


In accordance with Putin’s big year in terms of his influence on the world stage, Huffington Post published an article on Monday written by Ronn Torossian, a CEO of a top public relations firm in New York, praising Putin for several moves he made in 2013 that were PR-savvy: his dealing of the Snowden Affair, his op-ed in the New York Times at the height of tensions with Syria, and granting honorary citizenship to tax relief-seeking French actor Gerard Depardieu, have all been used by Western media as examples of Putin’s shrewd leadership in times of crisis.

Torossian gets one thing right: Putin’s agenda this year has been tailor-made to boost his “brand”; despite his best efforts, however, Putin’s image as a cold-hearted former KGB agent perseveres. The reaction in the West following Russia’s granting of asylum to Edward Snowden was not that Russia had become a beacon of civil liberties; rather, it was that Snowden was hypocritical for leaving the United States for the open arms of a government so widely accepted to be intolerant of opposition. The op-ed in the New York Times provided fodder for critics of the President, but it must be said that the threats of US involvement, as well as Russia’s diplomatic approach, averted an international crisis. Finally, Putin’s release of political prisoners like Pussy Riot, Greenpeace activists, and Khodorkovsky, has already been said to be a move motivated by pure propaganda. Torossian’s praise of Putin also ignores the fact that the anti-LGBT law that Putin championed caused the need for damage control in the first place. The bill pushed for heavy stigmatization of homosexuality in Russia, by, among other measures taken, banning the distribution of information to children. The bill has already led to a rise in homophobic violence.

The reality is that Putin is not a new leader with an unknown agenda. 2014 will mark his fifteenth year in power, including the years he spent as prime minister to Dmitry Medvedev in order to comply with constitutional term limits. At this point, the world has seen enough of Putin to know that he is, at the very least, an authoritarian leader, and no amount of public relations mojo will change that. The only way to fix Putin’s world image is to take legitimate steps to ensure freedom of speech for all Russians, regardless of whether they agree with him or not.

—Photo centralasian/Flickr

About Paul Blest


  1. Slavic nations include Serbs, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians among many others. Its a fact. Only the nazi minded idealists deny this and chase the national idea of being unique, different to all those others. Granted there are cultural differences, but you will find similarities in all mentioned above, from folklore, art, cuisine etc.

    As for Ukrainian language, you are partly correct, however Ukrainian speech can be understood by any Russian because of its similarities, more so than the Polish. There are some dialects in Western Ukraine who have taken a larger amount of Polish influence, however it still less then the similarity Ukrainian language has to Russian.

    When you claim that the Poles colonized Ukrainian lands in 1400, you must be referring to the western provinces of this land, no the entire Ukraine. It seems that you like to pick and choose your facts. Due to this history and the geographical location, the people of western Ukraine are different to the people of Central, South and East Ukraine. In language, national ideals, history interpretation. This is one of the undermining causes of today’s crisis.

  2. Ronn Torossian writes that Putin is great at PR – and while you may not like what Putin does – indeed he is great at PR. Re-read the piece:

  3. You may not like that Ronn Torossian says Putin is effective – and may not agree with what Putin does. But he has changed his perception and he is great at PR. (including a link to the oped so people can read it:

  4. Making it look like things have changed when in reality they haven’t?

    Sounds like he IS PR man of the year, that’s what PR does.

  5. “At this point, the world has seen enough of Putin to know that he is, at the very least, an authoritarian leader, and no amount of public relations mojo will change that.”

    He gets results!

    Isn’t it for the Russian people to decide if he is acceptable? We Americans need to cease and desist with trying to run every damn thing off borrowed money! We need to focus on our won deep issues, like the 20+ million children who are either homeless and/or live in poverty.

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