For Discussion Forum 7, please address any of the questions below. As always: you are required to make a minimum of THREE (3) posts per module. At least one of your three posts should be your own original comment; at least one – should be a response to or comment on something another classmate has posted; the third post can be either your own original post or a comment on a classmate’s post. Keep in mind that your response should NOT simply be a summary of the assigned reading. A higher grade will be awarded to posts that demonstrate student’s ability to provide an original interpretation of the topic while also applying relevant concepts, issues, and theories covered in the module.
1. Using information about the concept of “personality cult” analyzed in Cassidy and Johnson article (esp. pp. 46 – 49), discuss the various ways in which Putin’s cult has been created in today’s Russia. From what you have understood from the course material so far, how does the Putin cult (and the opposition to this cult) differ from cults of other Soviet leaders (e.g. Stalin or Brezhnev)?
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2. If you recall, in the documentary My Perestroika Borya (a history teacher) was unhappy with new history books that the Russian government was imposing on high schools. Read an excerpt from such a history book in Peter Baker’s essay “Project Putin” (p.38). What is your opinion on the textbook’s message? Do you feel this type of “historical” text is, in a way, a step back towards Soviet-style propaganda? Explain your opinion. Do you think schools need to draw a line between education and politics, education and indoctrination? Should any time be spent in schools glorifying (or even discussing) the country’s leaders? Make sure to tie your answer to the Russian example.
3. Several readings and documentaries in this module talk about the mythology surrounding Putin’s name, as well as about “the Putin brand.” Discuss specific examples of various cultural mythologies surrounding Russia’s current leader. Why do you think these mythologies might be important to his rule? Can you think of similar folkloric, mythological or popular cultural presentations of politicians as celebrities in other countries (including the U.S.)? In general, do you think politicians can be considered celebrities?
4. As you learned in this module, Vladimir Putin’s first priority as Russian president was to bring prosperity, order and stability to Russia. From what you read / watched in this module, explain whether Putin was successful in stabilizing the situation in Russia. And, if he has indeed set Russia on the path of progress (at least economic?), why are there so many opponents and critics of his regime? (Make sure to back up your answers with facts and data from the module’s materials).
5. In his article “Putin Era: Progress and Problems,” Prof. John Thompson speaks about many paradoxes of Putin’s presidency. Discuss any of these paradoxes that caught your eye the most.
6. Question for the political scientists among us. The materials you’ve studied in this module all bring up a number of different terms to describe Vladimir Putin’s regime, from “kleptocracy” to central government authority to “sovereign democracy.” Based on this module’s materials, which term do you find most appropriate and why? (make sure to back your argument with facts from the readings / viewings).
7. Read the article “Universities Prepare for the Cold War Redux (链接到外部网站。).” Based on the information of this module (and any other information you’ve learned in this class), provide your own insight and expert analysis of the situation described as a cultural anthropologist / scholar of contemporary Russia. What are the roots of the issue discussed in the article? (How did it happen that, at least according to the experts interviewed in the article, “the number of people who can give qualified perspective (on Russia – OM) is near its lowest since the end of World War II”? What are the consequences of this situation? Did anything else catch your eye in the article? (For example, do you agree with a Professor from George Washington University that, when it comes to curricula, Universities are “faddish”? Can you give specific examples of such academic “fads”?)
two peer reviews I choose to write about:
After reading this article and from what I know, I would say that people are afraid or Russia yet also very interested by it. Because Russia is so large, there are many different regions to think about when discussing economics. Some parts of the root of the issues discussed in this article was that people were uneducated about Russia and what was going on in. This is why “the number of people who can give qualified perspective on Russia is near its lowest since World War II” because college students were taking Russian classes anymore. Like they said in the article, more people turned to Arabic and Chinese. This caused many people to lose interest in Russia and their history. This caused the perspectives of people to be from past history and not so much as present day. The consequences of this situation is that now that Russian classes are on the rise there are less qualified people to teach because of this “lost generation.”
History plays a big part in what people are studying and what people want to study. This is why the desire to learn about Russian culture being so low was not good and plays a part in now future generations knowledge on Russia and it’s relationship with the U.S. As they discussed in the article “to rebuild a field takes years” so this put a toll on many universities. This lost information about Russia is not just about students knowing it’s about the public and lawmakers to also be educated. I would agree with the Professor from George Washington University that when it comes to curricula, Universities are faddish. There are always trends going around and this is not subject to just things like clothing. This idea of people not having that much interest in Russian classes and culture was a fad and was one that was detrimental to many peoples education. But it was also short lived and now that motive has switched. For example, there is a fad at Iowa State to take the Wine and Spirits class your senior year.”
“Response to question 5:
There were a variety of paradoxes to discuss within the article “Putin Era: Progress and Problems.” Right at the start of the article I was struck by the Beslan tragedy. I had never heard of this before, but it sounded like it was a very significant event. I was very thrown by the fact that hostages were held to the point that they could only go to the bathroom the first day and that the kids were drinking urine from their shoes because of the lack of water they received. This situation obviously caused a negative response to Putin for multiple reasons. Putin made no response at first and when he finally did he blamed local corruption. This caused a lot of citizens to have a flashback to soviet times, which was mostly negative thoughts.
There were positive outlooks on Putin as well that stood out to me. He brought stability, economic growth, and national pride to Russia that previously it did not have. He also helped to create a better standard of living not only in general but also by providing more goods and services for citizens as well as jobs. In addition the farmers went from being in poverty to being major grain exporters for Russia which is excellent.
I noticed a few other negative things that caught my eye about Putin’s presidency. When he came to power he wanted to make a “modern, efficient and globalized economy,” but that became a negative when Russia became too dependent on energy. In addition small businesses did not grow as fast as the economy. Putin did a wonderful job growing the economy and improving it, but the small businesses could not catch up. When you think about it this affects a lot of people that you would not expect.”