Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been selected by Time magazine as its Person of the Year. As the magazine notes, in a year when green became the new red, white and blue, when combat in Iraq seemed to be cooling down, when China made headlines for shipping toxic toys to the world’s supermarkets, one nation – and one person – emerged as the main lynchpin of the 2lst Century.
That one person, Time says, was Putin, the only surviving son of a Leningrad factory worker, he was born after what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War in which the country suffered more the 26 million casualties. His one connection with Russian history is that his grandfather was Stalin’s cook
When Putin, known as tense and brooding took over the leadership of Russia in 2000, the country was in the verge of collapse. But Putin, Time magazine notes, put it back on the map. He will continue to run the country – as Prime Minister – even when his term as president runs out in March.
Time, explaining why it has chosen Putin for its annual accolade, points out that Person of the Year is not and has never been an honour. Not an endorsement. Nor a popularity contest. It is recognition of the world’s most powerful individuals – and the forces – that shape the world for better or worse.
Putin, Time adds, is not a Boy Scout He is not a democrat in any way. He is not a paragon of free speech. He mainly stands for stability – even before freedom.
Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather cooked breakfast or like Peter the Great, the historic figure he most admires, only the next decade will tell says Time. What is known is that he has been an extraordinary leader and brought Russia back to the table os world power.
Other names that were considered for the title were Al Gore, J K Rowling, Hu Jintao leader of China, and David Petraeus, the US military commander in chief in Iraq.