As the Sochi Winter Olympics draw to a close, one cannot help but admire Russian president Vladimir Putin’s foresight.
It doesn’t matter who takes the most medals home; it is Putin who is the winner here.
He has used the Western protests and condemnation of his anti gay policies to his advantage; and no matter what the world thinks of him; for the Russian’s he is their hero - a true leader.
Baffled? Don’t be. Here’s how it has worked out:
The anti gay legislation Putin passed into law last year sparked protests across the Western world. Celebrities like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Elton John came out to voice their disgust over his policies, but the very same law had the opposite effect in Russia.
Russians are predominantly conservative and strict followers of the Orthodox faith, which upholds traditional family values. They generally have little or no tolerance for gay and transgender people and love to hate the West.
Two years ago, Putin’s popularity was on a downslide. His ratings had sunk by 16% points during 2011 and there were protests against him.
In contrast, a poll conducted right after the anti gay law was passed saw Putin’s popularity shooting up almost overnight. It also found that 88% of Russians supported the legislation.
PROTEST PUTIN'S ANTI-LGBT LAW @ The Russian Embassy, Tokyo! Go to Exit 1 of Kamiyacho Station @ 2PM, Sunday, Feb. 23. pic.twitter.com/PeWW7gteo9— ???? (@_natsukik) February 20, 2014
According to Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Moscow Center, anti-Western sentiment in Russia has not been this high since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Putin’s attempt to play on the resentment became apparent when he publically took US President Obama to task over Syria and when he recently attributed the world’s criticism of the Sochi games to the "Cold War" mentality. The comparison was all he needed to seal his people’s support.
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So, a good Russian is a conservative one; and a homophobic leader who the West is criticizing morning, noon and night is definitely a hero.