Exploring Putin’s Russia amid election

In the quaint town of Borovsk, some 60 miles from Moscow, the silence on the streets speaks volumes about the ambiance surrounding the upcoming presidential election.

Here, in this sleepy locale, the absence of election frenzy starkly contrasts with the vivid, often somber, street art that punctuates the town’s façades. This juxtaposition serves as a microcosm of a nation standing at the crossroads of its past and its uncertain future.

Unabashed Expression Against a Stage-Managed Election

Vladimir Ovchinnikov, an 86-year-old street artist, has become an inadvertent chronicler of Russia’s social and political landscape.

Unabashed Expression Against a Stage-Managed Election
Credit: ktvz

His art, both haunting and provocative, casts a shadow over the upcoming vote — an event many believe to be a foregone conclusion that will see President Vladimir Putin clinch another term.

One of Ovchinnikov’s pieces, “Pinnacle of Ambition,” depicts a figure teetering over a mountain of skulls — a potent symbol of the dangerous allure of power.

His work doesn’t stop at allegory; recent pieces directly criticize Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and remember the repressions of the Stalin era. It’s a bold statement in a country where dissent against the military or the government can lead to severe repercussions.

The Kremlin’s Version of Reality

Contrary to the town’s quiet and the poignant commentary of its street art, Russia’s state-controlled media paints a very different picture. It portrays a Russia united under Putin’s leadership, defending its sovereignty against external threats.

The carefully curated narrative seldom leaves room for dissent or criticism, ensuring a largely one-sided discourse in the public domain.

Putin’s dominance in the political sphere is undisputed, with his most significant opponents either exiled or imprisoned.

The upcoming election, therefore, is less a democratic process and more a ceremonial reaffirmation of Putin’s hold on power. Despite facing three officially allowed challengers, the lack of genuine opposition has rendered the election’s outcome almost a certainty.

A Candid Reflection of Public Sentiment

Back in Borovsk, despite the veneer of unanimity presented by state media, conversations with the locals reveal a more nuanced view of the political situation.

A Candid Reflection of Public Sentiment
Credit: bbci

“Some say this war should never have been started. Some say he was right. I won’t judge him now. We don’t know all the political ins and outs,” says Lyudmila, a local woman, reflecting the complexity of the public sentiment towards Putin’s decisions, particularly regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

Others, like Nikolai, a local supporter of Putin, draw parallels to Russia’s historical leadership, suggesting a continuity in the Russian acceptance of long-term rule, “So what? We’ve had tsars who’ve ruled a long time,” he remarks, indicating a resigned acceptance of Putin’s ongoing tenure.

The Dichotomy of Russian Democracy

As Russia edges closer to what many see as a predetermined election, the dichotomy between the Kremlin’s portrayal of an unassailable leader and the grassroots reflections of Ovchinnikov’s art, along with the voiced and unvoiced concerns of ordinary Russians, paints a vivid picture of a nation grappling with its identity.

The question of Russia’s future direction remains open. Will it lean more towards the repression and uniformity suggested by the Kremlin’s tight grip on power, or will spaces of dissent, represented by voices like Ovchinnikov’s, manage to carve out a place in the broader narrative of Russian society?


As Borovsk and the rest of Russia head into another election under Vladimir Putin’s shadow, the contrasts within the country become more pronounced.

The outcome might seem predetermined, but the undercurrents of discord and the silent resilience of its people suggest a story far more complex than the official narrative allows.

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