The genesis of a Russian president

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The genesis of a Russian president

Vladimir Putin’s pending return to power has prompted discussions about what he will do in the future. But before we speculate on that, it might be useful to go back in time.

In the beginning, Putin thought that it would be good to have power, and he saw there were many powerful men in the KGB. He was told that it would be easier to get into the KGB if he studied international law, so he did that and got hired. After 15 years with the agency, he ascended to the top position. But he craved more.

As it happened, there was turbulence in the world at the time, and Boris Yeltsin, who was an alleged alcoholic, stood on a tank and became a leader. So Putin laid low and bid his time and Yeltsin took him under his wing as his No. 2. Losing his struggle with alcoholism, Yeltsin resigned before completing his term and Putin stepped in. He was truly pleased. He won an election the following spring and was reelected four years later. Since then, he has accomplished most everything he wanted.

When Putin came to power, the country was nearly bankrupt. So he said, “Let the oil price rise.” And so it did. In the eight years while he was president of Russia, the stock price rose by 12 times, the foreign currency reserve increased by 10 times, the GDP grew fourfold and exports threefold. The people, who had been crying over scraps of bread, were greatly satisfied.

Surprisingly, Putin’s role model lived in Korea, and it was none other than Park Chung hee. Putin searched for every single book on the former president, no matter what the language, and read them all. And he learned everything he could about economic planning. He also tried to emulate Park’s charisma and aggressiveness.

Toward the end of his second term, people thought Putin would change the law and remain president for three consecutive terms. Instead, he gave his post to his right-hand man and became the country’s No. 2. He probably figured it looked better to come down for once. But he couldn’t stay out of the king’s chair for long.

Now, four years later, he is attempting to enter the Kremlin once again. And by law, he can remain president for 12 more years. That would allow him to be the leader of Russia for a total of 20 years. Putin would surpass the 18-year record of his role model as well as that of Leonid Brezhnev, whose own role model, Stalin, was likely shot to death by his security chief.

God only knows what path Putin will take in the future.

*The writer is the J Editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom

태초에 푸틴이 있었어라

태초에 푸틴이 있었어라. 그가 보기에 힘 있는 사람이 좋아 보였더라. KGB에 그런 사람들이 많았더라. 누가 그에게 이르기를 국제법을 공부하면 KGB에 들어가는데 유리하다고 했더라. 그래서 국제법을 공부하매, 바라는 대로 KGB에 들어갈 수 있었더라. 그곳에서 15년을 기다려 수장 자리에 올랐더라.

때마침 세상이 혼란스럽더라. 알코올 중독자(보리스 옐친)가 탱크 위에 올라 지도자가 되었더라. 그가 보기에 힘 있는 사람이 좋아 보였더라. 알코올 중독자 밑에 엎드려 때를 기다렸나니, 알코올 중독자가 그를 가까이 하여 이인자 자리에 앉혔더라. 알코올 중독자가 더 이상 술을 이겨내지 못하여 임기를 채우지 못하고 물러났더라. 그가 그 자리를 대신 하매 모든 힘이 그에게 몰렸더라. 그가 보기에 참으로 좋더라. 그의 나이 마흔일곱이었더라.

네 해가 지나고 다시 그 자리에 오르니 모든 것이 그가 원하는 대로 이루어졌더라. 그가 지도자 자리에 오를 때 그의 땅은 파산 직전에 있었더라. 그리하여 그가 가라사대, “유가는 치솟으라” 말했더라. 그러자 그가 말하는 대로 됐더라. 그가 대통령 자리에 있던 여덟 해 동안 주가지수는 열두 배, 외환보유액은 열 배, GDP는 네 배, 수출은 세 배나 늘었더라. 눈물 젖은 초코파이를 먹던 백성들은 크게 기뻐했더라.

그의 롤모델은 놀랍게도 대한민국 땅에 있었더라. 다름 아닌 박정희 전 대통령이었더라. 박정희에 대한 책은 어떤 나라말로 쓰였건 모두 구해서 읽었더라. 경제 계획에 대한 모든 모델이 거기서 나왔더라. 강력한 카리스마로 과단성 있게 밀어붙이는 행동도 마찬가지더라.

그래서 백성들은 그가 율법을 고쳐 세 번 연이어 지도자 자리에 머물 줄 알았더라. 하지만 그는 그 자리를 이인자에게 물려주고 자신은 이인자 자리로 물러났더라. 그렇게 하는 게 더 보기 좋았더라. 그리고 네 해가 더 흘러 다시 크렘린궁에 다시 들어가려 하더라. 그것도 율법에 맞는 일이더라. 율법에 따르면 열두 해를 더 지도자 자리에 앉을 수 있더라. 그러면 모두 합해 스무 해가 되더라. 그의 롤모델과 선임자 브레즈네프의 열여덟 해 장기 집권 기록을 넘어서더라.

브레즈네프는 술 때문에 몸을 망쳤고, 롤모델은 수하의 총에 생을 마쳤더라. 하지만 그가 어떤 길을 따르게 될 지는 오직 신만이 아실지리다.

이훈범 중앙일보 j 에디터

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