St. Petersburg gets a birthday makeover and Russia’s president throws a party. The guest list is impressive, 45 world leaders, and so is the budget: 1.3 billion dollars to ready Russia’s second city for the glare of the international spotlight.
The pomp and the price tag have put off many average Russians, most of whom have been shut out of all the fun. But for President Vladimir Putin, the birthday bash is more than icing on a cake. It’s a chance to showcase his hometown, and raise his profile, on the world stage. The imperial backdrop intended by Peter the Great to be a “window on the West” is inviting the World to take a long, hard look at Russian life and Russian leadership today. Scratching the surface of Putin’s Potemkin.
Lilia Shevtsova, political scholar, Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment
Nikolai Zlobin, director, Russian and Asian Programs, Center for Defense Information Information, and editor-in chief, Washington Profile News Agency
Sergei Khrushchev, senior fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies
Fred Weir, Moscow correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor