When the Soviet era political permafrost melted gradually over the ten years after the 1991 collapse of the red star, the relic -- the holy relic -- that emerged was Vladimir Putin, the successor chosen by Boris Yeltsin at the end of a senselessly chaotic decade.
The former KGB spy emerged as a colossus in Russian politics by cleverly rallying the force of Russian nationalist pride behind him, brutally suppressing Chechnyan dissent and presiding over an oil boom-fuelled economic resurgence. His blunt rhetoric and canny moves helped Russia force its way back into international power calculus -- a balm a ruined superpower badly needed.
Now, as voting in the presidential election is under way, the 59-year-old "macho leader" is on the cusp of another win, which will hand him another six years at the helm of Russian politics.
Fareed Zakaria summed up the historical importance of Putin's official comeback to the top of Russian state.
"If Putin wins this election, which he's almost certainly going to do, and if he wins the next election, which he is allowed to run for, he will have been in charge of Russia for over twenty years, maybe twenty five years. This is longer than Stalin," Zakaria said in a Facebook post.
Are comparisons with Stalin limited to the number of years in power, assuming that Putin will win the 2018 elections?
Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee from 1922 but he consolidated power through the last years of Lenin, and after his death.
The Stalin era officially starts in 1928 when he liquidated political enemies (Trotsky was exiled in 1929), veered off from the Lenin-era New Economic Policy (NEP) and launched a highly-centralized command economy based on Five-Year Plans.
Putin was the President from 2000 to 2008 when he was forced to step down as the constitution forbade him from becoming President for a third consecutive term. He instituted Dmity Medvedev in presidency, but for all faint claims to real power that Medvedev made, Putin was the real power base in Russia since 2000.
"Once Putin is elected, Russia is going to look remarkably similar to before he was elected. Why? Because Putin, in a sense, never left. Putin was running the government and the economy on a day to day basis. While he had ceded the presidency, and therefore foreign policy, to Dmitri Medvedev, it was really a charade - Putin was behind most of the most important decisions anyway," Zakaria wrote.
If suppressing dissent and liquidating political opposition were characteristics shared by both Stalin and Putin, the similarities don't end there.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica states the following about Stalin's era:
"Stalin, a Georgian, surprisingly turned to 'Great Russian' nationalism to strengthen the Soviet regime. During the 1930s and '40s he promoted certain aspects of Russian history, some Russian national and cultural heroes, and the Russian language, and he held the Russians up as the elder brother for the non-Slavs to emulate. Industrialization developed first and foremost in Russia."
Stalin emerged as a the unstoppable force in soviet politics following ten years of post-Revolution ideological twists and churns, trials and tribulations. Putin's emergence too was in the backdrop of similar vicissitudes -- times when the country lacked directions and wanted just to follow a guiding force.
And it's quite easy for the nation to follow a brutal nationalist, an "alpha-dog" who swims with crocodiles and punches Olympic judo winners into pulp!
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