Two images from social networks. First, winging its way to me via Facebook (originally featured on the blog of the Russian independent news radio channel Echo of Moscow), a photo of the ballot used at the United Russia Party Congress yesterday to select Putin as the party’s choice for president.


Twelfth Congress of the National Political Party “United Russia”

Moscow                                                              27 November 2011


for secret vote on the nomination by United Russia of a candidate for the post of President of the Russian Federation.


PUTIN Vladimir Vladimirovich

Shockingly, the vote was unanimous. As the first commenter at Echo of Moscow glumly observes, Stalin at least had fake opponents.

The second image is from journalist Julia Ioffe’s Twitter feed.

A poll by the Levada Center, a renowned polling organization in Russia. Question: Which politicians’ recent public appearances and statements have been the most memorable to you?

The interesting thing isn’t the answers so much as the list. It’s topped by Putin and Medvedev, followed by a list of lesser United Russia figures and opposition politicians. But third from the bottom is Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. What? You mean this nice old man?

Kirill is widely seen as having brought the Church and the government closer together. The West also seems to like to bring up his alleged ties to the KGB – a lot of the church leadership in the Soviet period had KGB ties, including special KGB agents assigned to each of the church higher-ups, since making nice with the government was the best way to maintain legitimacy and not get arrested. Kirill, besides being an archbishop, was the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations beginning in the late 1980’s – basically, chief government liaison.

But classing him as a “politician” is still pretty amusing. Slash truth-telling.