When did people care about astrology?

Astrology around the limping man in the Kremlin

Sunday evening, news on Russian state television: President Vladimir Putin can be seen standing and walking for the first time in weeks. On the national holiday he lays flowers - albeit with a slightly pained expression on his face. Putin had not worked in the Kremlin for weeks or left his residence outside of Moscow. There he received his interlocutors in front of the cameras of the state television only while sitting. His spokesman Dmitrij Peskow explained this to the Moscow radio station Kommersant FM:

"There are no ceremonial occasions that require his presence in the Kremlin at the moment. At the moment he simply prefers to work from the residence so as not to disturb Moscow drivers."

But so far Putin had paid little attention to the huge traffic jam caused by the road closures for his brokerage fee. And so the Russian media speculated for days about Putin's condition, citing "sources close to the Kremlin". There was even talk of severe spinal damage. And those sources close to the Kremlin already felt reminded of the year 1996: At that time, before the election, it was covered up how ill the then President Boris Yeltsin actually was.

Probably to limit the damage, the Kremlin finally said: Putin was suffering from a harmless sports injury - something like that could happen if you were an athlete like Putin.

That Putin does not admit any physical weaknesses is typical, says Maria Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Institute, a US-funded expert center.

"When Putin took office in 2000 as the successor to Yeltsin, Yeltsin was already an old, sick, frail man. The contrast to Yeltsin was always an important reason for Putin's popularity. He was athletic, young, healthy and could take on responsibility."

State television helped create the image of Putin, who was the boss: the Russians saw Putin bare-chested riding, diving, on a motorcycle or at the controls of an airplane. The last time he got into a hang-glider to guide cranes to their winter quarters as alpha animals, it was a bit strange. The rumor that Putin might have injured himself in this action is all the more ridiculous - especially among Internet users who are critical of the Kremlin.

Putin's PR campaigns are becoming more unfortunate and no longer appropriate for his age, says Gleb Pavlovsky, who describes himself as a political technologist and once advised Putin on public relations.

"It already takes on mythological traits. And heroes of mythology do not age. James Bond is still young today. And so it should be with the myth of Putin. Even if health says the opposite."

But the myth of Putin's eternal youth is not the only one that the Russian leadership is trying to cultivate. Putin has raised Russia from her knees and is protecting it from enemies at home and abroad, Putin supporters keep hearing. Pavlovsky says that Putin's myth is now more important than real politics.

"Putin missed the moment to open up Russia after his main goal had been achieved: namely, to prevent the disintegration of Russia. But he is stuck in the old days and wants to continue fighting enemies: and these enemies must now be thought up by the system. But Really existing people who are innocent go to jail. "

Public debates about his health come at an inopportune time for Putin. Because he is in a low poll: a few years ago his popularity ratings were up to 80 percent. Now just every second Russian is still for Putin. The image of the strong, almighty president is getting more and more scratches.