November 2016 archive

RPP #9

The phenomenon I am considering exploring is that of the media’s depiction of Putin as a strong and superior person, and by association, a strong and superior leader.[1] It should be noted that the association between Putin the “strong person” and “strong leader” is not a conclusion I am drawing, but rather part of the actual phenomenon I am observing. This is to say the phenomenon is media’s focusing on Putin’s personal characteristics to emphasize the prowess he brings to the position of President. The phenomenon could, in more technical terms, even be considered the media’s intertwining the two identities into one in which the first leads to the second; depicting Putin the “strong, fearless Russian alpha male” and which is then left to meld into Putin the “dedicated, unwavering, statesmen.” This tendency for the media to depict and assert not only an association, but also a causal direction, between the two identities, is significant, as shown by the number of examples that can be found.[2]

One example of the phenomenon can be observed via Putin’s portrayal when pictured in the press. One example of the portrayal of Putin as a strong and superior leader via pictorial depiction is the phenomenon in which when pictured greeting or shaking hands with another individual, including many foreign leaders, they are pictured with their heads slightly bowed, as if showing reverence.[3] While some may argue this tendency to bow one’s head when meeting Putin, which is a common portrayal, is connected to Putin’s short stature, this has been found to be the case even when Putin is the taller of the two greeting each other.[4] Another example of the phenomenon of portraying Putin as the “alpha male Russian” is the medias common portrayal of him in the midst of “manly” activities, such as hunting, extreme sports, or driving exotic vehicles.[5] These images of the superior and strong human being are then associated, by the media via direct assertion or inference, with Putin’s governing abilities, and thus Putin is portrayed as a strong and effective President on because of his personal traits, and using his personal traits as evidence.[6]  These sources present evidence of the occurring phenomenon in which Putin’s personality traits of strength, boldness, and bravery, he is purported to possess are then used to infer and place these elements on Putin’s abilities as President.


[1] While this is prominent in Russia’s state controlled media, this is a phenomenon that is common across the board. Where differences occur is more generally in the significance given to the depiction of the “strong man and leader.” That is to say the difference lies in whether they the depiction of a “strong Putin” is used to emphasize authoritarian power or a selfless and dedicated servant of the Russian People.

[2] It should again be noted that the causal relationship is not in any way being asserted as actually present. Rather this post serves as a description of the phenomenon perpetrated by the media population as a whole, in which they themselves assert this relationship in a way that can be observed in my research.

[3] Sergei Ilnitsky, 2005, Associated Press, Russia,; ITAR-TASS, 2000, Associated Press, Russia,

[4] Sergei Chirikov, 2006, Associated Press, Russia,

[5] Dmitry Astakhov, 2012, Associated Press, Russia,; Alexei Druzhinin, 2009, Associated Press, Russia,; Alexei Nikolsky, 2010, Associated Press, Russia,

[6] Interfax, “Putin Recognized Symbol of Stability, Prospective Leader of Progress – Analysts,” 2012,; ITAR-TASS, “Russian Patriarch Praises Putin Address,” 2000,; ITAR-TASS, “Russia: Yeltsin Praises Putin’s State of Nation Address,” 2004,; Rossiyskaya Gazeta, “Meetings with Putin Made ‘Strong Impression’ on Blair,” 2000,




Gazeta, Rossiyskaya. “Meetings with Putin Made ‘Strong Impression’ on Blair.” 2000,

Interfax. “Putin Recognized Symbol of Stability, Prospective Leader of Progress – Analysts.” 2012,

ITAR-TASS. “Russian Patriarch Praises Putin Address.” 2000,

ITAR-TASS. “Russia: Yeltsin Praises Putin’s State of Nation Address.” 2004,



RPP #8

My dependent variable will continue to remain similar to that of my large-n, with the aim of measuring the level of sultanistic power held by the leader of a country.[1] As my data sources, I plan to use the constitutions of the three countries of whose leaders I hope to use as cases: Robert Mugabe, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong Un. Thus, I plan to use the Zimbabwean, Russian, and North Korean constitutions as primary sources for my small-n analysis.[2] Sultanistsic power can be measured as the ability of a leader to bend their government and its actions to their own desires and will.[3]  Indicators of this phenomenon can thus be seen as the leaders’ behavior towards governmental constraints on an executive’s autonomy and role, as well as prohibitions against certain acts or decrees, as prescribed to the executive by defining governmental documents, especially constitutions. Therefore I plan to establish the level of sultanism by comparing the actions of the case leaders, against what actions they are actually “enumerated” with, based off their constitutions, and identifying areas where leaders are able to act according to their desires, regardless of constitutional constraints. By identifying restrictions on the executive as “present, present but ambiguous, present with broad caveats, or not present” in each leader’s respective constitutions, I will then be able to establish their level of ability to personally mold their government, and even more so, be able to establish when the leaders surpassed their intended powers, providing evidence of sultanistic tendencies and capacities.[4]  For example, if the Russian Constitution enumerates freedom of the press, yet Putin is able to mold the government to accomplish his desires of censorship, this would correlate with a higher degree of sultanism on the continuum, as freedom of the press would be present yet its is not respected by the leader.[5]  Another example of this type of analysis would be looking at the North Korean Constitution which states “Citizens have freedom of religious belief. This right is granted through the approval of the construction of religious buildings and the holding of religious ceremonies.”[6]  With the freedom of religion guaranteed, but requiring a form of government approval, the concept of “freedom of religion” could be classified as “present with caveats,” which would lead to a higher qualification of sultanism than if no caveat was included, especially if it was discovered during further study that Un refused to issue any approvals.[7]  Admittedly this approach will make case selection and broad applicability more challenging. By establishing sultanism based off of breaches of the established modus operandi for the executive in terms of the Constitution, it is possible that the powers exhibited may not not be tied to the leader’s sultanistic abilities but to the inabilities of other institutions or the complete lack of checking applications at the constitutional level. While allowing for leaders with immense power or unrestricted capacity for action, via state constitutions, does not in any way negate the presence of sultanism within a government, it does require an adjustment to the evaluation methodology that places nation-states in their place on the continuum.[8] However I would still argue that analyzing the powers of a leader (as exhibited through action), by comparing their powers to those they are actually entitled to via their government’s structure (as exhibited by state constitutions), and noting instances of discrepancy, will represent a more insightful qualification of the level of sultanism exhibited by a state leader than any single numeric index can describe.[9]


[1] This is a new term that I have found by reading more of Linz’s other works, in which he and his protégé, identify a new form of government in which the government is molded to the individual desires of the leader. The researchers go forward to classify this newly observed style of government as “Sultanism.” This represents a good classification, and a more accurate representation, of the desired variable for my project, and from now on I will likely only refer to my dependent variable as the level of Sultanism, which should be seen on a continuum.. For further reading on the concept see- J.J. Linz and A. Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

[2] Constitution of Zimbabwe, by Zimbabwe (Veritas, 1979); The Constitution of the Russian Federation, by Russian Federation (Russia: Bucknell University, 1993); Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by DPRK (North Korea: Naenara, 2009).

[3] Linz and Stepan.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Constitution of the Russian Federation

[6] Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Linz and Stepan.

[9] The Constitution of the Russian Federation; Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Constitution of Zimbabwe.



Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by DPRK, 2009.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation, by Federation, Russian, 1993.

Linz, J.J. and A. Stepan. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Constitution of Zimbabwe, by Zimbabwe, 1979.