Putin aide: Brezhnev era was 'huge plus'
Leonid Brezhnev, the late Soviet leader, was a "huge plus" for Russia, an aide to Vladimir Putin said Wednesday after his decision to seek a new Kremlin term.
"You know, this is not a 'minus' for our country's history -- it is a huge plus," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the independent Internet TV station Dozhd (Rain).
Peskov was responding to multiplying jokes comparing Putin to the Soviet leader, who most observers argue presided over a long period of stagnation.
A former KGB spy, Putin headed the state in 2000-2008 and retained much power while serving as prime minister under his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev.
He ended months of suspense last month by announcing plans to stand in March polls -- a decision that could keep him in power for another 12 years and make him Moscow's longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin.
Putin, 58, has remained Russia's most popular politician throughout the past decade and is almost certain to win an election that some critics see as little more than a coronation.
Peskov, who has remained at Putin's side throughout much of his Moscow career, admitted that his team was sensitive to the criticism.
"It is true: you really can hear people in Moscow asking why he is coming back," Peskov said.
"It is true: many talk about Putin's 'Brezhnevism'. But at the same time, the people doing the talking know nothing about Brezhnev."
The Communist Party secretary, who presided over the USSR from 1964 until his death in 1982, has become the butt of many jokes for his adoration of personal awards and allegiance to staid Soviet protocol.
Brezhnev's rule put a lid on the new freedoms that had emerged after Stalin's death in 1953.
He also presided over the start of a catastrophic economic decline that eventually led to the Soviet collapse.
Peskov admitted that Brezhnev may have overstayed his welcome with the Russian people but stressed that his era began with policies that helped build a stronger nation.
"He laid the foundations of economics and agriculture," Peskov said.
"Then came stagnation. But stagnation was much shorter" than Brezhnev's years of growth, Peskov added.
© 2011 AFP