By John Helmer, Moscow
Early this month a Chinese reporter asked President Vladimir Putin for an intimate detail of his life noone had requested (or been given) before. Asked how much time he spends on exercise each day, Putin replied: “Every day I spend about 2–2.5 hours doing sports. I go to the gym, I swim, sometimes I get out on the mat, if I have sparring partners, and sometimes I play hockey.”
The amount of time surprises European sources; they believe Putin, now 65 years of age, is setting something of a world record among heads of government or state. Moscow observers claim the number of Putin’s sport hours includes at least a half-hour undressing and dressing, perhaps his daily ablutions too. Even discounting that time, the sources remark it is more than twice the recommended exercise norm at Soviet sanatoriums built in Lenin’s and Stalin’s time to restore workers’ health from poisonous occupations at mines and smelters, and raise their productivity on going back to work.
A newly published book from London is a portrait of the decline of these institutions in contemporary Russia, before they disappear entirely, their worker and pensioner clientele with them. A federal Health Ministry doctor observes that as the retirement age is stretched out by eight years for women (new target 63), five years for men (target 65, Putin’s age), state spending for the physical welfare to make the distance is being cut back. Several millions will not reach the sanatorium; they will have gone to the cemetery instead.
This is a policy of cutting the state budget for pensioners by preserving the money in the pension, but culling the numbers of those living long enough to receive it. The ideology of the Soviet sanatorium has been liquidated; the real estate is being privatized; the surviving clientele redirected into fat reduction and cosmetic treatments for juvenescence. (more…)