A leader's 60th is a big deal in Russia

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[Vladimir Putin turns 60 this week.]

...For leaders of the Kremlin, turning 60 is no small matter. It is a milestone heavy with history and symbolism, sometimes marked by elaborate ceremony and sometimes not, but one that inevitably reminds the public that a clock is ticking, that even the most powerful, larger-than-life figures eventually yield to the grip of time....

Stalin’s 60th birthday in December 1939 was such a big deal that it overshadowed news of the war between Germany and the Allies, and the Soviet Union’s own war with Finland. A new official biography was released, with an initial print run of one million copies, and Stalin was given the Order of Lenin, then the country’s highest honor.

When Khrushchev received the same award on his 60th birthday in 1954, it was part of a growing body of evidence that he was gaining the upper hand in a power struggle. On his 60th birthday in 1966, Brezhnev was given an even higher award, Hero of the Soviet Union. He died in office in 1982.

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