NEW YORK – Time magazine on Wednesday named Russian President Vladimir Putin its 2007 "Person of the Year."
The nod went to the Russian leader because of Putin's "extraordinary feat of leadership in taking a country that was in chaos and bringing it stability," said Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor.
Putin, 55, is enormously popular in Russia, presiding over a resurgent economy flush with revenue from oil and natural gas. But critics say he has moved the country away from Russia's democratic reforms of the 1990s by tightening control of the media, courts and parliament.
"He's the new czar of Russia and he's dangerous in the sense that he doesn't care about civil liberties, he doesn't care about free speech," Stengel said.
Putin recently endorsed protoge Dmitry Medvedev's presidential bid, and later said he would accept Medvedev's offer to serve as prime minister if Medvedev is elected in the March 2 election.
Many believe Putin would remain Russia's real leader, regardless of his title, though Putin has said he would not undermine his successor. The Russian constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms.
Others who were in the running for Person of the Year included Nobel Prize-winner Al Gore and author J.K. Rowling.
This year's choice was a return to the magazine's tradition of picking an individual rather than last year's choice of anyone creating or using content on the World Wide Web.
Previous individual winners have included Bono, President George W. Bush and Amazon.com CEO and founder Jeff Bezos.