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Russia’s Autocrats – Part 4 of 4 Autocracy’s New Clothes

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Coiled Viper

Coiled Viper

Vladimir Putin 1952-

Vladimir Putin was a KGB Officer when Boris Yeltsin plucked him out of obscurity and gave him the reins of power. He had no government or administrative experience. Did Yeltsin realize that he had picked up a cold and coiled viper that could strike at any time? Putin believed that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. He started his reign in the new millennium intent on restoring its past glories. High oil prices helped him by helping the economy grow.

But plain unadorned autocracy was no longer in fashion and had to be camouflaged as democracy. The State Duma became the Legislative body which Putin quickly tamed. A judiciary system entirely under his control was put in place and opposition parties were quickly declawed. A government as false as a beautiful Potemkin village was created. The trompe l’oeil was perfect.

After serving 2 terms Putin was ineligible for reelection in 2008. He then selected Dmitri Medvedev to keep his seat warm for 4 years and himself became Prime Minister. From this position, he extended the Presidential term which allowed him to magically reappear having manipulated the system until it fell in line with his ambitions.

Vladimir Putin started by dismantling the power of the new oligarchs. Any attempt at meddling in politics was nipped in the bud. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was then the richest man in Russia, head of Yukos, an oil company formed during the privatization of the 1990s. As soon as Khodorkovsky showed any interest in politics he was charged with fraud and tax evasion and promptly exiled. Viktor Gusinsky, a media tycoon was arrested for misappropriation of funds and imprisoned. Sergei Magnitsky was an auditor at a Moscow law firm and uncovered a massive fraud by tax officials and police officers. He was arrested for reporting this to the authorities and died in custody at the age of 37. These are only a few examples of the clampdown on any opposition.

Next came the press and the intelligentsia. Liberal parties like Parnas and Yabloko slowly died. Election results were manipulated so that political opponents like Alexei Navalny were prevented from winning elections because results were manipulated. Navalny himself spent five years in a corrective labor colony. Those in the press who had described Putin’s party, United Russia, as a party of thieves and crooks simply disappeared. There is now only one television channel which broadcasts the news and it is entirely controlled by the state.

Political murder is also employed with increasing frequency. Journalists have become prone to mysterious fatal accidents. Alexander Litvinenko who defected to Britain died of radiation poisoning by polonium. His slow death was shown on television for many days. Boris Nemtsov, a Putin opponent, was gunned down on the streets of Moscow. Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist from Novaya Gazeta and a human rights activist was found dead on the stairs outside her home. At least 21 other journalists have died under suspicious circumstances. Judges have been murdered for not following instructions.

Putin’s Russia is suffering from the sanctions imposed after his incursion in Ukraine and from the collapse of the ruble because of low oil prices. Corruption is rampant, everything is for sale. Putin is left in the difficult position of denying any wrongdoing such as the downing of a civilian aircraft over Ukraine’s territory and the state controlled doping of athletes. The latest blow has been the deliberate targeting of civilians during the massive bombing of Aleppo. The United Nations is now labeling this as a war crime. All this seems to have caused an increased belligerence on Putin’s part. It also seems to have had the effect of increasing his popularity at home.

It seems that many Russians don’t mind living in an autocracy.

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22 Comment authors
Ibrahim MoussaYemane GamaLambrecht Albert van MarionNanceusPaul Alexandru Cazacliu Recent comment authors
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Alexander
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Alexander

You can argue was the fall of USSR the greatest catastrophe, but it sure was a catastrophe. We had no money, no food and the life itself was in danger because of terrorists from Chechnya and our own bandits. There is no opposition in Russia. Not because of Putin. But because this so-called opposition had their chance in nineties. They robbed and destroyed our country to the point that nobody believes them now. There is no incursion in Ukraine. People of Crimea had referendum where they decided that they don’t want be part of Ukraine and want to join Russia.… Read more »

Ibrahim
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Ibrahim

The problem I see here, is that America wants to treat Russia as vassals and not equals. That’s a persistent state of mind since the collapse of the USSR and the end of history as Fukuyama was saying. This article is the perfect illustration of this american arrogance, but the author forgets that the US are no longer the hyperpower they once were, it’s time to get off your pedestal and look at the world as it is today.

Bill
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Bill

I’ve enjoyed the series of posts, and I’m a great believer in preserving oral history, like that of Simone Klugman – so, thank you for these posts. I share Alexander’s view that the disintegration of the USSR was indeed a great catastrophe of the 20th Century- one could of course debate which of the many catastrophes is the greatest. It was an epic catastrophe because a system was brought to an abrupt halt without anything substantial being left in its place. Indeed, a vacuum was left in its place with respect to a functioning economic market, and a judicial system… Read more »

Wolfgang Watzmann
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Wolfgang Watzmann

This article describes a country and a situation that I do not know. This article has nothing to do with what my friends from Russia report. This article, it seems to me, has been written from the desk without research. A lineage of prejudices and sterotypes to Russia and Putin, with an elevated index finger, the claim to imperial interpretative authority.
In the better of two cases, it is ignorance and narrow-mindedness, which underlie this article, in the worst case simply racism.

Pan-African
Guest

Wow, what a wonderful one sided approach to a situation and a tremendous efforts to demonize a man who will simply not become a puppet to your pay masters. It so wonderful how intelligent journalist from the Western countries can only see the evil others do but not ones committed by their own satanic, corrupt, racist government. When will anyone report on the atrocities the British committed in African which has left an earmark on it for more than a century? Who will for once tell someone the truth about why they had to Kill Gaddaffi? For African to continue… Read more »

Philip Varghese
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Philip Varghese

Dear Pan African,

Agreed- More or less with your spirit of realization…. not disagreeing with the US people totally… as their people are generally good..though the Political System there is corrupt yet powerful- which is a major problem.

Philip Varghese
Guest
Philip Varghese

This Report is considerably biased and misinforming….and not even cleverly disguised like many propagandists- Western/ eastern/ other. Some facts and some ignorings, and some biased intepretations…

Lara
Guest
Lara

Alexei Navalny did not spend ” five years in a corrective labor colony” as his verdict was subsequently commuted to house arrest. Simone is probably referring to his brother Oleg Navalny.

Andrew Fornallaz
Guest
Andrew Fornallaz

I thought that an “AUTOCRAFT” was an hobbyist, who crafts his automobile all by himself. Thanks to Suzan, I realise, I was completely wrong!

Andrew Fornallaz
Guest
Andrew Fornallaz

Sorry, I wrote Suzan instead of SIMONE.

Forevermantis
Guest
Forevermantis

I am for total boycott of Russia, until Putin gets out of Crimea, you can’t annex parts of Ukraine !!!

Forevermantis
Guest
Forevermantis

Ibrahim, get out of Crimea…..that simple!
No mercy with Putin’s Russia, I have few Russian friends here in Canada and they think the same way!

Dan
Guest
Dan

@ Alexander At the time of the elections there were no Ukrainian troops in Crimea, since they have been previously “evicted” by the “polite” Russian security forces and the Russian Navy troops stationed there. @Ibrahim You’re terrible wrong, the US doesn’t treat Russia as a vassal. The truth is, in terms of economy and population, Russia is not a great power anymore and it fails to acknowledge it. Moscow wants a Superpower status that even with its present upgraded military cannot achieve anymore. The country is nowhere near the military power of the UdSSR. As such neither the US nor… Read more »

Gerasim
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Gerasim

Well, if you think that USSR collapse was victory over the evil system you are right but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the biggest humanitarian collapse in Europe since 1945. Causing humanitarian collapses that’s the result in Africa as well. Is that the right policy?

Joe
Guest
Joe

Not the fall of Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the XX century but the rise of Soviet Union in 1917.The rise started with a civil war and ended in 1991 after
100 million died, from which 3 million by starved in Ukraine.

David Sheppard
Guest
David Sheppard

Finally a sensible comment from Planet Russia.

Alexander
Guest
Alexander

No, the greatest catastrophe of XX century is creation of Ukraine in 1991.

Elaina
Guest
Elaina

You Russians been feed with dirty propaganda, Putin grab Crimea, Putin support separatists in Ukraine. You never had a real democratic leaders, only KGB who can manipulate with fake propaganda.

Elaina
Guest
Elaina

You Russians have no idea at least have to accept it that Russia is a regional European Military power but not an Economic or Democratic country.

Omar
Guest
Omar

Alexander – Russian troll trying to justify Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Georgia.
In eastern Ukraine killed thousands of Ukrainians themselves Russian lost there more than 5 thousand fighters. In Crimea Russian Crimean Tatars pursued under a different pretext. A referendum was advertised at gunpoint!

Omar
Guest
Omar

America was the guarantor of the integrity of Russia all the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that it is a deterrent to China. However, unreasonable and aggressive Putin’s economic policies led Russia into chaos. The people of Russia live in poverty. Vodka is sold at a low price to people soundly drunk, and did not think about politics and economics. The television is constantly coming zombies transmission. The oppositionists were killed, jailed. Russia is arrogant aggressive policy against Ukraine, Georgia and other countries. And that Russia lost in distant Syria when its people live in poverty? Ibrahim… Read more »

Omar
Guest
Omar

The paper said it right, even very discreet about the crimes of Putin, he organized bombings in Russia in order to scare people, murders of oppositionists. The people of Russia live in poverty and anger at the world around. A TV constantly held zombies transmission, which hammered the people that all their troubles are to blame other countries, the United States and Europe. Previously, Obama criticized for the fact that Russian people are starving, and now also accused Trump that hungry in Russia, the roads are bad, and so on. In order to create the mythical aura of a martyr… Read more »

Guy Maher
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Guy Maher

Mr……You are smoking some heavy stuff…..You must be like most people in your country who are influenced by the mis information which is frabricated by your government…. open your eyes; all you said is a variant of that mis information you are being fed daily….. MH17…all the proofs are pointing to the russian military…It may have been a mistake, but it is still the russian military who fired that missile… Crimea vote….was not done in accordance to a legal referendum and the russian media made it look like everyone was on side…just like your phony elections… WAKE UP! you are… Read more »

ben ayed
Guest
ben ayed

A constant theme in Putin’s career:the bombing of towns Bomb,bomb, bomb, that is all he knows to do. That is his specialy. Faced with a problme, he sends the planes. His rule began with Grozny, which he recuded to rubbles and now he is doing the same with Aleppo. This is the only way he knows to deal (with weaker countries than Russia at least, otherwise very careful) Taking care of the russian economy, developing his country? that does not interst him and his crowd, because he would have to share some power to accompish this Yesterday Grozny, and Tbilissi,… Read more »

Andrew Fornallaz
Guest
Andrew Fornallaz

No. The next ones will be Monaco and Monte-Carlo.

Paul Alexandru Cazacliu
Guest
Paul Alexandru Cazacliu

Russian people are now like uncaged birds, desperately wishing for a “good” autocrat. Doesn’t matter how evil he is.

Nanceus
Guest
Nanceus

The Russians and their adversaries seem to imply that the Soviet Union collapsed by an external complot. In fact the system won itself. With the perfect control of KGB over people’s minds it became uncontrollable This was shown by Chernobyl accident. With great probability this could happen because somebody drank too much …tea. Slaves lose sense of responsibility and it cannot be repaired. To the point that when the autoritarian power dissapears there is an effect of feudal repartition and the war of all against all. The Russians think after their orthodox tradition that only a unified central power can… Read more »

Lambrecht Albert van Marion
Guest
Lambrecht Albert van Marion

I agree 100%

Lambrecht Albert van Marion
Guest
Lambrecht Albert van Marion

You are absolutely right

Lambrecht Albert van Marion
Guest
Lambrecht Albert van Marion

I do reject your insult regarding MH17

Yemane Gama
Guest
Yemane Gama

Why do Russians support the dictator Syrian government president Alasad? That is the extreme anguish to the life of the Syrian people.Please Mr Putin think of this disgusting acts.Please support the Syrian people not Alasad. That is the true love of truth and obedience to God.

Ibrahim Moussa
Guest
Ibrahim Moussa

we’ll be free and they’ll see the difference that we are not killers like them.