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‚Äôs 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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  1. 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. There were about 20000 Russian troops and about 20000 Ukrainian troops in Crimea, but no shots were fired and nobody died during so-called occupation. You can also find videos on Youtube where people in Crimea streaming from polling stations. Everything was peaceful. If you are against it, you are against democracy.

    Corruption is everywhere around the world, but we do fight with it in Russia.

    We’ll never know who downed MH17 (probably it was a secret operation of USA, similar to 9/11).

    It was very disgusting move of USA to ban Russian Paralympians. Everyone hates USA now, even those who were pro-west or neutral before that.

    And about Aleppo: if it’s a war crime to fight with terrorism so be it.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 staying poor and dependent on whites so you can still control our natural resources whiles our so called educated politicians and scholars sit back and watch ignorantly? You claim Syria’s was due to it undemocratic practices and yet Saudi Arabian live in peace. I don’t recall reading any articles in the western media telling the public the kind of crimes America, Canada, Britain, Germany, Belgium and France has committed against humanity. Our generation is in danger today because of their actions and yet you have the guts to talk about a man who is only trying to safe guard the interest of his country and people to prevent it from falling in your hands to do to it what you have done to Africa. I don’t blame all Africans for not knowing the truth, because they lack critical reasons and that is because you gave us this rubbish system of education and religion to continue fooling us till the end. But I tell you, one day, our people will be free.

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 perpetuating this nonsense and you will end up being decieved…

  10. 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, then Ukraine, today Aleppo, who will be next? the baltic states?

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

  12. 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 stop those feudal wars. Their social and mental tradition is such that they cannot oppose emergence of vicious, brutal and agressive feudals that put them back into slavery. The population is so passive, inaggressive and unable to organize that they are easy prey for such feudals.

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