Putin's Russia

9/1/2013

Overview

Having influenced the country far beyond the term of his first official Presidency and now having returned to the role and consolidated his power, Vladimir Putin’s leadership of Russia suggests a return to an authoritarianism that, for some, feels similar to the days of Soviet control and the Czars of old.  Join Active Minds as we examine the story of Russia under the influence of Vladimir Putin.

Key Lecture Points

  • After the fall of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet president, set Russia on a course toward democratization and free market capitalism. His tenure, however, was marred by corruption and graft that led some to label Russia as a “kleptocracy,” dominated by a few politically connected people and the oligarchs who became fabulously wealthy from the assets of the former Soviet Union.
  • In 2012, Vladimir Putin once again became President of Russia, having rotated between Prime Minister and President since 1999 when he succeeded Yeltsin. Putin’s first goal on becoming president was to create order and stability after the chaos of the Yeltsin era and to regain Russia’s place on the world stage. In Putin’s first two terms as president, Russia fought two wars in Chechnya and saw an era of prosperity fuelled largely by its oil and gas reserves. Putin left the Presidency in 2008 as required under the Russian Constitution, moving to the position of Prime Minister under his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev. No one doubted Putin would remain in control. Major issues Putin faces in his third term as president are separatist militants in the Caucasus, wide-spread corruption, a declining economy and a restive opposition movement.
  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia remains a formidable presence on the international scene Relations with the US have deteriorated because of Russia’s support of the Assad regime in Syria, its ongoing efforts to protect Iran from UN sanctions for its nuclear program, the government’s crackdown on the opposition movement, Russia’s ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans and the Fogle espionage incident. On the positive side, Russia has been of assistance in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing’s connection to the Caucasus and the insurgent movement there.

Exploration Questions

  • Young adults who were born in 1990 when the Soviet Union had just ended and older adults who were born in 1918 just at the end of WWI and just after the Russian Revolution have different perspectives on the Soviet Union and Russia. When were you born in relation to the Soviet Union? How do you think this affected your perceptions of the new Russia? Of Putin?
  • In your view, how has Putin contributed to making a new Russia? Positively? Negatively?

Reflective Questions

  • Why do you think the territorial dispute over Kashmir has gone on so long? How do think it will be resolved—which scenario do you think is most likely to happen?
  • Have you ever been to Kashmir? India or Pakistan? What do you remember most?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Roxburgh, Angus. The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia. I.B. Tauris, 2013. 368 pages. Roxburgh gives an insider’s view of how Putin changed from reformer to autocrat. The author was for a time an adviser to the Kremlin on press relations.
    Click here to order
  • Gessen, Masha. The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Riverhead Trade, 2013. 336 pages. Traces Putin’s life from boyhood to the presidency.
    Click here to order
  • Judah, Ben. Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin. Yale University, 2013. 384 pages. The story of Putin’s years of rule.
    Click here to order