7 decisive factors that made Vladimir Putin the most powerful man in Russia

7 decisive factors that made Vladimir Putin the most powerful man in Russia

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President Vladimir Putin seems to have convinced the Russians that it is indispensable and irreplaceable.

In the words of his deputy chief of staff, Vladimir Ostrovenko, “if there is no Putin there is no Russia”.

But how did the dolphin of Boris Yeltsin (the Russian leader after the fall of the Soviet Union) manage to reach this point? How did Putin go from being a dark agent of the KGB to being the most powerful man in Russia?

In the 21st century, the country has only had one dominant figure . Putin has been prime minister (1999), president (2000-2008), again premier (2008-2012), reformed the Constitution to extend the mandate of heads of state from four to six years and returned to the presidency in 2012.

He is one of the Russian leaders who has been in power the longest. And it is likely that he will continue in the Kremlin until 2024 , since everything points to his re-election in Sunday’s elections.

1. Great ambition

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Vladimir Putin was raised with his two brothers in a humble apartment shared with two other families in his hometown of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during the postwar period. He lived in the same room as his parents until he was 25 years old.

In Russia, they say that they suffered from poverty and food shortages , but that they still developed a great ambition to succeed.

Young Putin studied law at St. Petersburg State University and, after graduating in 1975, enrolled in the KGB , his first step towards the Kremlin.

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir PutinCopyright of the image ALEXANDER NEMENOVImage caption Putin was a president emerged from the shadows.

2. President by surprise

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On December 31, 1999, President Boris Yeltsin, who then sick, announced his sudden resignation.

With intelligence, Putin had already positioned himself politically to be the first in the line of succession and assumed as interim president , position in which he was ratified with his victory in the presidential elections of March 2000.

The oligarchs who had taken control of the economy thanks to the liberalization promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev (“Perestroika”) in the last section of the Soviet Union and the reformers who supported Yeltsin were pleased with the new head of state: they believed that this character out of the shadows would be malleable.

However, over time they would realize that they were wrong.

Vladimir GusinskyCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky was jailed after being accused of embezzlement.

3. Control of the media

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The editor of the BBC’s Russian Service, Famil Ismailov, recalls that Putin took control of the media a few months after taking office, which took the oligarchs and the old guard of the Kremlin by surprise.

In this way, the government ensured an effective management of the information : for example, to get rid of critics such as media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky; filter what was said about the war in Chechnya; “inflate” popularity ratings; project a grandiloquent image of the new Russia and its leader, and point to the “enemies of the State”.

The first victim was the independent NTV channel of Gusinsky, in 2000. It had an audience of 100 million viewers and a coverage that reached 70% of the Russian territory. He was followed by many other media, including newspapers and magazines.

There are currently 3,000 television stations in the country. Most of them do not cover political news and, when they do, they are subject to strict government control.

An international media, RT, broadcasts the Kremlin line globally, even with a channel in Spanish.

The independent journalism was marginalized to Internet , as it is the case of TV Rain / Dozhd.

Mikhail KhodorkovskyCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Mikhail Khodorkovsky, owner of the oil giant Yukos, was imprisoned by the Putin government.

4. Open war against the oligarchs

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Vladimir Gusinsky was not the only oligarch to whom “Putinism” declared war.

According to the BBC documentary “The new czar”, Putin had seen with his own eyes how the magnates became “too ” influ folken during the government of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

So he decided to take control of them before the opposite happened.

This is how high-profile oligarchs like the lobbyist and owner of multiple companies Boris Berezovsky (2000) and the owner of the oil giant Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (2003), among others, fell into disgrace . Accused of corruption, they were imprisoned or forced into exile.

Khodorkovsky took refuge in Switzerland in 2013, the year in which Berezovsky was found dead in suspicious circumstances at his home in the United Kingdom.

In the BBC documentary he explains that large conglomerates and businesses left by the oligarchs were taken over by confidants of Putin, who acrecent or its popularity thanks to its confrontation with the magnates.

Putin together with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Putin next to the military and religious powers.

5. “Your Russia is my Russia”

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Political and international analysts agree that Putin has endeavored to create the image of a ” great Russia, ” fostering nationalism and relying on military and religious power.

His idea is to forge a solid Russian identity among the common people, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, so that the governed feel proud of who they are and what they share .

Also, Putin is shown as a strong man who is close to the military leadership, but also the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the moral authority of the country. And this has given him more popular support.

It projects the image of a muscular Russia with leader with muscle , who does not bow to international pressure.

According to the analysts of the Russian Service of the BBC, the media controlled by the Kremlin spread the message that Putin takes care of his own people and will not allow them to tell him what he has to do .

Vladimir Putin fishingCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Putin has not hesitated to show his naked torso doing activities like fishing.

6. Doctrine of “controlled democracy”

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Professor Samuel Greene, director of the Russian Institute at King’s College in London, tells BBC World that this doctrine has allowed Putin to keep dissidence at bay.

In addition to controlling the media, “controlled democracy” consists of creating a “substitute” for civil society, establishing and financing groups that occupy public and political space to prevent the flourishing of opposition organizations, says Greene.

With a network of loyalist groups, “Putinism” has ensured that, if any kind of dissident uprising occurs, it is able to quickly mobilize its supporters to occupy the Red Square before the opposition does.

Another element of “controlled democracy” is the so-called ” directed competition,” according to Greene.

“The idea is that Russians have the feeling that they live in a democratic country, can participate and have options as in other ‘normal’ political processes in the world.”

The expert from King’s College London argues that, to achieve this, Putin’s circle has worked hard in managing relations with the main parties in the Duma (Parliament).

For example, he has organized frequent political meetings with party leaders to make clear to them how they can and can not compete, which issues they can campaign on and which ones can not, and how they can or can not raise money.

“This has ensured the loyalty of the parties to the Kremlin, ” concludes Greene.

Bombings in Aleppo, SyriaCopyright of the GETTY imageImage caption The Moscow government has been accused by the West of attacking civilians in Syria.

7. War “non-linear”

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This concept has been at the basis of Putin’s two major military interventions in recent years: Ukraine (2014) and Syria (as of 2015).

Officially, Moscow justified the first by stating that it was to “protect Russian interests” in Ukrainian territory, while the second said it was in response to a request for help from President Bashar al-Assad – a Russian ally – to fight rebel groups and jihadists.

Russia’s operations in Ukraine and Syria, which have been described by international analysts as finished examples of “non-linear warfare”, have disorientated the international community and allowed Moscow to “get away with it” in actions considered as aggressions , says Roy Allison, professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, to BBC World.

The expert explains that Russia no longer has the military power capable of challenging the United States and NATO, and therefore its strategy is to keep the international community trying to guess what it is doing or is going to do.

“It is impossible for the politicians and the military of the West to understand how Russia acts and what their intentions are,” says Allison.

“Then, they must be prepared for any eventuality and assume that the Kremlin can do anything they want , which is very destabilizing and disturbing and gives Putin a halo of invincibility.”

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