Ideas

The Enright Files on Vladimir Putin's Russia

One hundred years ago, in 1917, Russia's tsarist dynasty was overthrown and a Communist government led by Vladimir Lenin took power. A century later, Russia is very much the state of Vladimir Putin, who rules as a strange hybrid of tsarism, Stalinism and post-Cold War turbocharged capitalism. On this month's edition of The Enright Files, we revisit interviews about Vladimir Putin's Russia.
In this May 29, 2017, file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)
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One hundred years ago, in 1917, Russia's tsarist dynasty was overthrown and a Communist government led by Vladimir Lenin took power. A century later, Russia is very much the state of Vladimir Putin, who rules as a strange hybrid of tsarism, Stalinism and post-Cold War turbocharged capitalism. In this episode of The Enright Files, we revisit interviews about Vladimir Putin's Russia.


In the century since the 1917 revolution, Russia became the brains and brawn of the Soviet Union. It descended into the totalitarian abyss of Stalinism, built a communist empire in Eastern Europe, engaged in a dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship with the U.S. during the Cold War, was liberalized by Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms of Perestroika and Glasnost, and devolved into chaos with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cowboy capitalism of the 1990s.

Since 2000, Russia has been Vladimir Putin's state. Putin has served as president for 13 years since 2000, in addition to four years as prime minister from 2008 to 2012. 

In that time, Putin has been credited with bringing relative prosperity and stability to Russia, restoring to Russia the geopolitical heft it enjoyed in the Soviet days, and outmaneuvering the West in global trouble spots like Syria and Ukraine. 

His consistently high approval ratings would make him the envy of his Western counterparts. 

Putin is not quite as popular internationally. Russia may no longer be seen as an existential threat to the world, but Putin is regarded as a brazen provocateur and troublemaker, a supporter of rogue regimes and an underminer of the electoral process in Western democracies. Most notoriously, he's been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, perhaps even colluding with the Donald Trump campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton.

And there are many in Russia who think of him more as a czarist or Stalinist than as a democratic leader. Putin's regime has a reputation for being thuggishly, even murderously repressive toward opposition leaders, anti-corruption crusaders and journalists. Ask a lot of people what's the best way to get rich in Russia, and they'll tell you—be a friend of Vladimir Putin's.


Guests in this episode:

  • Garry Kasparov, former chess world champion and Russian opposition activist.
     
  • Masha Gessen, Russian journalist and author. She has written several books on Russia, including The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin and The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.
     
  • Sergei Plekhanov, Russian political scientist at York University.
     
  • Peter Pomerantsev, Russian-British author of Nothing Is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.
     

**The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou.

 

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