Putinism: the ideology

Speakers: Professor Anne Applebaum
Recorded on Monday 28 January 2013 in New Theatre, East Building.

Containing elements of managed democracy and corporate capitalism — and reflecting the culture and values of the 1980s KGB — Putinism is now taught to Russian children and propagated in the media. It has an ostensible goal: along with protecting the power and wealth of Putin and his inner circle, it proposes to make Russia strong and feared again.

Anne Applebaum is the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs for the 2012-13 academic year.


Putinism (Russian: путинизм), like Putin regime is a term used in the Western press and by Russia analysts to criticize Vladimir Putin. The terms are used, often with a negative connotation.[1][2][3][4][5][6] to describe the political system of Russiaunder President (2000–2008, 2012–) and, in between his second and third terms as president, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, where much of political and financial powers are controlled by silovikii.e. people with a state security background, coming from the total of 22 governmental security and intelligence agencies, such as the FSB, the Police and the Army.[7][8][9] Many of these people share their career background with Putin, or are his personal friends.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] (See alsoPolitical groups during Vladimir Putin’s presidency)

The political system under Putin was primarily characterized by some elements of Economic liberalism, a lack of transparency in governance, cronyism and pervasive corruption, which assumed in Putin’s Russia “a systemic and institutionalized form”, according to a report by Boris Nemtsov as well as other sources.[17][18][19][20][21][22] Between 1999 and autumn 2008 Russia’s economy grew at a steady pace,[23] which some experts attribute to the sharp rouble devaluation of 1998, Boris Yeltsin-era structural reforms, rising oil price and cheap credit from western banks.[24][25][26] In Michael McFaul’s opinion (June 2004), Russia’s “impressive” short-term economic growth “came simultaneously with the destruction of free media, threats to civil society and an unmitigated corruption of justice.”[27]

During his two terms as president, Putin signed into law a series of liberal economic reforms, such as the flat income tax of 13 percent, a reduced profits tax, a new Land Code and a new edition (2006) of the Civil Code.[28] Within this period, poverty in Russia was cut by more than half[29][30] and real GDP has grown rapidly.[31]

In foreign affairs, the regime sought allegedly to emulate the former Soviet Union’s grandeur, belligerence and expansionism.[32][33] In November 2007, Simon Tisdall of The Guardian pointed out that “just as Russia once exported Marxist revolution, it may now be creating an international market for Putinism”, as “more often than not, instinctively undemocratic, oligarchic and corrupt national elites find that an appearance of democracy, with parliamentary trappings and a pretense of pluralism, is much more attractive, and manageable, than the real thing.”[34]

The US economist Richard W. Rahn (September 2007) called Putinism “a Russian nationalistic authoritarian form of government that pretends to be a free market democracy”, which “owes more of its lineage to fascism than communism;”[8] noting that “Putinism depended on the Russian economy growing rapidly enough that most people had rising standards of living and, in exchange, were willing to put up with the existing soft repression”,[35] he predicted that “as Russia’s economic fortunes changed, Putinism was likely to become more repressive.”[35]

Russian historian Andranik Migranyan saw the Putin regime as restoring what he believed were the natural functions of a government after period of the 1990s, when Russia was allegedly ruled by oligopolies expressing only their narrow interests. He said, “If democracy is the rule by a majority and the protection of the rights and opportunities of a minority, the current political regime can be described as democratic, at least formally. A multiparty political system exists in Russia, while several parties, most of them representing the opposition, have seats in the State Duma.”[36]



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