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Is Russia Sliding Toward Totalitarianism?  
User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1422 times:

There is a lot of talk about how Putin of Russia has consolidated his power over important national resources, from the oil industry to the news media. Usually, it's made clear that conventional wisdom believes that Putin has made Russia less free -- more authoritarian -- than before his reign.

However, how likely is this trend to continue? Is it even a trend, or is the perception of a trend the result of misrepresentation by Western media?

After all, every story has two sides.

Is Russia truly becoming less democratic and headed toward totalitarianism, or are Putin's acts simply a series of bumps, minor or major, on the road to Western-style freedom and full-fledged representative government?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

[Edited 2006-01-06 07:27:56]

11 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21442 posts, RR: 53
Reply 1, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 1401 times:

Putin is systematically dismantling the remains of a free press in Russia, is obviously in bed with the corrupt oligarchy (Gazprom!) and most clearly has no respect whatsoever for constitutional or legal boundaries.

So yes, Russia is clearly on a march back to an authoritarian situation - insofar as it has ever left it behind, that is.


User currently offlineMD80fanatic From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 2660 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 1386 times:

I think Putin's economic advisor has quit in protest saying "Russia is no longer free" or something similar.

User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 1374 times:

Thanks for your replies.

Remember back in the days of Yeltsin? He was quite a character, wasn't he? So vivacious, full of life, full of promise for his people. And yet from what's been said, something went wrong after he left the scene. I wonder why. Is it all attributable to Putin, or is there something systemically wrong with the Russian political system?

Take Germany for example. After the last war, Germany has been nothing if not successful. Economically, it's been one of the central dynamos powering Europe's rise, at least until the last five years or so. Culturally, it's rehabilitated itself, and politically, it's become respected as a stable parliamentary power. The same can be said of Japan. But the same cannot be said of Russia, at least from all appearances here.

However, I do believe that we should give Russia a chance even so. Keep the powder dry, as I say -- because I'm a cautious person. But let's also pass the butter. The Russians are a resourceful people, and Putin may not intend to stay on forever. His intentions may even be good -- to crack down on what he sees as chaos.

As far as overall Russian political system's intentions on its own future progress, I think Reagan said it best when he cautioned: "Trust, but verify."


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21442 posts, RR: 53
Reply 4, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 1357 times:

Russia was in a much worse situation than Germany (with a still more difficult history), and simply turning from soviet-style "socialism" to anarchic capitalism with a heavy dose of corruption (at least part of it simply continuing on from the soviet era) has not brought Russia forward as much as would have been necessary.

Germany was in a very different position in 1945, and the "takeover" of east Germany was done with a massive infusion of resources from the west (which continues to this day) as well as the introduction of an already established and stable west german political system and administrative infrastructure.

Russia is pretty much a prime example why "give them capitalism and everything will just turn out for the best!" is a thoroughly stupid concept.

It also takes a lot of political determination to establish freedom and stability at the same time. And that was clearly missing in Russia to the degree that would have been required - people seem to be looking for presumably simple solutions, and a "strong man" at the top seems to fit their desires the best - with considerable "help" from an increasingly Kremlin-obedient press...


User currently offlineDerico From Argentina, joined Dec 1999, 4304 posts, RR: 11
Reply 5, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 1349 times:

Russia had no help from the West to change it's economic profile, Europe and Japan did. Simple enough they would not be so well off.

Specially when during the time Russia 'regained' independence, the theory by free-market advocates was that you throw some foreign companies and CEO's into a country and everyone would get rich and drive a Grand Cherokee in five years.

And they were proven wrong just like the communists were.



My internet was not shut down, the internet has shut me down
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21442 posts, RR: 53
Reply 6, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 1347 times:

Quoting AerospaceFan (Reply 3):
I think Reagan said it best when he cautioned: "Trust, but verify."

Reagan actually quoted Lenin when he said that...!


User currently offlineCfalk From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 1339 times:

I spent a number of years working in Yeltsin's Russia. I remember it as a free-for all, with unregulated capitalism and unrestricted corruption to go with it. At that time, Russia simply did not know where it was going. The laws needed to regulate the country simply were not in existance, or were relics of the Soviet era and philosophy, and were thus unusable.

I stopped travelling to Russia in 2001, so I don't know much about Putin's Russia first-hand. But from what I understand, Putin has successfully implimented many of the basic framework of laws that a capitalistic society needs, and has brought the rampant corruption down to a more civilized level, although corruption at the top is the hardest to get out. The Russian economy has made tremendous strides under Putin, far better than Yeltsin.

As far as the stumbles, such as the press and Gazprom, I would say that they are a case of "2 steps forward, 1 back".

I started working in Russia in 1991. I saw firsthand what a screwed-up country it was back then. Most of you have no idea of the strides they have made since then. In 1991, most people could not even THINK like they needed to to live in a capitalistic society, much less act accordingly. Even if they worked for a private company, and the owner was working right in front of him, workers still stole just as they did before when the company owner was the state (in Soviet times, there was a saying, "He who does not steal from the state steals from his family.")

A lot of that has changed. While there is still a body of über-rich oligarchs, there is also a substantial and growing middle class of educated professionals, that are the backbone of a modern economy.

I loved working and talking with Russians. They are intelligent, passionate people, although they do not think exactly like we westerners do. The way they do things frequently can only be described, for good or bad, as "Russian". But I have no doubt that over the next couple of generations we can see some great things from them.

Coming back to Putin, I'll say that the biggest indicator of whether the country is on the right track or not is whether Putin and his administration leaves in an orderly manner on the day they are due to be voted out.

[Edited 2006-01-06 16:50:29]

User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 1299 times:

Quoting Cfalk (Reply 7):
Coming back to Putin, I'll say that the biggest indicator of whether the country is on the right track or not is whether Putin and his administration leaves in an orderly manner on the day they are due to be voted out.

Ah, yes. Well said, IMHO. That's the $64,000.00 question. Will Putin leave without being forced to?

Without seeming like a Putin apologist -- and I have no reason to be -- what you say about the inherent chaos of Yeltsin's Russia appears to be quite plausible. There were stories in the media about the loss of Russian nuclear secrets, for one thing, and such events can only happen in a country that has lost, at least in part, its previous respect for law and order.

What people in the West fear, I gather, is a Russia that asserts its nationalism over what Gorbachev argued should be a sense of Europe as "our common home". The Russia of today is one that simultaneously cracks down on what it may see as "chaos", and respect on the world stage as well. It's a policy on the knife's edge, because how does one balance the discouragement of dissent with the values the West places on freedom and diversity?

Can Russia be trusted to walk the thin line between chaos and repression? One thing is clear: The world will be watching -- and, perhaps, verifying.

[Edited 2006-01-06 23:18:28]

User currently offlineBravo45 From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2165 posts, RR: 11
Reply 9, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 1275 times:

When has Russia not been a totalitarian state? True Russia is big and I am not very aware of its entire history in depth, but I draw this conclusion by reading what's been going on in Chechnya for almost the last 400 years. Encarta is a good place for starters.
The world has NOT been watching!!!


User currently offlineAlessandro From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 1244 times:

I agree Russia always been a totalitarian state, even under Yeltsin.

User currently offlineBoeing4ever From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (8 years 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 1230 times:

Quoting Bravo45 (Reply 9):
The world has NOT been watching!!!

One of the biggest regrets in the coming years of the US and EU will be counting Russia as down and out and suddenly expecting them to be fuzzy friends.

I agree, Russia is sliding back to its "old" ways.

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