Module 7 Personality Cults in Democracy Vladimir Putin Discussion Board.

Question Description

For Discussion Forum 7, please address any of the questions below. As always: you are required to make a minimum of THREE (3) posts per module. At least one of your three posts should be your own original comment; at least one – should be a response to or comment on something another classmate has posted; the third post can be either your own original post or a comment on a classmate’s post. Keep in mind that your response should NOT simply be a summary of the assigned reading. A higher grade will be awarded to posts that demonstrate student’s ability to provide an original interpretation of the topic while also applying relevant concepts, issues, and theories covered in the module.

1. Using information about the concept of "personality cult" analyzed in Cassidy and Johnson article (esp. pp. 46 - 49), discuss the various ways in which Putin's cult has been created in today's Russia. From what you have understood from the course material so far, how does the Putin cult (and the opposition to this cult) differ from cults of other Soviet leaders (e.g. Stalin or Brezhnev)?

2. If you recall, in the documentary My Perestroika Borya (a history teacher) was unhappy with new history books that the Russian government was imposing on high schools. Read an excerpt from such a history book in Peter Baker's essay "Project Putin" (p.38). What is your opinion on the textbook's message? Do you feel this type of "historical" text is, in a way, a step back towards Soviet-style propaganda? Explain your opinion. Do you think schools need to draw a line between education and politics, education and indoctrination? Should any time be spent in schools glorifying (or even discussing) the country's leaders? Make sure to tie your answer to the Russian example.

3. Several readings and documentaries in this module talk about the mythology surrounding Putin's name, as well as about "the Putin brand." Discuss specific examples of various cultural mythologies surrounding Russia's current leader. Why do you think these mythologies might be important to his rule? Can you think of similar folkloric, mythological or popular cultural presentations of politicians as celebrities in other countries (including the U.S.)? In general, do you think politicians can be considered celebrities?

4. As you learned in this module, Vladimir Putin's first priority as Russian president was to bring prosperity, order and stability to Russia. From what you read / watched in this module, explain whether Putin was successful in stabilizing the situation in Russia. And, if he has indeed set Russia on the path of progress (at least economic?), why are there so many opponents and critics of his regime? (Make sure to back up your answers with facts and data from the module's materials).

5. In his article "Putin Era: Progress and Problems," Prof. John Thompson speaks about many paradoxes of Putin's presidency. Discuss any of these paradoxes that caught your eye the most.

6. Question for the political scientists among us. The materials you've studied in this module all bring up a number of different terms to describe Vladimir Putin's regime, from "kleptocracy" to central government authority to "sovereign democracy." Based on this module's materials, which term do you find most appropriate and why? (make sure to back your argument with facts from the readings / viewings).

7. Read the article "Universities Prepare for the Cold War Redux (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.." Based on the information of this module (and any other information you've learned in this class), provide your own insight and expert analysis of the situation described as a cultural anthropologist / scholar of contemporary Russia. What are the roots of the issue discussed in the article? (How did it happen that, at least according to the experts interviewed in the article, "the number of people who can give qualified perspective (on Russia - OM) is near its lowest since the end of World War II"? What are the consequences of this situation? Did anything else catch your eye in the article? (For example, do you agree with a Professor from George Washington University that, when it comes to curricula, Universities are "faddish"? Can you give specific examples of such academic "fads"?)

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Biography in Context- Print http://ic.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/ic/bic1/MagazinesDetai... The resistible rise of Vladimir Putin: Russia's nightmare dressed like a daydream Foreign Affairs, March-April 2015 Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin By Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy. Brookings Institution Press, 2013, 400 pp. $29.95. Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha. Simon & Schuster, 2014, 464 pp. $30.00. Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin by Ben Judah. Yale University Press, 2013, 400 pp. $22.00. How did twenty-first-century Russia end up, yet again, in personal rule? An advanced industrial country of 142 million people, it has no enduring political parties that organize and respond to voter preferences. The military is sprawling yet tame; the immense secret police are effectively in one man's pocket. The hydrocarbon sector is a personal bank, and indeed much of the economy is increasingly treated as an individual fiefdom. Mass media move more or less in lockstep with the commands of the presidential administration. Competing interest groups abound, but there is no rival center of power. In late October 2014, after a top aide to Russia's president told the annual forum of the Valdai Discussion Club, which brings together Russian and foreign experts, that Russians understand "if there is no Putin, there is no Russia," the pundit Stanislav Belkovsky observed that "the search for Russia's national idea, which began after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is finally over. Now, it is evident that Russia's national idea is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin." Russia is classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank (having a per capita gdp exceeding $14,000). Its unemployment remains low (around five percent); until recently, consumer spending had been expanding at more than five percent annually; life expectancy has been rising; and Internet penetration exceeds that of some countries in the European Union. But Russia is now beset by economic stagnation alongside high inflation, its labor productivity remains dismally low, and its once-vaunted school system has deteriorated alarmingly. And it is astonishingly corrupt. Not only the bullying central authorities in Moscow but regional state bodies, too, have been systematically criminalizing revenue streams, while giant swaths of territory lack basic public services and local vigilante groups proliferate. Across the country, officials who have purchased their positions for hefty sums team up with organized crime syndicates and use friendly prosecutors and judges to extort and expropriate rivals. President Vladimir Putin's vaunted "stability," in short, has turned into spoliation. But Putin has been in power for 15 years, and there is no end in sight. Stalin ruled for some three decades; Brezhnev for almost two. Putin, still relatively young and healthy, looks set to top the latter and might even outdo the former. In some ways, observers are still trying to fathom how the revolt against tsarist autocracy in 1917--the widest mass revolution in history up to that point--culminated in a regime unaccountable to itself, let alone to the masses. Now, after the mass mobilizations for democracy that accompanied and followed the 1991 Soviet collapse, a new authoritarianism has taken shape. Of course, Putin's dictatorship differs substantially from the Soviet communist version. Today's Russia has no single ideology and no disciplined ruling party, and although it lacks the rule of law, it does allow private property and free movement across borders. Still, the country is back in a familiar place, a one-man regime. 1 of 12 10/8/16, 11:29 AM Biography in Context- Print http://ic.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/ic/bic1/MagazinesDetai... The methods Putin used to fix the corrupt, dysfunctional post-Soviet state have produced yet another corrupt, dysfunctional state. Putin himself complains publicly that only about 20 percent of his decisions get implemented, with the rest being ignored or circumvented unless he intervenes forcefully with the interest groups and functionaries concerned. But he cannot intervene directly with every boss, governor, and official in the country on every issue. Many underlings invoke Putin's name and do what they want. Personal systems of rule convey immense power on the ruler in select strategic areas--the secret police, control of cash flow--but they are ultimately ineffective and self-defeating. Russia just might be able to get out of this trap, in part because of the severity of the various crises currently besetting Putin's regime. But perversely, even that hopeful scenario would require yet another act of personal rule. from leningrad to moscow Putin was born in Soviet Leningrad in 1952, the only surviving child of parents who had lived through the Nazi siege of the city a decade earlier. He grew up in a rough section of Peter the Great's showcase, took up martial arts, graduated with a degree in law from Leningrad State University, and begged his way into the kgb, eventually being posted to Dresden, East Germany, in 1985. In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the kgb recalled him to Leningrad and assigned him to his alma mater, where his former law professor Anatoly Sobchak still taught part time. Sobchak eventually became chair of the city council and then mayor, and Putin served as his top deputy, responsible for difficult assignments, including feeding the city's large population during the years of post-Soviet economic depression. He discovered that Leningrad's self-styled democrats could get almost nothing done and that he could embezzle money both to help address the city's challenges and to enrich himself and his cronies. When Sobchak lost a bid for reelection in 1996, Putin found himself unemployed at 43. But a year later, through connections (notably Alexei Kudrin, another official in the Sobchak mayoralty who had become deputy chief of staff to Russian President Boris Yeltsin), Putin moved to Moscow and obtained a series of positions in the presidential administration, the successor to the old Soviet central-party apparatus. There are indications that Putin might have coveted the lucrative, powerful ceo job at Gazprom, Russia's monopoly gas behemoth, but if so, it eluded him. Then, in July 1998, lightning struck: Yeltsin appointed the former lieutenant colonel above hundreds of higher-ranking secret police officers to head the fsb, the successor to the kgb--and the following year appointed him first acting prime minister of the Russian Federation and then acting president. So the simplest answer to the question of how Putin came to power is that he was selected. Yeltsin's inner circle, known as "the Family"--in particular, Valentin Yumashev (the ghostwriter of Yeltsin's autobiographies) and Yumashev's future wife, Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana--picked Putin over others who failed their auditions. He had shown a basic competence in administration and had demonstrated loyalty (having arranged in 1997 for Sobchak, then under threat of arrest, to escape to France without submitting to Russian passport control). It was hoped that he would protect the Family's interests, and maybe those of Russia as well. Putin secured victory in the March 2000 presidential election through control of the country's main television station, Channel One (thanks to Boris Berezovsky, a secondary member of the Family); ruthless manipulation of the Chechen terrorist threat; and access to all the perks of incumbency. Some fraud, too, cannot be excluded. In the reported results, Putin received nearly 40 million votes, 53 percent of those cast, a majority that enabled him to avoid a runoff. Second place (29 percent) went to the Communist 2 of 12 10/8/16, 11:29 AM Biography in Context- Print http://ic.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/ic/bic1/MagazinesDetai... Party candidate-bogeyman. Nine other candidates split the rest of the votes. Interestingly, when Putin took office, he had little effective power. His chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, was a core member of the Family and would remain in his commanding position for two more years. Berezovsky continued to control Channel One, and the second most important station, privately owned ntv, belonged to the independent actor Vladimir Gusinsky. The mammoth cash flow generated by the state gas monopoly had been largely privatized into the hands of a cabal led by Rem Vyakhirev (a protege of the former Soviet gas minister, later the Russian prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin), and much of the oil industry had been formally privatized, a lot of it into a huge new company, Yukos, controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Russia's then 89 regions were in the hands of governors who answered to no one. Chechnya had de facto independence. The Russian state was floundering. Bit by bit, however, using stealth and dirty tricks, Putin reasserted central control over the levers of power within the country--the tv stations, the gas industry, the oil industry, the regions. It was a cunning feat of state rebuilding, aided by Putin's healthy contrast to the infirm Yeltsin, hyped fears of a Russian state dissolution, well-crafted appeals to patriotism, and the humbling of some oligarchs. Some fear of authority was necessary to tame the utter lawlessness into which the country had sunk. Putin instilled that fear, thanks to his own history and persona and some highhanded political theater, such as the arrest of Khodorkovsky, who was taken right off his private jet, which was shown again and again on Russian tv. But Putin's transformation into a dominant political figure required more than a widely shared appreciation that he was saving the Russian state. It also took a surprise economic boom. From 1999 through 2008, Russia's economy grew at a brisk seven percent annually, thereby doubling its gdp in ruble terms. Real individual income growth was even brisker, increasing by two and a half times. In dollar terms, because of the ruble's appreciation over time, the increase in gdp was exceptionally vivid: from a nadir of around $196 billion in 1999 to around $2.1 trillion in 2013. A new, grateful Russian middle class was born, some 30 million strong, able to travel and shop abroad easily. More broadly, Russian society was transformed: cell-phone penetration went from zero to 100 percent, unemployment dropped from 12.9 percent to 6.3 percent, and the poverty rate fell from 29 percent to 13 percent. Wages rose, pensions were doled out, and the immense national debt that had been accumulated by previous leaders was paid off early. Foreign investors reaped rich rewards, too, as Russia's stock market skyrocketed, increasing 20-fold. Many analysts have attributed the Russian boom to luck, in the form of plentiful fossil fuels. Yet although oil and gas have generally brought in approximately 50 percent of the Russian state's revenues, they have accounted for no more than 30 percent of the economy at large--a high number, but significantly lower than Middle East petrostate proportions. Even adding in all the knock-on effects around hydrocarbons, the most sophisticated analyses of Russian economic growth credit oil and gas with at most 40 to 50 percent of gdp during the boom. An immense amount of other value was created during these years as well, and Putin was partly responsible. As president, Putin delegated handling of the economy to Mikhail Kasyanov, his prime minister; German Gref, the minister of economic development and trade; and Kudrin, then the finance minister, who introduced a raft of anti-inflationary and liberalizing measures (Gazprom excepted). Tax cuts increased incentives to work and reduced incentives to hide income. Simplification of business licensing and reduced inspections led to a burst of entrepreneurialism. Financial reforms and sensible macroeconomic policy facilitated investment. And land became a marketable commodity. 3 of 12 10/8/16, 11:29 AM Biography in Context- Print http://ic.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/ic/bic1/MagazinesDetai... The impact of these pro-market reforms, which Putin supported and signed, was magnified by favorable trade winds. Russia had undergone a searing debt default and currency devaluation in 1998, and most commentators thought the country would be devastated. But in fact, the devaluation unintentionally made Russian exports cheaper and thus more competitive. At the same time, China's ongoing rise lifted global prices for Russian products, from fertilizer and chemicals to metals and cement. Insatiable Chinese demand brought Soviet legacy industries back from the dead. Brand-new sectors surged as well, such as retail, food processing, biotechnology, and software, driven by increased domestic demand and global outsourcing. Many of the Soviet legacy industries, such as coal and steel, underwent significant rationalization, as unprofitable mines or plants were phased out. (Agriculture, however, was never really revived, let alone rationalized, and Russia became dependent on food imports.) Skeptics take note: oil prices during Putin's first presidential term, when growth was robust, averaged only around $35 a barrel; during Putin's second term, the average grew to around $65 a barrel. In recent years, with oil prices consistently at or above $100 a barrel, Russia's economy has stagnated. China's rise, the ruble's devaluation, and a pent-up wave of structural reforms were critical to the Russian boom, but as the man in charge, Putin took the lion's share of the credit. His critics refuse to acknowledge his contribution, and some have improbably made him out to be a nonentity. In her 2012 biography, The Man Without a Face, for example, the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen offers the ultimate portrait of Putin as an accident. A well-written, impassioned compendium of facts, hearsay, and psychologizing about Putin's life and career, Gessen's book makes Putin out to be a mere thug and self-dealer, a murderer but ultimately a small man. Yet accidents and nonentities do not stay in power this long. Mr. Putin, by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, two Russia hands at the Brookings Institution, offers less drama but more balance. It characterizes Putin as moving back and forth among six different personas: the Statist, the History Man (celebrating tsarist Russian statesmen), the Survivalist, the Outsider (not a Muscovite, not an apparatchik, not even a typical kgb officer), the Free Marketeer (actually, crony capitalist), and the Case Officer (who wins people's confidence through manipulation, bribery, and blackmail). It is a nicely rounded portrait. It is not, however, an intimate one. Refreshingly, Hill and Gaddy refrain from imputing motives to Putin. They have met with him briefly in a large group but rely mostly on many of the same few voices that are quoted in Gessen's book, as well as in foundational biographies by Oleg Blotsky and Alexander Rahr, and on a published interview with the former Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovsky. In their best chapters, Hill and Gaddy delineate the self-defeating crosspurposes among the six Putin personas, along with Putin's limitations when it comes to public politics. They rebut the prevalent American narrative about a tragic Putin betrayal of a Yeltsin-era trajectory toward democracy, bending over backward to make understandable the alternative Russian narrative of a Putin-led rescue from a 1990s "time of troubles." But they do not advance their own explicit, systematic explanation for how it was possible, in such a vast country, to establish what they dub a "one-boy network" political system. follow the money Western sanctions levied against Russia over its actions in Ukraine have targeted not economic sectors but individuals. Putin's Kleptocracy, by Karen Dawisha, shows why such an approach makes sense. It offers a comprehensive catalog of Putin's cronies: Arkady and Boris Rotenberg of gas pipeline construction fame, 4 of 12 10/8/16, 11:29 AM Biography in Context- Print http://ic.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/ic/bic1/MagazinesDetai... Gennady Timchenko of the Gunvor Group, Igor Sechin of Rosneft, Alexey Miller of Gazprom, Sergey Chemezov of Rosoboronexport, Yuri Kovalchuk of Bank Rossiya, Matthias Warnig of Nord Stream pipeline, and many more. Although a few of these individuals rose to power during the last decade and a half, most got to know Putin early, during his St. Petersburg years. (Warnig's relationship with Putin dates back to Dresden.) Dawisha details how they all got filthy rich thanks to the noncompetitive privatization of state assets, no-bid government contracts, dubious loans, fake bankruptcies, phantom middleman firms, tax "refunds," patriotic megaprojects (such as the Olympics), and other favors. She maintains that Putin, too, is a thief, and, calling attention to the $700,000 worth of watches publicly spotted on his wrist, she repeats guesstimates that put his personal wealth at $40 billion. A political scientist at Miami University in Ohio, Dawisha has, for the most part, not uncovered new information but assembled in one place nuggets from the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, investigative reportage, old Stasi files, comments made by an important Russian defector, and other sources, all of which she has posted online. Her prose is workmanlike, and not all the disparate materials fit easily into her simple storyline. Particularly striking is the fact that most of the book is devoted to the period before Putin first became president. Dawisha reminds us that the kgb's role in private business began even before the Soviet collapse, and she argues that these are the roots of Putin's kleptocracy--challenging the conventional wisdom in which the 2003 arrest of Khodorkovsky and the confiscation of his private oil giant, Yukos, marked a key turning point. "Like other scholars of Russia, I have spent a significant portion of my career thinking and writing about how the post-Communist states might make a transition toward democracy," she confesses, but says that eventually she got wise, concluding that Russia was not "an inchoate democratic system being pulled down by history, accidental autocrats, popular inertia, bureaucratic incompetence, or poor Western advice." Rather, "from the beginning Putin and his circle sought to create an authoritarian regime ruled by a close-knit cabal with embedded interests, plans, and capabilities, who used democracy for decoration rather than direction." Putin's nasty tendencies, in other words, cannot be blamed on external factors, such as nato expansion. Questions about her analysis can be raised. Dawisha never really clarifies, for example, the extent to which sincerely held beliefs bind the Putin kleptocrats (as they did, say, the old Brezhnev clique, who also were said to be a bunch of cynics). She quotes Nikolay Leonov, the former head of analysis for the kgb, as saying of Putin and his kgb associates back in 2001, "They are patriots and proponents of a strong state grounded in centuries-old tradition. History recruited them to carry out a special operation for the resurrection of our great power, because there has to be balance in the world, and without a strong Russia the geopolitical turbulence will begin." So is the enrichment an end in itself or a means to an end? Most fundamentally, Dawisha's assertions about near-total intentionality--kleptocracy by "intelligent design"-strain credulity. Russia has known lots of designs, including those of Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and what happened to them? She concedes that under Putin, "not everything went as planned," but her telling of the story makes it seem otherwise. This misses the fact that Putin and his cronies, as well as his mass base, were largely losers under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Notwithstanding its private-sector and offshore machinations, the former kg ...
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Personality Cults in Democracy; Vladimir Putin
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Personality Cults in Democracy; Vladimir Putin

Personality cults exist in democracy, and they hint at a leader’s ability to influence their
citizens. For instance, Putin has been a very successful president and as he is considered not just
a great president but the greatest by some of the Russian citize...

ChrisLabreTutor (16781)
University of Virginia

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