Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vladimir Groznyi

Time has “crowned” the Russian leader as their “Person of the Year.” I believe I was about 2 weeks ahead of them when I put him *almost* at the top of my Naughty list. Alas, I erred by 1 spot.

In the article, he is most likened with either Peter the Great or Stalin. But I see a much better comparison: Ivan the Terrible. Putin is a 21st century tsar. “Groznyi” roughly translates to “terrible” but it’s connotations are much stronger. It is a mix of awe and sheer terror. Putin is a man that can inspire both of those things. On one hand one can only have respect for a man that has risen to arguably one of the most powerful positions in the world, virtually from nothing. On the other hand, his tactics and icy stare makes one think of a psychopathic serial killer. Time does a pretty good job at laying out the main events of Putin’s administration. However, it fails at putting emphasis on his despotic measures.

Going up in my ivory tower for a second here, I wonder if an iron-fisted ruler is a necessity for the effective ruling of such a large nation. Is the so called “Asian despotism” still an influence on Russian politics or is the country ready to move on towards a more democratic form of government? Everything points to the former. There are too many factors to consider. But the Yeltsin regime’s rampant corruption and disregard for the citizens’ well-being has a lot to do with it. See, as long as the people are happy they will forgive a whole lot. This is exactly what’s happening in Russia right now. They are not starving, the economy’s going great and so they are willing to turn a blind eye on a lot of the government’s infractions.

Who knows what kind of corrupting practices are going on behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. And some degree of corruption and bribery is expected in all governments. My problem is with Putin’s attempt at silencing his critics. An essential part of democracy is freedom of the press. The people of a nation need to cast a critical look on its own government to keep it in check. One of my favorite quotes from V for Vendetta is “The people should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.” But all too often it’s the other way around. And who wouldn’t be when journalists are routinely killed for expressing opinions different from those of the government?

To quote the article: "[Putin] stands, above all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years." Stability should not come at the expense of freedom of choice for ultimately repressing that fundamental human right is going to come back and bite you in the ass. So my dear Volodya, I'd watch my back if I were you.

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