Fiction Written in blood: Managed Democracy


President Yeltsin was for a while considered the savior of Russia. That did not last long. Too many considered him a drunkard and buffoon. Briefly he was the hero of the anti-communist revolution. In 1996 his own team admitted that he had faked an election in which he won another term as president.


In 1999 it was recognized that he was in ill health and a successor should be chosen. By this time, they had a lot of power.  Vast amounts of money will do that. The oligarchs of course wanted to manage this process so that someone who would be sympathetic to their cause would come to power. They wanted to manage the process for their own benefit. They wanted someone who would allow them to retain their gains, maintain their wealth, and keep them alive.


It took a while for Yeltsin to choose his successor but eventually picked  Putin. Later, he told Bill Clinton it was a big mistake. Vladimir Putin was hardly a likely prospect because he was so little known. Putin held a meaningless KGB post in East Germany. From there he took a post as assistant to the mayor of St. Petersburg and used that position to enrich himself. After all that was the Russian way.

Putin was considered to be a team player in the Kremlin. When Yeltsin appointed Putin as his prime minister he was not a plausible candidate because his approval rate was only 2%. That was not because so many despised him. That was because so few people knew him.

That all changed in 1999 after a series of bombs exploded in Russian cities killing hundreds of Russians.  It was possible that the perpetrators were FSB officers. The FSB was the new Russian intelligence service that succeeded the well-known KGB. Some thought the FSB had engineered the attacks for their own private gain. Timothy Snyder described the situation this way:

“Though the possibility of self-terrorism was noticed at the time, the factual questions were overwhelmed by righteous patriotism as Putin ordered a new war against the part of Russia deemed responsible for the bombings: the Chechen republic of southwestern Russia, in the Caucasus region, which had declared independence in 1993 and then fought the Russian army to a standstill.   Thanks to the Second Chechen War, Putin’s approval rating reached 45% in 1993. In December, Yeltsin announced his resignation and endorsed Putin as his successor. Thanks to unequal television coverage, manipulation of the vote-tally, and the atmosphere of terrorism and war, Putin was accorded the absolute majority needed to win the presidential election of March 2000. The ink of political fiction is blood.”

This launched Putin into a career of what was then called “managed democracy.” That  of course, was fiction written in blood. There seems to be an endless supply of blood.


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