Tampa Bay Times

Russia’s Czar Vladimir

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The Economist marks the 100th anniversar­y of Russia’s October Revolution by pointing out that “Russia is once again under the rule of the czar,” one named Vladimir Putin. Read “A Tsar Is Born” in full at http://econ.st/2gNmHKr. Here’s an excerpt.

Like a czar, Mr Putin surmounts a pyramid of patronage. Since he moved against the oligarchs in 2001, taking control first of the media and then of the oil and gas giants, all access to power and money has been through him. These days the boyars serve at his pleasure, just as those beneath them serve at their pleasure and so on all the way down. He wraps his power in legal procedure, but everyone knows that the prosecutor­s and courts answer to him. He enjoys an approval rating of over 80 percent partly because he has persuaded Russians that, as an aide says, “If there is no Putin, there is no Russia.”

Like a czar, too, he has faced the question that has plagued Russia’s rulers since Peter the Great — and which acutely confronted Alexander III and Nicholas II in the run-up to the revolution. Should Russia modernize by following the Western path towards civil rights and representa­tive government, or should it try to lock in stability by holding fast against them?

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