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Putin’s Russia

By Lilia Shevtsova

On December 31, 1999, ailing political maverick Boris Yeltsin abruptly handed the country’s leadership over to the virtually unknown former intelligence officer Vladimir Putin. The new Kremlin boss represented both continuity and change. While he was linked with the past, he also signified a sharp break from it. With Putin’s ascendancy to power, Russian leadership and Russia have changed dramatically. A pragmatic manager, Putin has tamed the Russian elite and arrogant tycoons, pushed forward economic reforms previously stalled under Yeltsin, and instituted a pro-Western foreign policy. He has accomplished all of this while maintaining an astonishing 70 percent approval rating. However, Russia’s transformation under Putin remains a paradox. Outwardly he has proved his desire to modernize Russia, but he has also demonstrated a deep distrust of major democratic institutions and an open desire to keep tight control over society. In Putin’s Russia, Lilia Shevtsova, one of Russia’s top political analysts and award-winning journalists, examines how, under Putin, the country vacillates between optimism and anguish, hope and resentment. She examines the true nature of Putin’s leadership and how far he is willing and capable to go with further transformation. Time will tell if he can combine his authoritarian ways with economic liberalism and pro-Western policy to define the Russia of the twenty-first century.

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