ANALYSIS: PUTIN'S RUSSIA: Putin Grapples with His Nation's History, but Is He Getting Anywhere? Kremlin Trying Hard but Black Economy Still Cripples Country ; the Economy Is Growing, the Government Is Gaining Control and Political Turbulence Has Gone, but Corruption and Bribery Remain Endemic

By Cockburn, Patrick | The Independent (London, England), May 23, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

ANALYSIS: PUTIN'S RUSSIA: Putin Grapples with His Nation's History, but Is He Getting Anywhere? Kremlin Trying Hard but Black Economy Still Cripples Country ; the Economy Is Growing, the Government Is Gaining Control and Political Turbulence Has Gone, but Corruption and Bribery Remain Endemic


Cockburn, Patrick, The Independent (London, England)


AT A SUMMIT in Slovenia last year, President George Bush claimed, to the astonishment and titters of the press, that he had seen into Vladimir Putin's soul and liked what he saw.

Mr Bush may see into Mr Putin's soul but not many others do. To many Russians he remains a sphinx, though possibly one without a riddle. As a career KGB officer he was presumably trained to conceal his own feelings and make friends with possible informants. He would not have been the chosen candidate to replace Boris Yeltsin at the end of 1999 if he had made many enemies. The Kremlin PR experts rightly believed that Mr Putin conveyed just the right mixture of macho efficiency and patriotic zeal to appeal to the Russian public.

He still does. Despite the sinking of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk in 2000 and the continuing war in Chechnya two out of three Russians say they approve of Mr Putin. His support is wide, rather than deep. He has benefited from the political and economic tranquility of the last three years, in contrast with the turbulent era of President Yeltsin. With a tame Duma at his beck and call, there is no effective opposition or presidential rival.

Russia has finally achieved a degree of political stability and is gradually emerging from the economic black hole into which it fell after the collapse of Communism. Many of its problems are intractable: long periods of lack of investment in industry; the decline in a once-proud education system; and the decay of infrastructure. Most companies depend on domestic protectionism to survive.

The Russian political and economic elite is wholly self-serving. For instance, it has almost wholly ignored the explosion in HIV- Aids infection in the population, leading one expert to argue that there is no chance of anything being done "until the children of the elite start dying from Aids".

The appearance of increasing autocratic control can be deceptive. Russians, drawing on centuries of experience of autocracy, are expert at bowing their heads to their rulers in Moscow while ingeniously evading or sabotaging their orders. The state bureaucracy has increased its power under Mr Putin compared to the Yeltsin years, but the Russian government remains impoverished and short of resources. Officials at every level are not paid a living wage. Bribery is all-pervasive.

It is a measure of the success of Mr Putin's government that he has conveyed a sense to Russians that there is a new, more honest hand on the tiller and that corruption is considerably less than under Mr Yeltsin. "In fact, corruption is at least at the same level now or perhaps slightly growing," Georgy Satarov, the president of Indem, a Russian think-tank was quoted as saying yesterday. Indem found that Russian companies paid no less than pounds 25bn in bribes and unofficial charges last year, making up 12 per cent of GDP.

The pattern of bribery is a guide to the weaknesses of the Russian state. The most blatant bribe-takers are the Russian traffic police, whose official wage in Moscow of pounds 44 a month is supplemented by pounds 200 in bribes. But the biggest bribes, surprisingly, are paid for health care and education because both systems are starved of state funds. Mr Satarov says more money is paid for higher education now because parents see it as a way to keep sons out of the army during the war in Chechnya.

Mr Putin has benefited from the financial crash of 1998, which ended the gross over-valuation of the rouble, as well as high oil prices.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

ANALYSIS: PUTIN'S RUSSIA: Putin Grapples with His Nation's History, but Is He Getting Anywhere? Kremlin Trying Hard but Black Economy Still Cripples Country ; the Economy Is Growing, the Government Is Gaining Control and Political Turbulence Has Gone, but Corruption and Bribery Remain Endemic
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?