Vladimir Putin

Putin, Vladimir Vladimirovich

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (vlŭdēm´yĬr vlŭdēm´yĬr´əvyĬch pōō´tyĬn), 1952–, Russian government official and political leader, b. Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). After graduating from the Leningrad State Univ. law school in 1975 (he also holds a doctorate in economics), he served in the KGB for 15 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. From 1990 to 1996 he held several posts in the Leningrad (from 1991, St. Petersburg) city government. Moving to Moscow and the national government in 1996, he held high staff positions in the Yeltsin administration and in 1998 became head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's successor.

Regarded as intelligent, tough, and hard-working, Putin was chosen by Yeltsin to succeed Sergei Stepashin as prime minister in Aug., 1999. Putin quickly became popular with many Russians for his September invasion of Chechnya in response to terrorism and the invasion of Dagestan by Chechen militants. After parties aligned with Putin won solid support in the Dec., 1999, parliamentary elections, Yeltsin resigned, and Putin became acting president. In the elections of Mar., 2000, Putin bested ten other candidates to become Russia's president.

Putin moved quickly to reassert the central government's authority over the various republics, regions, and other administrative units and has sought to exert control over elements of the independent media. He also has worked to revamp and modernize the military. He won enactment of liberal economic reforms (at least initially) and ratification of international arms agreements, while also renewing ties with former Soviet client states and maintaining Russia's strong opposition to proposed U.S. ballistic missile defenses (see Strategic Defense Initiative).

Although Putin has been, in the main, popular with the Russian public, his reputation suffered when he was perceived to have acted belatedly after the Russian submarine Kursk sank in Aug., 2000. By the end of his second year in office, however, the Russian president's position had visibly strengthened, as he became apparently successful in stabilizing the government and the economy, the latter achieved in part through some banking, labor, and private-property reforms and in part through a fortuitous rise in oil prices (Russia's principal export). In 2001 and 2002, Putin criticized, but accepted, the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty as it proceeded with its development of its missile defense system, while signing a treaty reducing the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and establishing closer relations with the United States and NATO.

Many reforms that had been enacted faltered in their enforcement in the second half of Putin's term, or were not built upon, and Russia's regions and provinces managed to resist central government control in many instances. Putin was reelected in Mar., 2004, in an election that European observers criticized as unfair. Putin subsequently obtained changes that allowed him to appoint regional and provincial governors, increasing the central government's control over the federation's constituents, and a number of republics and other ethnic areas were merged into their surrounding regions. Chechnya, however, remained an ongoing problem.

Putin's second term was marked by increased government control over Russian oil and gas (often obtained through questionable legal means) and increased state control over the Russian economy in general, the use of economic retaliation against nations that clashed politically with Russia, and the use of the legal system to reduce press freedom and repress political opposition. These trends continued in subsequent years. Relations with the NATO and Western nations, especially the United States and Great Britain, became more confrontational during the same period.

In Dec., 2007, Putin was elected to the State Duma on the United Russia ticket but postponed taking his seat. Dmitri Medvedev, his handpicked successor, was elected president in Mar., 2008, and Putin became prime minister again and chairman of the United Russia party when Medvedev assumed the presidency in May. Despite stepping down from the presidency, Putin continued to be Russia's most powerful government official. United Russia's diminished parliamentary victory in 2011 was a setback for Putin and his party, which had come increasingly to be seen as corrupt, but Putin won election to a new, six-year term as president in Mar., 2012. The parliamentary and presidential elections were marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. Putin stepped down as United Russia's chairman in Apr., 2012, prior to his inauguration as president.

The beginning of Putin's third presidential term was marked by increased government suppression of opposition groups and the reversal of modest human-rights reforms adopted under Medvedev. Putin subsequently became head of the Popular Front, a new political movement. A more aggressive Russian foreign policy characterized his presidency, including the semidisguised use of Russian forces in Ukraine's civil conflict that began in 2014 and the seizure of Crimea by Russia. Putin's continued popularity contributed to United Russia's win in the 2016 parliamentary elections, but voter turnout dropped and the campaign and vote was marred by irregularities. In 2018 he was easily reelected, but widespread irregularities again characterized the voting.

See his First Person (tr. 2000); biographies by M. Gessen (2012), A. Roxburgh (2012), and S. L. Myers (2015); F. Hill and C. G. Gaddy, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2012); B. Judah, Fragile Empire (2013); K. Dawisha, Putin's Kleptocracy (2014).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Vladimir Putin: Selected full-text books and articles

Putin: Russia's Choice By Richard Sakwa Routledge, 2008 (2nd edition)
Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia By Marshall I. Goldman Oxford University Press, 2008
Putin the Aging Terminator: Psychohistorical and Psychopolitical Notes By Ihanus, Juhani The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol. 35, No. 3, Winter 2008
Elections without Order: Russia's Challenge to Vladimir Putin By Richard Rose; Neil Munro Cambridge University Press, 2002
Putin's Lurch toward Tsarism and Neoimperialism: Why the United States Should Care By Aslund, Anders Demokratizatsiya, Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter 2008
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Putin and the Uses of History By Hill, Fiona; Gaddy, Clifford The National Interest, No. 117, January-February 2012
Putin's Russia: The Return of the Iron Fist By Jasper, William F The New American, Vol. 23, No. 2, January 22, 2007
Yeltsin's Russia and the West By Andrew Felkay Praeger, 2002
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Vladimir Putin begins on p. 214
NATO's Eastern Agenda in a New Strategic Era By F. Stephen Larrabee Rand, 2003
Librarian's tip: "Russian Foreign Policy under Putin" begins on p. 119
The U.S. and Russia after Iraq By Saunders, Paul J Policy Review, June-July 2003
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