Academic journal article The Historian

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and out of Love with Vladimir Putin

Academic journal article The Historian

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and out of Love with Vladimir Putin

Article excerpt

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin. By Ben Judah. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013. Pp. ix, 355. $30.00.)

The author of this book, a former correspondent in Moscow, has written a powerful critique of Russia under Vladimir Putin. His thesis is that in the early 2000s, on the back of reaction against the chaos of the 1990s and improving standards of living based mainly on high energy prices, Putin was able to fashion a consensus based upon majority support to sustain his rule. However, in the face of increasingly authoritarian tendencies, the economic crisis of 2008, and the return of Putin to the presidency in 2012, this consensus and his majority support has dissolved. For Ben Judah, the evidence for this is the protests in Moscow following the December 2011 election and the widespread alienation from the system reflected in his interviews with people both in Moscow and the surrounding regions. This is a plausible line of argument and is vigorously advanced by Judah. But is it correct?

Clearly the levels of support for Putin have fallen from the dizzy heights of the early 2000s. But even so, his approval rating in the middle of 2013 remained above 50 percent, while support for his work as president remains closer to 60 percent. In other words, most Russians were still willing to support him some thirteen years after he came to power. Furthermore, the Moscow demonstrations, which Judah sees as an important indicator that Putin has lost the support of a strategic constituency, were composed largely of people from the urban middle class, led by intellectuals and activists of various shades. …

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