A recent short story by friend and writer, Laurie Boris, piqued my interest in how Vladimir Putin got his start. I was really surprised to learn that he only became a great public ‘power’ in the year 2000. I was even more surprised to learn that the USSR officially ceased to exist on …’Christmas Day 1991—seventy-four years after the Bolshevik Revolution.‘
Why surprised? Because in my memory, the Cold War and the USSR all ended a long, long time ago. I know that 30 years seems like a very long time, but to me, that period feels more like a different lifetime. I was a young mother then, and the family business was suffering from ‘the recession Australia had to have’, so yes, it does feel like ancient history. Ahem…
Getting back to that ancient history, Boris Yeltsin had withdrawn Russia from the USSR some years before, and assisting him was a young, ex-KGB intelligence officer called Vladimir Putin. According to a Washington Post article published in 2000, Putin was convinced that capitalism was the way to go economically, but he still saw value in the old security led power of agencies like the KGB:
“Of course, one must not forget about the year 1937, but one must not keep alluding to only this experience, pretending that we do not need state security bodies [such as the KGB]. All the 17 years of my work are connected with this organization. It would be insincere for me to say that I don’t want to defend it.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/russiagov/putin.htm
So what kind of a person was this Vladimir Putin? He’s been described as fiercely patriotic, but someone who stayed in the shadows. Yet in 1996 his career was suddenly fast tracked to the position of Prime Minister, then Acting President after Boris Yeltsin resigned, and finally the elected President of Russia:
‘He was picked for prime minister last August because he appears to have impressed Yeltsin’s inner circle and friendly tycoons, who were scrambling to find a premier and a potential Yeltsin successor.’https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/russiagov/putin.htm
I’ve become a lot less naive about politics in recent years, so I can’t help wondering whether the power brokers of Russia picked Putin because they thought he might be a malleable figurehead. If that was the case, he’s no longer a figurehead, or malleable.
Do the present day power brokers approve of Putin’s war with Ukraine? According to this article, most of Putin’s backers have been with him since the very beginning, and their ties are personal, political and economic. It seems that all their fortunes are tied to those of Putin himself. As such, it seems very unlikely that they’ll defect from his camp. Which leaves only the prospect of a ‘dark horse’ doing the unexpected. We can but hope.
Disclaimer: I am not an historian, and all my sources are secondary, so this post is meant to be nothing more than a jumping off point for further research, yours and mine. 🙂