Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Putin's Way" on PBS Frontline

On Jan. 13, PBS Frontline aired “Putin’s Way”, a documentary of how Vladimir Putin, a bureaucrat in St. Petersburg before the collapse of the Soviet Union, rose within Boris Yeltsin’s establishment and then rose to power himself, and is now in position to remain “president” of the Russian Federation until 2024, after briefly switching positions with another leader.  The link is here.  Much of the commentary comes from Gllian Findlay.
Much of the material for the documentary comes from Karen Dawisha’s book “Putin’s Kleptocracy”, a title that implies thievery and corruption.  Russia is not a failed new democracy but a successful authoritarian state. 
It’s interesting that Putin was raised as an only child, after his parents lost the first two children, and became used to “getting his own way”, as in this article
One of the key events in Putin’s history was the bombing of several apartment buildings around Moscow in 1999, called “Russia’s 9/11”.  But in one building, evidence was found that it may have been planted by the Russian government itself, for an excuse to attack in Chechnya. 
Russia appeared to have a veneer of prosperity when oil prices were high, but that has weakened.  The documentary pointed out the death or demise of some of Putin’s enemies, including Khodorkovsky (Movie reviews, Feb. 26, 2014)) and Litvinenko (“Poisoned by Polonium”, Jan. 21, 2014 on Movies blog).
The documentary doesn’t mention the anti-gay propaganda law passed in 2013, which seems like a convenient cover for Russia’s floundering economy.  So are Putin’s ventures in Crimea and the Ukraine, which are supposed to protect an abstract loyalty to Russian nationalism.  The median wealth for an individual Russian now is $871, less than that of India. About 100 people own 35% of Russia’s wealth. 

The documentary can be rented on YouTube for $1.99.  

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