Putin's Russia



Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has been accused of illegally invading Ukraine and hacking the U.S. to influence the 2016 presidential election. Having stretched his influence far beyond the term of his first official Presidency and now having returned to the role and consolidated his power, Vladimir Putin’s leadership of Russia suggests a return to an authoritarianism that, for some, feels similar to the days of Soviet control and the Czars of old.  Join Active Minds as we examine the story of Russia under the influence of Vladimir Putin.

Key Lecture Points

  • After the fall of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet president, set Russia on a course toward democratization and free market capitalism.  However, the corruption and graft of his tenure led some to label Russia a “kleptocracy,” dominated by a few politically connected people and the oligarchs who became fabulously wealthy from the assets of the former Soviet Union.
  • In 1999 Yeltsin appointed Putin prime minister.  He then became president in 2000 when Yeltsin resigned.  Putin’s first goal on becoming president was to create order and stability after the chaos of the Yeltsin era and to regain Russia’s place on the world stage. In Putin’s first tenure as president, Russia fought two wars in Chechnya and saw an era of prosperity fuelled largely by its oil and gas reserves.  Putin left the Presidency in 2008 as required under the Russian Constitution, moving to the position of Prime Minister under his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, but leaving no doubt who was in control of the country.
  • In 2012, Vladimir Putin once again became President of Russia.
  • In 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea.  The US and EU responded with sanctions.  Fighting between Russian backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces continues in a cycle of escalation and diminishing violence.
  • Putin’s second presidency has been marked by an economic recession brought on by the fall in oil prices and US and EU sanctions; Russian military assistance to Assad in the Syrian civil war; and a growing opposition movement led by the anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny.
    Russian/US relations are at the lowest point since the Cold War because of Putin’s support of the Assad regime in Syria, Russia’s alliance with Iran, the government’s crackdown on the opposition movement, the annexation of Crimea and revelations of Russian interference with the 2016 elections.

Exploration Questions

  • Describe three themes from Czarist and Soviet history that continue under Putin?
  • Russia’s tendency towards central authority seems to continue despite the end of Communist rule. What kind of explanation might we give for this phenomenon?
  • What are the major domestic and international issues Putin faces in his current presidency?

Reflective Questions

  • Young adults who were born in 1990 when the Soviet Union had just ended and older adults who were born in 1918 just at the end of WWI and just after the Russian Revolution have different perspectives on the Soviet Union and Russia. When were you born in relation to the Soviet Union? How do you think this affects your perceptions of the new Russia? Of Putin?
  • In your view, how has Putin contributed to making a new Russia? Positively? Negatively?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Schoen, Douglas E., Evan Roth Smith (with). Putin’s Master Plan: How to Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.  Encounter Books, 2016. 200 pages.  The author provides an analysis of Putin’s strategy and vision to create a new empire in Europe and challenge the US.
    Click here to order
  • Garrels, Anne.  Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia. Picador, USA, 2017. 240 pages.  This NPR correspondent describes how life for average Russians has evolved in Chelyabinsk, a thousand miles east of Moscow and home of the Soviet nuclear program, from Soviet days to the present.  She provides an intimate portrayal of “Middle Russia” and why it remains loyal to Putin.
    Click here to order
  • Roxburgh, Angus. The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia. I.B. Tauris, 2013. 368 pages. Roxburgh gives an insider’s view of how Putin changed from reformer to autocrat. The author was for a time an adviser to the Kremlin on press relations.
    Click here to order
  • Gessen, Masha. The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Riverhead Trade, 2013. 336 pages. Traces Putin’s life from boyhood to the presidency.
    Click here to order