Vladimir Putin
Sources of His Victory and Dilemmas That He Faces

Russian Outlook

Clinched by his victorious March 26 presidential election--in which he garnered 53 percent of the vote in the field of eleven candidates[1] and surpassed the closest competitor by 24 percent--Vladimir Putin's meteoric rise to power reflected recent and tenuous but potentially momentous trends in the Russian economy and Russian public opinion. The focus and symbol of national yearnings and aspirations rather than a proven democratic leader, Putin has become Russia's chief executive without a well-considered strategic agenda and largely without a detailed policy mandate.

Putin's personal history as a professional KGB intelligence officer on the one hand, and as an associate of key liberal reformers and as Boris Yeltsin's last prime minister and handpicked successor on the other, is open to conflicting interpretations, some quite troubling. Designed for the broadest electoral appeal, his carefully orchestrated presidential campaign was deliberately cryptic and yielded both disturbing and hopeful signs.

The moment of truth will not be long in arriving. Like anyone who finds himself in the Kremlin at this critical period in Russia's post-Soviet history, Putin will face fateful historic dilemmas. His choices might determine Russia's direction for years, perhaps decades, to come.

A Startling Change

The sudden emergence of Vladimir Putin as a viable presidential candidate can be traced to several factors. In the past year, the Kremlin--and by extension the Putin candidacy--profited greatly from a changing economic landscape. Helped by higher oil prices and a cheaper ruble, which boosted domestic production and exports, the Russian economy showed clear signs of revival. The GDP gained 3 percent last year--the biggest increase since 1990. Industry expanded by 8 percent over 1998 and continued the trend into 2000, with the month-on-month increase exceeding 14 percent in February. Investment grew by 6 percent, and barter diminished by half. Inflation continues to slow and might be as low as 13 percent for the year 2000--the second smallest rate since 1990.

Retail sales and household incomes rose by 6 percent and 4 percent respectively over the 1998 level.[2] Greatly helped by oil revenues, the budget deficit dipped under 2 percent of GDP in 1999 and might actually disappear this year. By the end of 1999, wage and pension arrears were eliminated. Three in five Russians reported receiving pensions, wages, or stipends on time in the previous six months--twice as many as in 1998. One respondent in four described his household standard of living as "fairly good," and one in five expected improvement this year. Though hardly overwhelming in absolute terms, both proportions were double the 1998 levels and the highest since 1994.[3]

Of course, the economic growth began from a low base, and the Russian economy is still smaller than in 1997, the last year before the financial collapse of August 1998. Yet, with public opinion polls consistently identifying the economic situation as the paramount concern,[4] by early 2000 the modest economic revival and the government's ability to pay salaries and pensions had unmistakably changed the mood of millions of Russians.

Last December a national survey by one of Russia's most respected and oldest polling firms, the All- Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), found that 49 percent of those polled reported 1999 to have been "easier" or "the same" as 1998, while 51 percent found 1999 "more difficult." A year earlier, the corresponding numbers were 17 percent and 83 percent. Similarly, compared with 1998, the shares of those reporting "apathy," "fear," the sense of "being lost," and "anger" diminished, on the average, by 25 percent, while the share of those expressing "hope" more than doubled.[5]

Finally, 55 percent expected the new year to be better ("definitely" or "hopefully") than the one before, compared with 29 percent in December 1998, while the proportion of those expecting a turn for the worse diminished from 23 percent to 5 percent. The poll's designer and the doyen of Russian pollsters, Yuri Levada--who has conducted this end-of-the-year national poll since 1987--called the change from 1998 "startling" and the "jump" in positive indicators "fantastic."[6]

The upward trend in public confidence continued into 2000. In February, a month before the election, 26 percent of those polled thought that Russia was "moving in the right direction"--a disturbingly small number for developed and stable nations but significant for a postrevolutionary society battered by political and economic crises and upheavals for almost a decade and a half--and the highest proportion in almost ten years.[7]

Although the connection between economic well-being and political choices in a democracy is hardly ever simple or direct, on March 26 the Russian voters appeared to support Putin as the candidate of a regime that had achieved a semblance of economic stabilization and had given them hope. The same dynamic might have been responsible for the surprising and steep rise in the popularity of the pro-Kremlin Unity Party last fall, for its success in the Duma election--and for the just as rapid decline in the political fortunes of the largest non-Communist opposition party, Fatherland–All Russia (OVR). (Relentlessly attacking the Kremlin policies and the alleged corruption in Yeltsin's inner circle in the newspapers and the television channel under its control, OVR had seemed poised, until last fall, to become the largest faction in the Duma; its leader, former prime minister Evgeniy Primakov, had enjoyed the highest rating of all potential presidential candidates.)

The other powerful boost to Putin's candidacy was the war in Chechnya. Supported by lopsided majorities of Russians as a just war against "terrorists" and "bandits," Russia's brutal assault on Chechnya was just as enthusiastically hailed by all the major parties and all presidential candidates, tactical disagreements aside. Putin profited not so much from the war hysteria, as Western media and many commentators hastened to conclude, as from his hands-on, daily, and seemingly effective leadership of the operation. Relying on savage, indiscriminate, and massive force, Putin achieved--within half a year and with relatively few Russian casualties--what the previous disastrous campaign to "pacify" Chechnya failed to deliver after two years of fighting: the restoration of the state's control over territory universally recognized as part of Russia.

A Political Surfer

An economic revival, a marked improvement in the mood of the voters, and the success of a vastly popular war within months of the election would make the regime's candidate hard to beat in any democracy. But the roots of Putin's sudden popularity extended deeper and wider.

While Chechnya was the single most important reason for voting for Putin (one in five Russians in a national poll cited the war), more than twice as many respondents (49 percent) listed his personal qualities, real or imagined: "energetic and decisive," "young and healthy," or "intelligent."[8] Putin's core constituency believed that he was a "strong, decisive, independent leader whom contemporary Russia badly needs."[9] After three years of a semi-invalid in the Kremlin, the yearning for a healthy, energetic, and relatively young executive was palpable. An avid downhill skier, a judo black belt, and one who had flown to Chechnya's bombed-out capital, Grozny, on a military plane with just a few bodyguards, Putin well nigh charmed the nation. As the February 28, 2000, Izvestia front page proclaimed, "Putin hits the bull's eye of popular expectations."

Just as important was the electorate's apparently ardent wish for a generational change in the Kremlin. Although all top Russian politicians had to have spent most of adult life under the pre-1991 ancien régime, acting president Putin, who resigned from both the KGB and the Communist Party in August 1991 (when he was thirty-eight), came as close as anyone in the political elite to embodying the post-Soviet generation. Putin's relative youth was in stark contrast not only with Yeltsin but also with the septuagenarian Evgeniy Primakov (who, under Gorbachev, was chairman of one of the two houses of the Soviet parliament) and the sixty-three-year-old Yuri Luzhkov. Once Putin appeared on the scene, Primakov's and Luzhkov's ages quickly became a major, perhaps even disqualifying, handicap.

Since 1990, when he was still a lieutenant colonel in the KGB's active reserve, Putin worked first as a top aide to Anatoly Sobchak, a leading radical anti-Communist and the first elected mayor of St. Petersburg, and then in Yeltsin's Kremlin. He is the first Russian leader since Lenin to have worked abroad for years (as a KGB intelligence officer in East Germany) and the first since the last czar, Nicholas II, to be fluent in a foreign language (German). Until last year, his two daughters, Masha, thirteen, and Katya, fourteen, attended the exclusive, private Friedrich Gaas school for the children of German-speaking diplomats and businessmen.

In the eyes of most Russians, Putin's KGB past was not a handicap. There is a long national tradition of pinning hopes on an honest policeman--smart, energetic, and incorruptible. That faith was responsible for the flutter of expectations that greeted the appointment of the KGB chairman, Yuri Andropov, as the general secretary of the Communist Party in November 1982. His brief reign might be called a police renaissance: an attempt at a cleaner, less corrupt, better organized, and less cynical, but also more rigid and repressive, version of Soviet Communism.[10] In the late 1980s a widespread belief, shared by Andrei Sakharov, held up the KGB as the only segment of the Soviet elite untouched by corruption.[11] The same national myth contributed to the popularity of Evgeniy Primakov, whose KGB service was at least twice as long as Putin's, most of it at a much higher level.

Aided by pro-government media, whose voice was the strongest (although never deafening, much less the only one),[12] Russia's second democratically elected president caught the wave of popular expectations, revived national pride and cautious optimism, planted himself on its crest, stayed there throughout a carefully orchestrated campaign--and rode it all the way to the Kremlin.

The New Political Consensus and the Political Center

Still, neither his age nor the good economic news nor even the support of the pro-government media would have procured Putin the votes of 40 million Russians and the 24 percent victory over his closest competitor, had he not fit (or carefully positioned himself to fit) what a leading Russian political journal called the "new political consensus."[13] The key features of the consensus were adumbrated by the results of the December 1999 parliamentary election; some of the politically most explosive and hotly contested issues of the previous eight years had been accepted across most of the political spectrum: tight budgets and low inflation, tax cuts and the shift of the tax burden from the producer and the employer to the consumer, the abandonment of extreme protectionism, the defense of shareholders' rights, and an aversion to renationalization of privatized enterprises.

Russian commentators of the moderate Left plausibly described the new national credo as combining a "generally market-oriented vector" of development with the desire for a strong and effective state that would prevent "sliding toward the world's periphery" and would help secure greater "social justice" and "equality" after a decade of rapacious, corrupt, and chaotic capitalist accumulation. Those tenets formed the basis of a political center, which Putin came to personify in the eyes of millions of voters. He became the "embodiment of societal need for effective . . . state power."[14]

If the political center holds, this could be a momentous development in Russian politics. A set of general economic and political principles to which a majority of Russians would subscribe has not existed since at least 1990, when Gorbachev's "center" was rent by political polarization and buried under the collapsing institutions of Soviet power. Between 1991 and 1999, the chasm between the Communist-led popular- patriotic opposition (whose candidate garnered 40 percent of the vote in the 1996 presidential election) and the Yeltsin regime (supported by 54 percent in the same election) produced political gridlock and prevented the regime from moving many vital economic measures through the opposition-dominated parliament.

The March 26 election appears to confirm the pro-regime center. Although the core of Putin's support had voted for Yeltsin in 1996,[15] he dramatically expanded the inherited base. In the first--and only--round of the election, Putin's share of the vote was 19 percent larger than Yeltsin's in the first round four years earlier--and only one percentage point less than Yeltsin had received in the two-man runoff.

By contrast, the Communists failed to enlarge their constituency. Despite their party's four years of high visibility as the parliament's dominant and stridently anti-regime faction and as a de facto partner in the 1998–1999 Primakov government, support for Gennady Zyuganov, an ardent supporter of the Chechen war, dropped slightly compared with the first round of 1996 and was 10 percent, or 8 million votes, less than in the 1996 runoff. According to the results of a poll published in the journal of a major left-of-center political foundation sharply critical of the regime, Putin led Zyuganov in "all socio-demographic and professional groups without exception," including, by a narrow margin, the poorest.[16 ]

Unable to break out beyond rigid demographic and geographic confines, the Communists may be destined to continue as a formidable political presence and the largest (or second largest) political party in the country, while never commanding the majority of the national vote--not unlike the French Communists in the 1950s and 1960s and the Italian Communists in the 1960s and 1970s. Along the way, Russian voters marginalized both the nationalist demagogue Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose share of the vote dropped from 6 percent in 1996 to under 3 percent, and the perennial opposition, liberal economist Grigory Yavlinsky (6 percent), whose faction in the Duma voted with the Communists on many important occasions, including the attempt to impeach Yeltsin in early 1999.

Searching for Policy Clues

Economy. Russian leaders reveal little (and often mislead deliberately) until they take and master power; then--witness, most recently, Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev--they often completely defy expectations. Yeltsin was among the few exceptions: when in power he worked to deliver what he had promised while in the opposition--the end of the one-party Communist state and of the domestic empire, and the institution of basic democracy, private property, and a market economy. Similarly, Yeltsin's battle for reelection in 1996 was won on a clearly and passionately articulated platform of the defense of political liberties and the market economy against a Communist restoration. By contrast, the lightning speed and relative ease of Putin's victory left him largely without a mandate for specific policies.

Capitalizing on his popularity and craftily constructing an all-things-to-all-people public image, Putin avoided detailed platforms and specific commitments. What he did say was well within the putative national consensus: a market-oriented and basically democratic but also more vigorous Russia of revived national pride; a victorious military; and a stronger, more responsive, more honest, as well as "stricter," state, able to act as the powerful and impartial arbiter, the enforcer of rules, and the dispenser of punishment to all lawbreakers without exception.

To the extent that Putin's carefully rationed campaign statements provide clues to his agenda, one is on relatively firm ground within the realm of the economy. Casting himself as both a populist and an economic modernizer, Putin talked about "a rich country of poor people," pledged to defend the integrity of the government from the corrupting influence of the oligarchs, and vowed to protect private businesses from grasping bureaucrats.[17] He went so far as to invite the leaders of Russian small business to the Kremlin and promised to shield them from bureaucratic interference and from the notorious, bribe-extorting "inspections" by state agencies.[18] Putin also noted that organized crime emerged from the state's failure to guard private property.[19]

In a letter to voters, the acting president declared protection of the market against both "the criminal and the bureaucrat" a top priority.20 The rules of the economic game must be the same for everyone, Putin declared, be he an oligarch or the owner of a "small bakery shop." A strong state, Putin continued, is "vitally interested" in the "well-off" (sostoyatel'nye lyudi). The state's task is to create favorable conditions for young entrepreneurs who "want to and can become rich" and who are capable of supplying Russia with not only "economic dignity" but also "moral dignity."

According to Putin, the key source of corruption and "economic crime" is the state's "chaotic and incompetent interference in the economy." The best economic policy, he contended, would "make it more profitable to work honestly than to steal" and would result in stability to allow people to take money "out of the mattresses" (and presumably put it in banks) and the wealthy to invest in Russia, rather than to "live out of suitcases" and send profits abroad. At the same time, the state's involvement in the economy must not lead to a "bureaucratic expansion" into the economy[21] or become "a noose on the neck" of private businesses.[22]

In the weeks leading up to the election, Putin and his top economic advisors went out of their way to reassure both foreign and domestic investors and entrepreneurs. Among the measures promised were an overhaul of the tax code; a decrease in the number of taxes and the reduction of the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent; a shift from revenue- and sales-based taxation to a profit-based system; and a sharp increase in allowable business deductions for expenses such as advertising, training, and interest payments. Putin declared foreign investment vital to economic recovery, advocated Russia's joining the World Trade Organization, and called for "unconditional guarantees of ownership rights."[23]

The implementation of an economic agenda will be easier for Putin than for Yeltsin in at least two significant respects. The speed and the relative ease of Putin's victory spared him from fundraising and consequently from hefty IOUs to various political and economic interests. More significantly, the December 19, 1999, election ended the Communist Party's dominance of the Russian parliament and weakened the opposition to vital legislation held up for years, including new tax and land codes.

Foreign Policy. Judging by Putin's words and actions between January and April, he seems to hew closely to three central and interrelated principles of Yeltsin's foreign policy, all a sharp break from Soviet tradition. First, Russia accepts its role as a regional--rather than global--superpower. Second, domestic economic and political progress takes precedence over foreign policy objectives; the latter are to be calibrated accordingly. Unlike Soviet times, Russia is not to be bled dry in the pursuit of grandiose world schemes and relentless global competition with the United States. In Putin's words, "We must recognize the priority of our internal objectives over external ones…. If Russia is urged to engage in global pursuits, which are very expensive, at a time when we cannot pay salaries to our people--we must weigh everything carefully and, perhaps, wait a bit."[24] Finally, with Russia's economic and political development dependent on integration into what Russians still call the civilized world (that is, the West, especially the United States), the relationships with the latter are to be based on calculated pragmatism and, if necessary, accommodation. Of those who told the pollsters that they intended to vote for Putin, three- quarters wanted "good relations" with the West.[25]

Putin's first foreign policy initiative was a meeting with the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The meeting in Moscow led to the resumption of Russia's official relations with NATO, which had been frozen since NATO's bombing of Serbia eleven months before. Putin even suggested the possibility of Russia's NATO membership--provided it be treated as an equal partner. Soon after, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, urged Yugoslavia to be "more flexible" in dealing with NATO about Kosovo.

At the same time, significant changes in both the style and the substance of Russian foreign policy appear likely. As most truly seminal democratic political leaders are, Yeltsin was a "domestic" president: both his interests and his talents lay in domestic politics. With two exceptions--Russia's relations with Ukraine and with the United States--Yeltsin let the Ministry of Foreign Affairs run the show. Putin clearly has the taste and the time for foreign policy and seems very much a hands-on president. Russia's international partners may look forward to a foreign policy that will be more consistent, orderly, and predictable than during Yeltsin's final years.

But a more congenial modus operandi will likely be accompanied by modification in policies. At the end of the day, often after much pouting and shouting in the Kremlin, the West could always count on Yeltsin to accommodate and to cooperate--as he did, after swallowing hard, in the cases of NATO's eastward expansion into the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, the United Nations sanctions against Iraq, and the West's intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. In Putin's more assertive and self-confident Russia--smarting, moreover, from international condemnation that most Russians consider unfair and from what they perceive as a biased portrayal by Western media of the war on "terrorists" and "bandits" in Chechnya--the need for the West's approval will not be nearly as important as under Yeltsin. The limits of accommodation will be tighter, and the pursuit of Russian national interests, as the Kremlin sees them, unapologetic. The time of largely cost-free U.S. policies toward Russia might be over; Washington may have to choose its priorities far more carefully.

Post-Yeltsin foreign policy also is likely to complicate the lives of the newly independent states of the former USSR. Although Putin will not reverse Yeltsin's course (and national consensus) by attempting to resurrect the old Russian empire, the country's posture vis-à-vis the former Soviet republics is likely to be tougher. The change will be felt first and foremost in Russo-Ukrainian relations. Unlike Yeltsin--who made enormous territorial and economic concessions to Ukraine and presided over the world's largest bilateral assistance program, supplying millions of tons of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas essentially free of charge--Putin has already put Kiev on notice that he will address the issue of Ukraine's debt to Russia, estimated at more than $2 billion for gas alone.

As with the economy, Putin is likely to enjoy a degree of freedom regarding foreign policy that had been denied Yeltsin by the Communist-led opposition in the Duma. The Duma's ratification of the strategic arms reduction treaty (START 2) within three weeks of Putin's election and after seven years of obstruction might be a sign of things to come.

Political Liberties and Democratic Institutions. Putin was least consistent, and even contradictory, on the critical matter of democracy. On the campaign trail he called democracy "the most important thing" without which "the real development of a government and society is impossible."[26] He railed against censorship and termed it "inadmissible" because it "undermined democratic society."[27] Putin also rejected the proposal to appoint regional governors, who since 1996 have been directly elected pursuant to a Yeltsin decree.

At the same time, Putin repeatedly praised the Soviet secret police and authorized the placement of Andropov's commemorative plaque at the former KGB headquarters. "[Secret] agents work in the interest of the state," he told interviewers. "You can't get anywhere without secret agents." Although he resigned from the KGB during the August 1991 attempted coup--the mastermind was KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov--Putin said that until then he had been "building a successful career as an officer" and "had no cause to grumble."[28]

In February Putin signed an executive order to restore the special departments of military counterintelligence in the armed forces. (Disbanded by Yeltsin in 1993, the special departments in the Soviet times had searched not for spies, but for instances of political disloyalty.) Finally, breaking with Yeltsin's radical demilitarization of the economy and borrowing a page from the Communists, Putin advocated increased investment in the military-industrial complex, which he called a "priority sector of the Russian economy" and an economic engine that "could help Russia out of all its problems."[29]

The Dilemma of Restoring Order

The longing for order in postrevolutionary societies is neither unusual nor particularly Russian. As the great British historian Jack Plumb points out in his classic account of Britain after the Glorious Revolution, "most practical men of affairs," including many who had engineered the ascent of William III and the constitutional monarchy in 1688, soon looked wistfully over the English Channel to the seemingly "stable" and "efficient" absolutism of Louis XIV and Colbert. Even many leading Whigs "hankered after the Stuarts and the principles of strong government that they seemed to embody--principles that were heightened by the political chaos that followed the Revolution." After decades of upheaval, most of Britain's political leaders wished for a "strengthening of royal authority combined with the technical efficiency that was such a marked aspect--at least in their eyes--of the French government."[30]

Inheriting a decaying, impoverished, militarized, thoroughly corrupt totalitarian state and a disintegrating economy, Yeltsin left behind a Russia that was by far the freest and the most tolerant, liberal, and open to the outside world, save during the eight months between February and November 1917.[31] But after eight and a half years in the Kremlin, he did not remake the system into an efficient, equitable, orderly, or upright one. As Sir Isaiah Berlin wrote, "Liberty is liberty, not equality, or fairness, or justice, or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience."[32]

Because the Communist totalitarian state dominated or owned every aspect of social, political, and economic life in Soviet Russia, its dismantling, begun by Gorbachev and continued by Yeltsin, was like an earthquake. The resulting long and deep ravines and ugly piles of debris make both the political and the economic terrain difficult to traverse--particularly in straight paths. If Russia is to become prosperous, stable, and respectable as well as free, the vital task is to make the terrain safe and predictable. The choice between alternative means of bringing order and normalcy to Russia is the fundamental and unavoidable dilemma that Putin--or anyone else in the Kremlin--must face.

One of the two routes to stability is to even the playing field by pouring concrete from above. Russian history is replete with attempts (often lasting decades) to achieve order and unity by the expansion of the state's control over society and with the instruments of authoritarian coercion and mobilization, which have been significantly dulled under Yeltsin. The alternative route to order continues Yeltsin's policy of granting civil society a partnership with the state, letting the shoots of civil society break through earth scorched by decades of Stalinism, and allowing them enough space and oxygen to develop strong roots. The final destination on this path would be a truly lasting, organic stability, based on consent and consensus--for the first time in modern Russian history.

Given Putin's KGB background, the national tradition of turning to a supposedly honest policeman as the final resort, and the expectations generated by his candidacy, the new president's initial impulse is almost certain to be in the direction of a police renaissance. He should beware of misinterpreting his mandate. Russians, like voters everywhere, can hold seemingly contradictory views and are given to contradictory urges. Their yearning for order and stability and their nostalgia for pre-1991 are not much different from that of former East Germans: only a third of those said in a 1999 poll that they liked living in a democracy (one in seven wanted the Berlin Wall restored).[33]

At the same time, in every poll that asked Russians if they would sacrifice the key political and personal liberties (such as the freedom to read and to publish, to travel abroad, to form opposition parties, to hold meetings and demonstrations, and to criticize the authorities), the answer of the majority was an unequivocal "no." Contrary to the caricature of their countrymen drawn by the Moscow intelligentsia and eagerly purveyed by the Western media based in Moscow, ordinary Russians are quite sophisticated where order and democracy are concerned. For instance, while one in two Russians surveyed in a nationwide poll in January associated "order" with "political and economic stability" and four in ten with a "strict observance of laws," only two in ten thought "order" meant "strict discipline," and one in ten interpreted it as "limiting democratic rights and liberties." Similarly, four in ten Russians understood "democracy" to mean "freedom of speech," three in ten "legality" or "order and stability"--and only for one in ten was it synonymous with "empty talk" or "anarchy and lawlessness."[34] Of those who said they intended to vote for Putin, 60 percent favored a liberal political and economic system.[35]

Russians appear to want "order" but not dictatorship or even creeping authoritarianism. The ability to see the difference and to maneuver accordingly will be the main test of Putin's political instinct and statesmanship. A still more important test will be the ability of Russian civil society to resist, slow down, and, if necessary, reverse encroachment on political and economic liberties. We will know soon whether eight and a half years of liberty under Yeltsin were only a bright interlude or the beginning of a new era of Russian history.


1. The turnout was 69 percent of all registered voters, or more than 75 million people. Nearly 40 million voted for Putin and nearly 22 million for the runner-up, the Communist, Gennady Zyuganov. Almost 1,000 observers from fifty-six countries and eighty-two international organizations monitored the election.

2. Igor Semenenko, "Economy Shows More Signs of Life," Moscow Times, March 16, 2000.

3. Department of State, Office of Research, "Awaiting Putin's Electoral Mandate," Opinion Analysis, March 13, 2000, p. 4. The poll was conducted between January 29 and February 12, 2000, among a representative national sample of 1,800 Russians eighteen years of age and older.

4. Ibid., p. 2. Forty-four percent of the respondents named "economic growth, mak[ing] Russia strong, developed" as the most urgent tasks before the new president; 24 percent mentioned stopping the war in Chechnya.

5. "1999: Vzorvannyi god" (1999: An exploded year), Moskovskie Novosti, December 28, 1999–January 3, 2000, p. 2.

6. Ibid.

7. "Awaiting Putin's Electoral Mandate," p. 4.

8. Ibid., p. 2.

9. Vladimir Petukhov and Leontiy Byzov, "Novyi politkonsensus" (New political consensus), Svobodnaya Mysl', 21(2) (2000), p. 21.

10. For more detail see Leon Aron, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), pp. 113–15.

11. Lev Timofeev, "Cho budet s korruptsiey?" (What will happen to corruption?), Moskovskie Novosti, March 28–April 3, 2000, p. 5.

12. In addition to airtime that they bought and the propaganda materials that they distributed, all eleven presidential candidates received eighty minutes of prime-time free broadcasts on Russia's three state-owned or state-controlled television channels. Of the two top vote-getters apart from Putin, Zyuganov had the support of 470 pro-Communist newspapers and magazines, with a combined daily circulation of more than 10 million and readership at least three times as much, while Grigory Yavlinsky was actively promoted by the media empire of the "oligarch" Vladimir Gusinsky, whose holdings include the NTV television network and a popular daily Segodnya. In addition, anti-Putin propaganda was purveyed daily by the TV-Tzentr television channel and the capital's largest-circulation newspaper, the tabloid Moskovskiy Komsomoletz--both controlled by Yuri Luzhkov. For a good description of the electronic media battle for the presidency, see Laura Belin, "How State Television Aided Putin's Campaign," RFE/RL Russian Election Report 5 (13) (April 7, 2000), pp. 6–9.

13. Petukhov and Byzov, "Novyi," p. 15.

14. Ibid., pp. 16, 17, 18.

15. Forty-five percent of those who said that they intended to vote for Putin had voted for Yeltsin in 1996. Ibid., p. 19.

16. Ibid., p. 15.

17. Svetlana Babaeva, "Sam sebe rezhissyor" (He is his own director), Izvestia, February 29, 2000, p. 1.

18. Guy Chazan, "Russian Entrepreneurs Fret over Putin," Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2000, p. A23.

19. Babaeva, "Sam sebe."

20. "Otkrytoe pis'mo Vladimira Putina k rossiyskim izbiratelyam" (An open letter by Vladimir Putin to Russian voters), Izvestia, February 25, 2000, p. 4.

21. Ibid.

22. Babaeva, "Sam sebe."

23. RFE/RL Newsline, pt. 1, March 14, 2000, p. 4.

24. "Otkrytoe pis'mo."

25. Rodric Braithwaite, "President Putin," p. 1. (Unpublished paper. The writer, former British ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, was an observer at the March 26 election.)

26. Paul Goble, "Toward Totalitarian Democracy?" Russia Today, February 22, 2000.

27. RFE/RL Newsline, pt. 1, February 21, 2000, p. 2.

28. Natalia Gevorkian and Andrei Kolesnikov, "Interview with Acting President Vladimir Putin," Kommersant-Daily, March 10, 2000, p. 4.

29. RFE/RL Newsline, pt. 1, March 22, 2000, p. 2.

30. J. H. Plumb, The Origins of Political Stability. England, 1675–1725 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967), pp. 2–3, 11.

31. A shorter version of this section was published as "Putin's Order of the Day," Washington Post, March 29, 2000, p. A25.

32. Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty," in Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 125.

33. William Drozdiak, "Eastern Germans' Bittersweet Liberty," Washington Post, September 27, 1999, p. A13.

34. Nationwide VTsIOM survey, December 30, 1999–January 4, 2000.

35. Braithwaite, "President Putin," p. 1.

Leon Aron, a resident scholar at AEI, is the author of Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life.

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The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.