The recent election again of Mr. Putin to the Russian presidency temporarily put an end to speculation that his era was over. Over? Not according to legal formalities. But something is over. And that is any illusion that Mr. Putin should be president. He is there because he has the power to remain there. Masha Gessen has a new book out about Mr. Putin (unfriendly) and she has this to say in a NYT interview about his regime.
The Putin regime, like all such regimes, is a pyramid. And what the protests are doing is dismantling the bottom rungs of this pyramid. It happens when journalists on state-controlled TV sneak in accurate and sympathetic coverage of the protests. Or when the editor-in-chief of the Yaroslavl state television station writes an open letter to his boss, saying, “I am taking sick leave until after the election because the election is making me sick.” Or when officials from local election commissions in Samara and St. Petersburg come forward and tell the stories of their own parts in the vote-rigging in the December parliamentary election.
Soon — quite soon, I think — too many bricks will have come out of the bottom of the pyramid, and the whole edifice will collapse. This is not dissimilar to the way the Soviet Union ended, and the feeling in Moscow these days is reminiscent of that time. There is hope and there is fear, and the hope wanes occasionally but ultimately prevails.
Let us see how this plays out.