Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The New Tsar (The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin)


As history tends to repeat itself, this work of non-fiction is a great example of how the internal political workings of a great nation such as The United States, Russia or any other influential country should be supervised or at least be transparent enough to be criticized whenever certain notions or tendencies seem to have not the benefit of its people in mind, but the personal gain of its ruler and his immediate surrounding.

How this can be established I don’t know, but what is happening in Russia seems to be the very situation we need to control before it escalates and we are thrown back 80 years in the past to events that I’m not wishing to relive.

I just finished reading The New Tsar which is a work that contemplates who Putin was, where he came from, he gradual rise to a position of great power and how he has managed to put Russia into an iron grip.

The Iron Curtain may have fallen in the 80’s, but Russia has again fallen victim to the chokehold of a leader that rules not from within the heart but from his dated perception of the world’s politics. Instead of antagonizing the other political powers, Russia could have strengthened its humanitarian position, and be the voice to reign in the power The United States have proven to have. Not in the military sense, but as a voice asking and second-guessing. Putin has had this particular gambit and used it successfully in the possible interference of The United States in the Syrian conflict, but I’m guessing that power and ambition is like an addiction and enough is never enough.

The book by the hands of Steven Lee Myers, gives us a portrait of this autocratic leader, albeit an obvious colored one, wherein his actions are painted as is, but the notions behind his actions are clearly put in a black and white manner, wherein Putin is a ghoul who needs blood.
This isn’t clear in the first half of the book, where we follow Putin from growing up in Leningrad as a small boy, but evidently very feisty. His nationalism is invoked in his teens as he sets working for the KGB as his goal.

The KGB is then an intelligence office, an institution of  contra-espionage,  customs, security of the political leaders and government buildings. It was as much a state within a state, always searching for enemies, which proclaimed that brilliantly dosed violence was needed to protect the Soviet Union.

Putin realizes his dream. When working for the KGB he is sent to the DDR, which wasn’t quite what he had dreamt of, but he took his work seriously. When working in Dresden, he noted that East-Germany was an hard and totalitarian country that he liked. But when the Soviet Union showed signs of disintegrating he stated that the evident military superiority of the West was needed to reign in the leaders of the Soviet Union.
His ambivalence was notable even then.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin risked living a very glum and irrelevant life. When his work as KGB-officer was no longer needed, he was in conflict with himself of which path he needed to follow now. As it happened, a series of events put him in close contact with the mayor of Leningrad, which was after a referendum, named St-Petersburg again. He tasted the democracy that had fallen into Russian hands and the corruption that seem to go hand in hand with it. He got a taste of being in control, but also how it felt to lose that very position and being forced to return to a uncertain future, much like he had encountered after the Wall fell in Berlin.

His steady growth for power hadn’t stopped, only stagnated, when he was called in for a function in Moscow, where he worked under Jeltsin. Jeltsin, who didn’t know what to think of this small and colorless man, grew to like his steadfastness, which ultimately led to his position as prime minister shortly before elections. Putin was the obvious choice.

Reigning as president from 2000 until 2008, when Medvedev took over until 2012, Putin’s behavior has been erratic. On one hand he was trying to establish Russia as a great political and economic country, with bonds existing with the Western nations. Conflicts in the middle-east where Western countries interfered, cooled down those aspirations and he got a grudge against anything American as he saw them as the nation that continually sought to undermine Russia’s power.
Aside of these events, inland the Kremlin put the media more and more on a leash, wherein nothing objective reached the ears and eyes of the millions of citizens. News was Kremlin-made and opposition scattered and destroyed, in a hundred different ways.

This second part of the book, Putin has lost his humans side. He’s painted as a boogey man searching for a conflict that will introduce the 21th century into a great and bloody conflict. I’m not stating that the facts aren’t true, but they are directing the reader into a certain position as I’m not sure whether any man can be as black as he’s proclaimed to be. The reasons behind his behavior as of late, to recall the annexation of the Krim as his latest feat, are not very well stated in this novel ,probably because there isn’t enough information yet.


Although this was a very good novel to get an insight of Russia’s political and economic playing field, I’m of the opinion that it might be better to try and get insight of someone’s decisions when the person is either dead or at least bereaved of any immediate power. As it stands now, I’m getting the idea of how Putin grew up to be the autocratic he is today, what his influences have been, but I’m not getting that same sense trying to explain his recent actions. They are still too fresh and I’m sure that we haven’t seen the full effect of what has happened.