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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 5, 2008 / 28 Adar I 5768

Why does Russia bother to hold elections?

By Anne Applebaum

Applebaum
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Last Wednesday, Dmitry Medvedev took a break from his job as deputy prime minister of Russia and held a public meeting. Dressed in shirtsleeves, he talked about pension reform, promised to improve education, shook a few hands. As public meetings go, it was an ordinary one — except for the fact that it was the first and last public meeting of Medvedev's presidential campaign. If you wanted to see the candidate before yesterday's vote, that was your one and only chance. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, spending millions and wearing themselves thin, must be green with envy.


But Medvedev was certainly right to save his strength. Exit polls and early returns showed him winning with 70 percent of the vote, which is a relief to some; anything higher, one of his campaign staff conceded, might have been "embarrassing." As predicted, this was a farcical election, a battle between Medvedev, the Kremlin's candidate, and three officially sanctioned opponents: a clapped-out "communist"; a complete nonentity; and the ludicrous anti-Semite and vulgarian Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who is genially tolerated by the Russian media. Mikhail Kasyanov, the candidate from what passes for the only genuine opposition party, was not allowed to stand. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, along with various other European election observers not usually known for their bravery, refused to monitor the campaign at all; even the head of the electoral commission conceded that media coverage has been, well, biased in Medvedev's favor.


Only one question remains unanswered: Why did anyone bother holding an election at all? Given that the inner circle of ex-KGB officers who control the Kremlin also control the country's media, its legal system, its parliament and its major companies, why do they need elections? Why didn't Vladimir Putin just appoint Medvedev or keep the presidency himself?


The answer, I think, can lie only in the ruling clique's fundamental insecurity, odd as that sounds. Though the denizens of the Kremlin do not, cannot, seriously fear Western military attack, they do still seem to fear Western-inspired popular discontent: public questioning of their personal wealth, public opposition to their power, political demonstrations of the sort that created the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. To stave off these things, they maintain the democratic rituals that give them a semblance of legitimacy.


The need for legitimacy also helps explain the string of vitriolic, aggressive attacks on Western democracies that presaged yesterday's election. In the past couple of years, Putin has openly compared America to Nazi Germany, set up an institution designed to monitor America's supposedly dubious democracy and frequently accused both Americans and Western Europeans, especially the British, of hypocrisy and human rights violations. This rhetoric serves several purposes, but above all it is designed to inoculate the Russian public against the example of more open societies. The message is simple: Russia is not merely a democracy, it is a better democracy than Western democracies.


Indeed, much of Putin's rhetoric in recent years makes sense in this light. Take his hostility toward his neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, countries where post-Soviet regimes dramatically lost their legitimacy in recent years and are evolving in a different direction. Though Putin cannot possibly be militarily intimidated by any potential NATO relationship with Georgia or Ukraine, he may well be afraid of the example set by those countries' Western orientation, since their geopolitical choices challenge his own.


Even some of the shockingly Soviet interpretations of history promulgated in Russia in recent years — famously, Putin described the breakup of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century" — make sense in this context. Surely a part of their purpose was to create an alternate version of post-Soviet history, one that supports the Kremlin's current rule. According to the Putinist explanation of history, the fall of the Soviet Union was not a moment of liberation but the beginning of collapse. The hardships and deprivations of the 1990s were not the result of decades of communist neglect and widespread thievery but of capitalism and democracy.


In other words, communism was stable and safe, post-communism has been a disaster, and Putin's regime has set the country on the right track again. The more Russians believe this, the less likely they are to want a truly open, genuinely entrepreneurial, authentically democratic society — at least until the oil runs out. Asked about the unnatural dullness of this election campaign, which even the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass described as " a bore," Putin's reply was straightforward: "We have had a 16 percent rise in wages this year. . . . This answers your question." But everyone needs a backup plan: In case oil prices drop again, the democratic rituals must go on.

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APPLEBAUM'S LATEST
Gulag: A History  

Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union's labor camps in their more than 60 years of operation. This remarkable volume, the first fully documented history of the gulag, describes how, largely under Stalin's watch, a regulated, centralized system of prison labor-unprecedented in scope-gradually arose out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Fueled by waves of capricious arrests, this prison labor came to underpin the Soviet economy. JWR's Applebaum, a former Warsaw correspondent for the Economist and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, draws on newly accessible Soviet archives as well as scores of camp memoirs and interviews with survivors to trace the gulag's origins and expansion Sales help fund JWR.

Comment on JWR contributor Anne Applebaum's column by clicking here.


Previously:

02/20/08: Kosovo is a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences
02/06/08: A Craven Canterbury Tale
02/06/08: French prez' whirlwind romance reminds voters of his political recklessness




© 2008, Anne Applebaum

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