Russia is governed by the same man since 2000. He is often accused of cheating during elections, especially in 2012. On February 27, 2015, Boris Nemstov, a political oponent who dared to speak out was killed. Some people rose the point that Putin commanded this murder. So is Russia falling back into a dictatorship?
One year ago, Russia annexed Crimea. Since then, it has been holding up the fight in Eastern Ukraine, despite never admitting it. These actions can be interpreted as an effort to retrieve part of the vast territory Russia (and the broader Soviet Union) held before the fall of the Berlin wall. In addition, the rule of Mr Putin, who has been at the head of the country since 1999, either as President of the Russian Federation or as Prime Minister, is edging towards a totalitarian government.
In order to depict the French reaction to Russian politics, I’ve selected three main papers: Le Monde (a left-wing paper), Les Echos (a right-wing liberal paper), and L’Histoire (a non-political magazine). I noticed that these three publications share the same opinion over Russia and Mr. Putin, which confirms this is France’s mainstream opinion on the subject.
Mr Putin will most certainly not stop the annexation of Ukraine: driven by (to quote the leader himself) the “reunification of the Russian people,” he may one day annex Estonia, Latvia or even Kazakhstan, where part of the population is ethnically Russian. He also states that the Russian people is the one having suffered the most over the 20th century: it endured the biggest human losses during both World Wars, and the death of hundreds of thousands of children during the rule of Stalin.
As the French paper Le Monde writes, the assassination of Boris Nemtsov symbolises “the civil war that opposes an authoritarian, imperialist, aggressive Russia to a much more democratic and open Russia.” Is it not a characteristic move of a dictatorship to blame the murder of a political opponent on a minority, such as the Chechens?
Caricature: “Let the diplomats do it” BY PLANTU, LE MONDE
“Let the diplomats do it”
“Your turn to talk, Mr. Stalin”.
Another argument that can be put forward to show that Russia, under the influence of Mr Putin, is getting back on the path to dictatorship, is that Russia’s ruler was deeply shocked by the fall of all Northern African dictatorships during the “Arab Spring”: a source close to Mr Putin described his reaction to the live announcement of Kaddafi’s death as a “terrible shock” (Le Monde). One could thus infer that he identifies with these dictators.
In addition, the Russian people’s current mind-set is very similar to that of the totalitarian state that was the USSR: indeed, partly due to an abundance of propaganda, the Russian patriotic feeling is leaning more and more towards narrow minded nationalism (Les Echos).
In conclusion, recent events strongly support the idea Russia is falling back into a dictatorship: the annexation of Ukraine in order to “reunite the Russian people,” the assassination of political opposition members, such as Boris Nemtsov, the indoctrination of the population… Is Russia condemned to violence and to a rule of fear? Or is further evolution still possible? The large number of Russian flags seen at the march honouring Boris Nemtsov two weeks ago could shine an optimistic light on Russia’s future. However, only the coming months will tell.
– by Marin E.
Le Monde, March 7 2015
Les Echos, March 9 2015
L’Histoire, November 2015
The situation viewed from the US
A dictatorship is a type of government in a country where one person, who has he support of the army, exercises all the power, and where only one political party governs. This is the case of Russia: Putin has taken office in 2000, and is still “president” today. On February 27th, 2015, the main political opponent of Putin, Boris Nemstov, has been assassinated in Moscow. For me, Russia has always been a dictatorship, since Lenin and his communist party took the power in 1917.
” The deep rooted reason for the turmoil is in the deliberate failure of Perestroika, in irresponsible decisions that were made by the heads of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in the Belovezha Forest,” said Gorbachev .
– by Hugo B.
What about Hungary?
Yes, it is. Putin is building a totalitarian state. But we can’t turn our back on Russia. (This fact is shown by Putin’s visit in Vienna and Budapest, by Matteo Renzi Italian Foreign Minister’s visit in Moscow and by the Hollande-Merkel-Putin summit conferences). Because Europe needs Russia and Russia needs Europe. The addiction is mutual. Europe needs the Russian gas and the Russian market (especially the East Central European states like Hungary). And Russia needs the European market, too. The diversification is unsolved and unsolvable on both sides.
Hungary is more at the mercy of Russia in energetic and economic question than the West European states so Hungary wants to maintain a good relationship with Russia. That’s why Hungary doesn’t completely support the economic sanctions against Russia (also some other European states do this way because of their good economic relations e. g. France). This doesn’t mean that we agree with the Russian political system and with Putin’s ambitions but means that we need the Russian economic relations. For example, Russia helps us to build a new atomic power station (it will be operated with both Russian and European fuel). But we don’t (and mustn’t) forget that we need Europe much better than Russia so if Hungary has to choose, it will choose Europe. This is no question.
Europe’s task is not to change the Russian political system (yet) but to solve the Ukrainian crisis. This is the first step of building a healthy relation between Europe and Russia.
– by Lorinc F.