And The Wheel Spins On

“Despite it being a sad and fearful prospect, in my opinion a totalitarian reversion for a certain period of time is possible. But the danger lies not in the law enforcement agencies, the power organs, and not even the Army, but in our own mentalities – our people’s, our population’s, in ourselves. It all seems to us – and I admit it, at times it seems that way to me as well – that if we restore order with a firm hand then our lives will become better, more comfortable, and more secure. In fact, this sense of comfort will pass by quickly, because that same firm hand will soon start to strangle us. We will feel it on ourselves and on our families. It is only under a democratic system that officers from the law enforcement agencies – whether they are the KGB, MVD, NKVD, or go by some other name – know that tomorrow could see a replacement of the political leadership in their country, region, or city, and that they would have to answer this question: “Did you comply with the laws of your country? How did you treat the citizens under your power?” – Vladimir Putin, 1996.

“When Russia has no Tsar, there appears a Time of Troubles. When the supreme power weakens, civil war flares up. You understand, the precise name – Tsar, President, General Secretary, Chairman of the Supreme Council – has no relevance whatsoever. There has to be a strong power, a strong executive. If there is no strong power – there will be no united Russia, but constant wheeling-dealings, violence and reprisals.” – Boris Nemtsov, 1997.


  1. What! listen to what Putin actually says, in context, and think about it….
    Who does that when an out-of-context twisted soundbite will do better!

    The Western reporting on Russia over 20 years has a lot to answer for.

    Or is it in fact an “information war”?

    • The western media and its controllers have invested a lot of effort into smearing Putin in order to prevent what he says from being listened to. We have had: “Putin murdered dissident Litvinenko”, “Putin staged genocide in Chechnya”, “Putin stole the elections”, “Putin used oil and gas as a weapon to blackmail poor innocent Ukraine”, “Putin imprisoned dissident Khodorkovsky”, and more Putin this and Putin that BS. So it is quite clear that there has been an ongoing and systematic information war.

      The only problem for the intellectual giants running this muppet show is that western public opinion has little impact on Russia. They need to convince Russians that that Putin is a “tyrant”.

  2. Not many cultures are blessed with the idea that the Law is stronger than the Ruler. England had three orderly revolutions (Baron’s revolt, The Civil War, The Glorious Revolution) to fix it into place. Most countries are lucky to have had one successful revolution about governance and most such ended in anarchy. But Putin is not talking about a bad Tsar. He has, in my opinion, the right target, the eternal bureaucracy. The recent vote miscounting was not done on Putin’s orders. People in the system wanted to please the boss. The way they chose to do it shows Russia’s natural view of what the boss wants. A lot of people need a lot of self confidence before anything will change. Perhaps the education system isn’t so good despite the math. Authority needs to be questioned.

    • If you try to quantify the “fraud” then it is basically noise. The premise you appear to be working on is that the “fraud” was substantial. Opinion polls just before the vote actually count for something even if the western media likes to engage in cherry picking of the facts and lying by omission.

      After living in Canada for 35 years I find this sort of “we know the right culture” attitude to be a type of ignorance. Bureaucrats in Canada are the same shite that they are in Russia and the politicians here are not cracking any “law” whips to keep these parasites in line. They still make their own rules and abuse the citizenry. But in Russia people don’t pretend that they are living in some sort of utopia where it is always worse somewhere else. You can’t pick up a paper or turn on the TV news without this inane propaganda being shoved down your throat in Canada, the USA and UK.

      • Dear Kirill,

        You may add Australia to Canada, the US and UK. Hardly a day goes by without the mainstream media here proclaiming that Australia is the best place to live in the world, has the richest economy and is the one place where everyone including refugees and illegal migrants are flocking to live. Ours is such a great place that refugees and boat-people even supposedly get the latest iPhones and iPads while suffering in detention centres behind barbed wire in Villawood and Port Hedland.

        Our politics is a veritable circus dominated by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard who has little credibility with voters of all political stripes and the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd who was knifed by a cabal of Labor Party hacks (in 2010 before a general election) and who then installed Gillard as ALP leader with the connivance of the US government. One of these hacks, Bill Shorten, is a son-in-law of the current governor-general Quentin Bryce (a woman by the way) and now holds a senior cabinet position.

        You might have heard that the richest person in Australia, the mining magnate Gina Rinehart, has become the largest shareholder in Fairfax Media (she now holds just over 12% of shares in the company) which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Age and the Brisbane Courier so we can expect these so-called quality newspapers to reflect more of the views of the mining industry and its interests in other countries. This will surely include opinions that Australian troops must remain in Afghanistan to clear out civilians and make the country safe for Australian mining companies like Rio Tinto to start operations there. The Fairfax newspapers will be under pressure also not to print any articles that support climate change research; Rinehart has paid for visits here by Christopher Monckton to propound his views on climate change.

        I’m hoping that between the catfight that’s erupted between Rinehart and her children over the family trust fund on the one hand and Monckton’s suggestion that she fund a news channel here in Australia along the lines of Fox News, which I think most Australians will spurn as our TV landscape is already saturated with so much Hollywood celebrity and reality TV show porn garbage, Rinehart’s spare change will disappear faster than she can click the mouse to increase her control of Fairfax Media. I’m pinning my hopes on Rinehart’s step-mother Rose Porteous to come out of wherever she’s been for the past 20 years to cause another headache.

        The other major media organisation in Australia is News Corporation and of course you know that went over to the Dark Side ages ago.

  3. Alexander Mercouris says:

    I don’t think what Putin said in 1996 differs from he says today.

    In the meantime Medvedev continues to squander time and political capital talking to the (misnamed) “non system” opposition (read the “opposition that enjoys no public support”). Novosti says that he met with “representatives” of this “opposition” today and asked them to support his reform plans.

    This is grotesque. It is an inversion of what leadership is all about. If Medvedev believes in these reforms he should implement them not ask the permission or “support” of a gaggle of self appointed self publicists before doing so.

  4. It’s good to see you guys discussing the meaning of Putin’s words, but my intention in juxtaposing 15 year old quotes from Putin and Nemtsov were slightly different from your interpretations.

    My interpretation is that the role of personality and supposed ideology is vastly overrated in Russian politics; back in the late 1990’s, practically everyone of consequence – including Nemtsov – agreed that Russia was in ruins and that some form of power vertical was necessary. Indeed, he supported many of the policies he would later condemn Putin for, e.g. the abolition of governor elections and higher barriers for entry into the Duma. As the title of his YouTube video says, Nemtsov was essentially saying, “Russia needs a Tsar.” His only problem, the cynic would say, is that that it wasn’t Nemtsov himself who ended up becoming the Tsar.

    Putin, in contrast, can be interpreted in one of two ways. The liberal and most Westerners would agree with the title of the YouTube clip: “Putin predicts the future.” Most supporters of Putin would, on the contrary, cite it as evidence of his consistent rhetorical support for democracy (support that is well known to anyone who bothers reading his speeches, as Patrick points out, or the interviews with him collected in the lamentably little-known book From The First Person). But either way, the dominant impression is one of ambiguity, because even those of the “democrat Putin” school will have to admit that on many occasions his behavior has been extra-constitutional if albeit – according to them – justifiable by the exigencies of the time.

    I guess more than anything I’d interpret the two statements as evidence that Russian politics isn’t this Manichean struggle between the forces of Good and Evil that is frequently portrayed as in the liberal and Western media but as a world of grays, compromises, ambiguity and hypocrisy; in other words, normal and respectable democratic politics. This is hardly an original thought, with plenty of moderate analysts arguing the same for years, but it’s really brought into stark relief when the idea is indirectly expressed from what are commonly regarded as opposite ends of Russia’s political spectrum.

    Addendum 3/1: Almost forgot, another important thing this demonstrates is the ease with which quotes can be handpicked to substantiate almost any point at all (i.e., in this case, that it is Putin who is the democrat and Nemtsov, the autocrat). As such, they should have a very low weight when assessing a personage.