Peter Rutland

prutland@wesleyan.edu
Articles by Peter Rutland

Gorbachev and Putin

In the outpouring of commentary following the death of Mikhail Gorbachev at age 91 there seems to be a broad consensus about his varying historical legacy, East and West: he is both lauded in the West and loathed inside Russia.

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Do Russians Care About the War in Ukraine?

Polling in an authoritarian regime is a tricky business, all the more so when the country is at war. People are understandably wary of expressing an opinion to a random stranger. Nevertheless, the Levada Center has regularly asked Russians about their attitudes towards the “military operation.” They find a high level of support: 74% in April, 77% in May and 75% in June. Age differences are significant: more than 90% of respondents over 65 supported the war versus 36% of those aged 18-24. The May poll found that 44% expected the “operation” to last at least six more months.

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The Ukraine War and the Putin Succession

Putin is 69 years old. There has been much speculation about the state of his health. All we know for sure is that he will die at some point: that could happen tomorrow, or it could be 25 years from now. Putin has made no move to groom a potential successor. Such a step could lead to a palace coup and an involuntary and premature departure from power. Putin has structured his regime in a way that makes a successful coup unlikely to succeed.

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Five Wrong Ideas About Russia’s War on Ukraine

While Ukraine is winning the hearts and minds of Europe and North America, it is losing the propaganda war in the rest of the world. The role of the United States in global affairs in recent decades is so dominant that much of the public in China, India, Vietnam and elsewhere seem to have bought the Russian narrative that this is a war to stop Western expansion and domination. 

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Putin’s Claims Distort the Meaning of World War II; His War may Repeat its Destructiveness

The problem is that Putin’s replaying of history is obscenely divorced from reality. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish, and lost family members in the Holocaust. There are no Nazis in the Ukrainian government, and there are no more neo-Nazis in Ukraine than there are in Russia. 

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Workers Against the Workers’ State, Part II

“Dear Comrades!” won a special jury prize at the Venice film festival in September 2020. A one-hour promotional video follows Konchalovsky and Vysotskaya as they cavort through luxury locations in Venice between interviews. At one point, Vysotskaya goes down on her knees before Konchalovsky and bows to him as a “master.” These scenes are surreal when juxtaposed with the grim lives of the Russian workers who are the pretext of the film.

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Workers Against the Workers’ State, Part I

The artistic qualities of “Dear Comrades!”, along with its superficial willingness to confront a tragic chapter of Russian history, have attracted glowing reviews from some Western critics and may win director Andrei Konchalovsky his coveted Oscar. But the film leaves a lot to be desired as a piece of historical analysis, and in its implications for state-society relations in Russia today.

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Dueling for the Soul of Russia

It looks unlikely that Navalny will succeed in his quest to topple Putin in the near future. He will probably remain a prisoner, a modern-day equivalent of Alexandre Dumas’ “Man in the Iron Mask.”

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Putin’s Game of Thrones

The poisoning of Aleksei Navalny is a grim reminder that Russian politics seems to operate by its own set of rules.

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Belarus on a Knife-Edge

Time will tell whether the Minsk protests have reached that magical tipping point.

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History Matters

Amid the pandemic, Russia, China, and others find time to debate the timing of the beginning and end of World War II and other details of years long past. 

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Putin, Forever: The Russian President Remains as Inscrutable as Ever

Is Vladimir Putin a master manipulator? Or is he a genius of improvisation? Does he have a master strategy which governs his every move, carefully thought out in advance – or is he erratic, winging things in nervous response to unexpected developments? Is he strong and decisive, or insecure and prone to panic?

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Russian Government Reshuffle: Plus ça Change

Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement during his annual presidential address on 15 January that the constitution will be rewritten, and the subsequent resignation of his government, caught everyone by surprise. Like Meghan and Harry’s announcement a few days earlier that they were leaving Britain, it seemed to have been be done in a hurry, and leaves many key questions unanswered. Does it signal the beginning of the end of Putin’s long reign – or is part of a scheme to enable him to stay in power behind the scenes even after he steps down as president in 2024?

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Putin’s Y2024 Problem

There is no doubt that Putin has a succession plan – but he has not yet revealed what it is. During his June 2018 call-in program, Putin said in response to a question about his succession “of course I think about it all the time,” remarking that “we have a new generation of young leaders who can take responsibility for running Russia.” When asked about his successor in a June 2019 interview with the “Financial Times,” he said, “I have always been thinking about this, since 2000,” but did not provide any more details.

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