Is Viadimir Vladimirovich Putin a Dictator?

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Almost twenty five years after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 80s and early 90s, a few countries emerged from the shadow of the former eastern bloc such as Estonia and Poland have quite successfully transformed themselves into modern democracies while others seemed to have simply failed to do so. The Russian Federation, the successor state of the Russian SFSR, is a particularly interesting case.

Despite the vigorous reforms and turbulence transition that happened during the Yeltsin-era Russia, many now believe that the old-fashioned communist system or the ‘power vertical’ rather has somehow reincarnated under the rule of Putin. From David Miliband calling Vladimir Putin a ‘ruthless dictator’ to Masha Gessen’s ‘The Dictator’ in the New York Times, I asked myself why they have chosen such vocabulary to describe the man. Is Putin really a dictator?

The word ‘dictator’, originated from Latin, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘a ruler with total power over a country’. Nonetheless, is he really someone with ‘total power’ over the Mother Russia as reckoned by many in the West?

Born and raised in an ordinary working class family in Leningrad, now known as St. Petersburg, young Putin had certainly given the impression of himself being a troublemaker. His childhood dream of becoming the type of glamorous Soviet spy that appeared in state propaganda movies had led Putin to join the KGB, an organisation that many believed had far-reaching influence on him than merely shaped his cynical attitude towards NGOs. In 1996, Putin made his first step into the Kremlin as the Chief of the Presidential Property Management Directorate. Unexpected for many yet hardly a surprise for few, within just four years, he became the presiden...

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...onsible for all the corruptions, frauds, and other crimes that he was blamed for. Given the influence of Russia on today’s integrated world where we see more collaborations and co-operations between countries, a better understanding of her leader not only gives us clues to why certain situation arises in Russia and beyond but also increases the chance of having more constructive dialogues. Not to mention that he came the first on Forbes’s list of ‘The world’s most powerful people’ in 2013. Even if you do not want to put up with him, I guess it is still worth remembering what Sun Tzu suggested in the Art of War: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’

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‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’

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