Returning to the Czars

From the November 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

The Wall Street Journal called him “Moscow’s Mussolini.” Others have likened him to 16th-century Russian demagogue Ivan the Terrible. Many compare his ideologies with those of early 20th-century dictator Vladimir Lenin. Some aspects of his leadership are not dissimilar to those of mass murderer Joseph Stalin.

Beyond the sharp appearance and congenial conduct of Russian President Vladimir Putin lies a sinister reality. A review of two of his recent political actions reveals the real Putin.

On September 13, in response to the tragic hostage crisis in Beslan, Putin proposed the incorporation of a new “vertical” system of power in Russia. Under this proposal, the current system of direct election of regional governors will be replaced by a system where the president (Putin) will appoint the governors of each region. Putin argues that this president-appointed “single chain of command” system is critical to fighting terrorism. However, “This move is nothing short of a personal coup by the president against the institutions of the Russian state” (Stratfor, September 13).

If Putin’s “vertical” system proposal is approved, it will give him control over the regional as well as the central governments of Russia. Since the January elections, Putin has gained definitive control of the Duma, Russia’s lawmaking body. And with Putin controlling the Duma, there is little doubt that his new proposal will be approved.

The analysts at Stratfor succinctly summed up Putin’s latest political coup: “In effect, Putin is capitalizing on the Beslan crisis … to firmly entrench his personal power and ‘re-Sovietize’ Russia …. Putin is becoming a traditional Russian ruler; one who desires no institutional blocks on his power” (ibid.; emphasis ours throughout).

Since coming to power in 1999, Putin has also taken control of Russia’s energy resources. The rich oligarchs who owned or controlled the energy companies were given two options: They could either submit to and support Putin’s rule, or they would lose their companies and perhaps even be arrested. The most widely reported case of one of these oligarchs refusing to surrender to Putin is the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ceo of the giant Russian oil company Yukos. Khodorkovsky is currently in jail, and Yukos is fighting to stay out of bankruptcy. Here is where it gets interesting.

On October 18, it was announced that a subsidiary company of Yukos (called Yuganskneftegaz) will be auctioned off by the state. Way undervalued, the subsidiary company will be auctioned for $3.73 billion. This price—$3.73 billion—“is about equal to the cash that Gazprom, the government-run natural gas firm that seeks to become an oil giant itself, has on hand” (ibid., October 19). So Putin has not only arrested and jailed Yukos ceo Khodorkovsky, he has also orchestrated it so that a government-owned energy company can purchase a subsidiary of Yukos for a price at least three to four times lower than what it is truly worth. “That makes the auction little more than a state asset grab” (ibid.).

Putin has a stranglehold on the Russian government and on much of Russia’s industry. Russia is returning to the time of the czars!

President Putin’s czar-like control over Russia does not bode well for other nations. Russia is the second-largest oil producer in the world and also has significant nuclear technology and weaponry. Putin effectively controls these resources.

To expect that the fruits of Russia under the rule of an autocrat will be positive is both unwise and unrealistic. History testifies to that fact. No nation has ever blossomed under the leadership of a demagogue. On the contrary, the fruits of such leadership have been war. This too is the path Russia is treading. For a more thorough understanding of where current events in Russia are leading, request your free copy of Russia and China in Prophecy today.