A religion for the nation or a nation for the religion? Putin’s third way for Russia
Vladimir Putin, plucked from the security services by Boris Yeltsin to become Prime Minister Putin in 1999, acting president upon Yeltsin’s resignation on 31 December 1999 and duly elected president in March 2000, had little time to market himself. Undoubtedly, Putin felt considerable pressure to prove to Russia that he respected his patron, Yeltsin, but would not be his protégé. Putin went to work. With the Duma emasculated by low party identification, Putin tightened federal control over the regions through changes to the electoral law governing the election of governors and through the institution of supra-regional structures. These changes gave the center – and so Putin – more oversight of regional political processes. With the blessing of the IMF, Putin reformed many economic structures to encourage greater accountability of corporations, businesses, and individuals. This also served to enhance the legitimacy of Russian businesses in the international market. Backed by the judicial system, he confronted members of the oligarchy who appeared to threaten his power. Yeltsin never attempted such brazen challenges to the elite; Putin preferred an elite that would be firmly under his control. And in moves that provoked the ire of the United States and Europe alike, Putin seemingly snickered at the idea of an independent media, preferring to exercise significant control over industry and its output. Although Putin’s terms as president ended in 2008, he transitioned – seamlessly, it appears – to the position of Russian prime minister.