Democracy is a “façade…where substance is forgotten for the sake of shocking statements and mutual accusations, where real politics is reduced to shady deals and decisions made behind the scenes but never discussed with voters.”
—Vladimir Putin cited by Gregory Feifer in Russians: The People behind the Power
Putin’s disdain for so-called “Western-style democracy” derives in part from his experience as a KGB officer during the last year of his four-year stint in Dresden in 1989. There he witnessed mass street protests and the ransacking of the headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police. From a distance, he noted with fear and horror the changes that were taking place in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. Like his hero, Yuri Andropov, the longest-serving KGB boss in Soviet history (1967–1982) and who was in Hungary during the 1956 revolution, Putin believed that any talk of democracy leads to demonstrations, and protest leads to disorder and attacks on the Chekists, (the name given to Lenin’s security police during the 1920s and currently revived as a badge of honour). Better to nip it in the bud before it grows any further and becomes a threat to the state. People need to be disciplined, manipulated, kept in the dark and bought off with better wages and pensions.
|A destroyed apartment in Moscow 1999|
Appointed to the head of the F.S.B in 1998—the post-Soviet successor to the K.G.B.—in large part because he courted and won the necessary support from Boris Yeltsin’s “Family,” he wasted no time in consolidating his position and making himself the appointed heir to Yeltsin. In 1999 there were a series of bombings throughout Russian cities, separatists Chechens were blamed and the bombings were used as a pretext for launching the second Chechen war that turned Chechnya into rubble. The war launched Putin into the presidency despite the considerable evidence that a foiled apartment bombing in the Russian city of Ryazan may have been staged by F.S.B. agents. Even Russians, who believed that the security police played a role in the attacks, voted for Putin.