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  Why didnít Putinís past as a KGB agent destroy his post-USSR political career?
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Author Topic: Why didnít Putinís past as a KGB agent destroy his post-USSR political career?  (Read 417 times)
darklordoftech
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« on: December 08, 2019, 03:08:59 pm »

Why donít right-wing Russians view with him more suspicion?
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Cassius
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2019, 03:58:00 pm »

Nothing akin to the lustration of former government employees and party members occurred in Russia post-1991 as happened in some other Eastern Bloc countries (such as Hungary). Outside of liberal circles (not a particularly powerful constituency in post-1991 Russia), there wasnít and isnít much in the way of stigma attached to having been a member of the KGB, especially given that the latter effectively became the FSK (predecessor of the FSB) in 1991 with relatively few changes in personnel. Anyway, Putin was a low ranking KGB desk bureaucrat in East Germany for most of his service with the organisation, and thus had nothing to do with any domestic KGB activities that might, conceivably, have been more controversial.

Besides that of course, electoral politics in Russia has never functioned in a way intelligible to that of western democracies; Putin was originally manoeuvred into power by a cabal of Yeltsin cronies in order to prevent power passing out of their hands in 1999/2000. His background and Ďqualificationsí were not particularly important, other than the fact that he had no real independent power base of his own, unlike the likes of Primakov, Zyuganov and Luzhkov, who could not be counted upon to be friendly to Yeltsinís people (his family, Berezovsky, Abramovich et al). Unfortunately for some of those aforementioned (Berezovsky), Putin quickly consolidated his position as President and became popular in his own right, and the rest, as they say, is history.
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Nathan
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2019, 04:01:59 pm »

What Cassius said, with the added observation that a positive outlook on the Soviet past isn't really a specifically "leftist" viewpoint in Russia; the Soviet social structure and worldview were the established power for long enough that plenty of people who'd have the impulse to nostalgic conservatism in the West see the Soviet era as the better past that they want to return to.
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Cath
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2019, 04:15:45 pm »

"Right-wing Russians" is sort of a nebulous concept; while there were attempts to formulate ideologically programmatic parties, these of course fell by the wayside, and the center-right in any case could be characterized as "liberal" in Russia. Privatization aside, liberals were an opposition force even in the 1990s ("Yabloko" being the big-name party there). If you mean "conservative" Russians, they probably had no reason to care that a man had been in the security services (let alone in as innocuous a position as Putin, described above).

I can't contribute much to Cassius' big picture view, but it's also worth noting that his first foray into politics was local, as he was recruited into the administration of St. Petersburg's first democratically-elected mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. After Sobchak lost the first for re-election, Putin then transferred to Moscow owing to the favor of a St. Petersburg-based official (as I recall) and then proceeded to hold a number of appointed positions (including head of the FSB) before becoming prime minister then president. So it's not like he was out there in 1994 trying to run for state senate and someone was like "Hey, weren't you part of the KGB!?" He was a bureaucrat handling bureaucratic responsibilities.

It's probably also worth noting, as described in other ways by the above posters, that the collapse of the Soviet Union was not necessarily a rejection of the Soviet system by Russians themselves. The breakup began in the Baltics and, if I recall correctly, Yeltsin launched Russia's secession from the Union based on the idea that Russia should no longer support for other republics (my grasp of that period is shaky). You weren't persona non grata for having "collaborated" with the regime--this wasn't post-Vichy France.
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Cassius
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2019, 05:02:03 pm »

Yeah, basically by mid-1991 the Soviet Union was falling apart, and the failed coup attempt by Yanayev, Kryuchkov and the other hardliners in August sent that process into overdrive, with most of the Republics declaring independence unilaterally. By this point Gorbachev was basically irrelevant and Yeltsin saw dissolving what was left of the Union as an opportunity to remove him completely from the political scene, which is of course what happened. There was a broad spectrum of attitudes towards the dissolution of the Soviet Union in Russia, but in 1991 the general feeling was one of apathy (and an unwillingness to fight to keep the secessionist republics under Russian dominance).
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Velasco
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2019, 07:41:58 pm »

Why donít right-wing Russians view with him more suspicion?

Putin has been skillful managing the Russian nationalist feelings. I don't claim to be an expert in Russia, but I am certain that raising this question on purely ideological grounds is a wrong approach. You should better pay attention to sentimental elements involving Russian national pride and a long tradition of autocratic rulers, from Tsar Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin (also known as Uncle Joe or the Father of All Russias). Vladimir Putin can be seen as another link in this chain of strong Russian leaders. My impression is that he has managed to synthesize an amalgamation of Russian nationalism that can be consumed either by a nostalgic for the communist era or by an unrepentant tsarist, not based on theoretical or ideological grounds but on sentimentalism.
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jfern
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« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2019, 02:50:09 am »

Those apartment buildings that were bombed by unknown people was awfully convenient for him.
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kelestian
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« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2019, 04:05:29 am »

Well, people after horrible 90ties were happy to see kinda strongman with KGB background. If we are talking about elites and Yeltsin's family (these groups chose Putin as Yeltsin's successor), well, in recent past Putin was Anatoliy Sobchak's aide - Sobchak (mayor of St. Petersburg) was prominent democratic and liberal figure. Main threat to the Yeltsin government at this time was Primakov, very patriotic-left-nationalistic figure, so to win some of his supporters Yeltsin's succesoor should be somewhat strong-nationalistic figure himself (albeit far more liberal than Primakov, most right-liberal russian parties supported Putin at this time).

In the past, Yeltsin's cronies had already tried recruit strongman with KGB background (Alexander Korzhakov), but he was too straightforward and blunt.
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kelestian
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2019, 04:08:46 am »

"Right-wing Russians" is sort of a nebulous concept; while there were attempts to formulate ideologically programmatic parties, these of course fell by the wayside, and the center-right in any case could be characterized as "liberal" in Russia. Privatization aside, liberals were an opposition force even in the 1990s ("Yabloko" being the big-name party there). If you mean "conservative" Russians, they probably had no reason to care that a man had been in the security services (let alone in as innocuous a position as Putin, described above).

I can't contribute much to Cassius' big picture view, but it's also worth noting that his first foray into politics was local, as he was recruited into the administration of St. Petersburg's first democratically-elected mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. After Sobchak lost the first for re-election, Putin then transferred to Moscow owing to the favor of a St. Petersburg-based official (as I recall) and then proceeded to hold a number of appointed positions (including head of the FSB) before becoming prime minister then president. So it's not like he was out there in 1994 trying to run for state senate and someone was like "Hey, weren't you part of the KGB!?" He was a bureaucrat handling bureaucratic responsibilities.

It's probably also worth noting, as described in other ways by the above posters, that the collapse of the Soviet Union was not necessarily a rejection of the Soviet system by Russians themselves. The breakup began in the Baltics and, if I recall correctly, Yeltsin launched Russia's secession from the Union based on the idea that Russia should no longer support for other republics (my grasp of that period is shaky). You weren't persona non grata for having "collaborated" with the regime--this wasn't post-Vichy France.

About Yeltsin and collapse of Soviet Union: Yeltsin actively support destruction of USSR because USSR was headed by his enemy Gorbachev. Yeltsin controlled RSFSR, technically Gorbachev was above him and of course Yeltsin didn't like it.
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PR
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« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2019, 02:57:46 pm »

Worth pointing out that Putin was basically unknown to the public before Failin' Yeltsin picked him as the last of a rapidly replaced bunch of Prime Ministers.
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Ye Olde Europe
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« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2019, 02:59:58 pm »

In Soviet Russia, being ex-KGB is considered a virtue, not a vice.
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