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Putin Speaks

What kind of Russia did Mr. Putin inherit from Boris Yeltsin?

March 27, 2000

What kind of Russia did Mr. Putin inherit from Boris Yeltsin?

Unlike the upcoming U.S. presidential election, the outcome of Russia’s second-ever presidential election — on March 26 — was never much in doubt. For Vladimir Putin, winning the election might turn out to be far easier than winning over the Russian people.

What is Russia’s immediate political problem?

“Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.”

(Acting President Vladimir Putin, January 2000)

What makes you optimistic about Russia’s democracy?

“History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.”

(January 2000)

Don’t you miss the Soviet Union as a former KGP spy?

“Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.”

(February 2000)

What is the focus of your election campaign?

“I will not be trying to find out in the course of my election campaign which is more important — Tampax or Snickers.”

(March 2000)

What major problem is Mr. Putin likely to inherit from Boris Yeltsin?

“Mr. Yelstin’s battering-ram power was sufficient to destroy the prison of the past, but he lacked the education and creativity to design the palace of the future.”

(World chess champion Garry Kasparov, January 2000)

Have some of Mr. Putin’s predecessors been too optimistic?

“I am fully convinced that between now and the end of next year, Russia will not see any major economic and financial shocks because of the work of my government.”

(Then-Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who three months later was fired by President Boris Yeltsin, July 1999)

What makes Russian citizens worry about their country’s political future?

“Putin talks about having a dictatorship of the law — but what if the laws are bad?”

(Moscow business owner, March 2000)

Could Russians generally benefit from the opening of the economy?

“Everyone in the elite has done well because the state is weak.”

(Carnegie Endowment scholar, January 2000)

Why do many people believe Russian politics to be corrupt?

“Our government is like a brothel. Once you enter, it’s very difficult to say you called in for a cup of tea.”

(Presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky, December 1999)