Media suppression, corruption and the murder of political rivals have marked the regime of Vladimir Putin, who, despite mass demonstrations, is set to win his third term as president this week. That is the sad reality of Putin´s Russia, according to Russian journalist Masha Gessen, who´s new book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin is now out.
Here are a some of the highlights of an NPR interview with Gessen:
"Putin has created a system in which people who run afoul of the government know that they are living with a constant threat to their lives. At this point we are living in a situation where physical attacks on critics of the government and even murders are expected."
The problem with the Russian government at this point is that any contact an individual has with the state at this point — from getting a driver's license to getting a license for importing something — is unpredictable and humiliating. You're taken for bribes, contracts are broken, there is violence, businesses are taken away. The very wealth that created a long era of contentedness has created this new era of extreme discontent."
What's going on is a very diverse, very massive movement of people who are fighting for their dignity. The battle cry of the movement is fair elections. But really the main motivator is this humiliation that you feel from dealing with the Russian state. And the elections have become the focus because in a way there's nothing more humiliating than going to vote and having your vote blatantly stolen and essentially being told you don't exist."
"Our audience is not Putin. Our audience is everybody else and largely it's the police and the military, who will eventually — maybe it will happen March 5th — maybe it will happen later, but eventually when Putin feels threatened enough, he will consider using force. And my greatest hope is that by that time, neither the police nor the military will be willing to use force against people who are protesting this regime."
Read and listen to the entire interview here
On must hope that Gessen´s hope regarding the police and the military will turn out to be true.